Beer is the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage and is quite possibly the world’s oldest. Beer and the art of brewing has been around for millenia. Regulations for brewing beer are mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi and some of the earliest writings found are recipes for beer. The history of beer is the history of mankind.
Our ancestors at one point began to raise food from the soil sometime around 9500 BC. Cereal grains were amongst the first to be farmed and it is only natural that those grains were used with beverages as well as food. Beer was an early form of currency with many workers being paid in beer in Mesopotamia and the builders of the Great Pyramids received 4-5 liters of beer a day. Tablets referring to beer have been found in modern day Iraq, Iran, and Syria and it is believed the Chinese began brewing around 7000 BC.
Beer arrived in Europe around 3000 BC, though it wouldn’t taste the same. Hops would not be added until 822 AD. During Medieval times monasteries were the primary brewers of the world. Guess it was good to be a priest! In 1516 the Reinheitsgebot were introduced in Bavaria to regulate the production of beer. They are the oldest food-quality regulations still in use today. It wasn’t understood then but it is today that boiling the water killed the bacteria and made beer a safer drink than going to the local well.
The colonization of the New World brought beer to the Americas. Colonists in Jamestown, Virginia began brewing beer in 1609. In 1612 the Dutch opened a brewery in their colony of New Amsterdam. French explorers in what is today Quebec began brewing in 1620, the same time the Pilgrims stopped their voyage in Plymouth because they ran out of beer. The Industrial Revolution allowed for the production of beer on a massive scale and innovations like the hydrometer and thermometer gave the brewer a greater measure of quality control. Breweries sprung up all over the world and today beer in the third-most consumed beverage in the world behind only water and tea. Today China is the leading consumer of beer, consuming nearly twice as much as Americans.
“And … and what is civilisation if it isn’t people talking to each other over a goddamned beer?”
― James S.A. Corey, Cibola Burn