A Brief History of Beer
CBC News Online | July 21, 2004
Beer had a hand in the discovery of the New World. In 1620, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. The ship's log explains the decision to land was because of dwindling supplies, "especially our beere."
The brew had an important role in the past it has been used in religious rites as payment for work and was drunk by European monks to maintain their fast. The word "beer" comes from the Latin word bibere, meaning "to drink."
Beer is made from water, yeast, hops and malted grains (typically barley). Its alcoholic content comes from the process of fermentation, which converts the simple sugars (carbohydrates) in the grains into alcohol. People around the world consume more than 100 billion litres of beer annually.
The oldest proven records of brewing date back 6,000 years ago to the Middle East. Archeologists uncovered a seal from the Sumerian peoples who lived between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The seal is dedicated to the goddess of brewing and contains a recipe for making beer. There's a pictograph of bread being baked, crumbled into water to form a mash and then made into a drink that is recorded to have left people feeling "wonderful and blissful."
By the second millennium BC, the Babylonians knew how to brew 20 different types of beer. At the time, beer was cloudy and unfiltered. People drank it through straws. Hammurabi, a Babylonian king, decreed a daily beer ration: a worker received two litres, civil servants three litres, and high priests five litres per day. The Egyptians continued the tradition and used unbaked bread dough for making beer and added dates to improve the taste.
Greeks and Romans also brewed beer, but it was considered a drink of the barbarians. By this time, wine had made an entry. The ancient Germans were also brewing the stuff by 800 AD using barley or wheat. Like many of the cultures of the time, the Teutons thought beer contained a spirit, which possessed the drinker. Beer was reserved for the masses and wine for the gods. Beer was important to nomadic groups because water was often dangerous and they were often paid with jugs of beer. During this time, beer was also thought to reduce disease and prolong a person's life.
Until the Middle Ages, brewing was exclusively the domain of women, because they were in charge of baking the bread, too. Monasteries started muscling in on this work. Monks in northern Europe wanted to make beer as a pleasant-tasting, nutritious drink to serve with their meals and to help them through fasting periods. Since drinking is allowed during a fast, beer was permitted. Some monks were allowed to drink as much as five litres a day. The monks refined the brewing process and started to make more beer. Soon, monastery pubs sprouted, charging a fee for their high quality beer.
Some monks were allowed to drink as much as five litres a day
The monks were the first to scientifically develop the brewing process. Hops became widely used as a way to make beer refreshing and also as a natural preservative. Hops are the cone-like flowers of a climbing plant, humulus lupulus, giving beer its bitter flavour. The monasteries started to provide low-strength "every day" beer and higher alcohol beers for special occasions. In England, a "bride's ale" would be brewed for the wedding by her family. "Bride's ale" gave way to the word "bridal."
Around the 12th century, brewing in much of Europe became the responsibility of a commercial enterprise, given permission under a royal licence. Rulers started collecting taxes from the sale of beer and the monastery pubs started to close down. Around this time, brewers started throwing other ingredients into the process: juniper berries, blackthorn, aniseed, bay leaves, rosemary, oak bark, caraway seed, St. John's wort and pine roots.
"Herewith shall beer brewers and others not use anything other than malt, hops and water. These same brewers also shall not add anything when serving or otherwise handling beer, upon penalty to body and chattels."|
-German Beer Purity Law 1516
The advent of beer as we know it came in 1516 when the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm IV, proclaimed the German Beer Purity Law. For the first time, a law established that only barley, hops and pure water were to be used to make beer. The law remained in effect until 1988, when European Union rules came into effect.
In Germany, the distribution and export of beer increased to the point where many of its brewers supplied other countries. By 1500 there were 600 breweries in Hamburg alone.
At the beginning of the 19th century, with the start of the Industrial Revolution, beer production reached new heights due to two inventions, the steam engine and the process of artificial cooling. Because good beer required certain temperatures, artificial cooling allowed brewing to become a year round activity.
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."|
- Benjamin Franklin
Scientists undertook research on brewing during this time. Louis Pasteur published "Études sur la Bière"("Studies Concerning Beer") in 1876. Pasteur unravelled the secrets of yeast in fermentation and developed pasteurization. Danish scientist Christian Hansen isolated a single yeast cell and caused it to reproduce on an artificial culture medium.Because of this, the purity of the fermenting process was improved and the beer taste kept consistent.
American brewers introduced the beer can in 1935. The next major step in beer history occurred when metal kegs were introduced in Germany in 1964, replacing wooden barrels. Cleaning and filling was much simpler and so was tapping and closing off.
|BY THE NUMBERS:|
The average amount of beer each Canadian 15 years and older bought in the year ending in 2002. That's about 250 341-millilitre bottles.
The average amount of milk each Canadian drank in 2003.
In a survey of Canadian teens in 1998-99, the average age they took their first alcoholic drink is just over 12.
81 per cent
Of the 2.7 billion litres of alcoholic beverages sold in Canada in the year ending in 2002, 81 per cent was beer.
51 per cent
Of the $14.5 billion Canadians spent on alcohol in the year ending in 2002, 51 per cent was on beer.
5 per cent
The percentage of pure alcohol in regular Canadian beer. Table wines have 10-12 per cent pure alcohol, while whisky, vodka and other spirits have 40 per cent.
The amount Canadians spent on domestic beer in the year ending in 2002.
9.6 per cent
Imported beers have 9.6 per cent of the Canadian beer market.
Source: Statistics Canada