As one of the oldest recipes in the world, beer plays an important part in the history of mankind. But there’s more to beer than the delightful aromas and tastes it delivers. Read on to discover a brief history of beer, its origins and evolution over time into the brews of today:
Beer Dates Back to Ancient Mesopotamia
Understanding the history requires going back to ancient times when the primitive cultures of Mesopotamia roamed the earth. Old texts provided historians with clues that beer existed in Mesopotamia, including the Sumerian Hymn to the beer goddess Ninkasi and the Epic of Gilhamesh. For instance, the 1800 B.C.-hymn is a poem and a beer recipe all in one. The hymn praises Ninkasi for crafting the beer. On the other hand, the Epic Gilhamesh references a forest-bred wild man who consumers seven jugs filled with beer. Women were also thought to be brewers during this time.
Some of the earliest remnants of beer are linked to present day Iran where archaeologists found beerstone traces that indicate the beer-making process. Research even links evidence of ancient ceramic cups to beer-making in Mesopotamia. These ceramic cups were found in Iraq that are almost 2,500 years old and showed traces of the chemicals that hint to barley–a key ingredient in beer. But some historians believe beer’s beginnings data as far back as 10,000 B.C. and attribute the role of beer’s first brewers to Mesopotamian culture. These brewers may have used ingredients, such as wild yeast and grain porridge, to craft beer. But beer would not stay in Mesopotamia for long.
The Evolution of Beer-Making Begins in Ancient Egypt
While historians believe beer’s beginnings data as far back as 10,000 B.C. and attribute the role of beer’s first brewers to Mesopotamian culture, ancient Egyptians played an important part in documenting the beer-making process. Some of the first documentation of beer dates back to 5,000 B.C. when ancient Egyptians recorded beer recipes and the process for making beer on papyrus scrolls.
Some of the first beer ingredients likely included herbs and fruits indigenous to the area, such as pomegranates and dates. However, it’s believed that some of the ingredients ancient Egyptians used in their beer brews were too harsh compared to what the ingredients of today’s best brews.
One of the primary reasons beer was a main stay in ancient Egyptian culture was that it was used for religious ceremonies. In fact, pharaohs played the role of the first brewing masters. They directed the brewing schedule and distribution to the public.
From Ancient Egypt to Mediterranean and Beyond
Beer crafting spread from Egypt across the Mediterranean into Europe and became enveloped into Northern Europe’s daily routines. Brewers had an abundance of barley crops to choose from to use as their main ingredient for crafting fine brews. Beer had also become the preferred drink of choice for Northern Europeans who lived amongst human waste-contaminated waters. During the Middle Ages, beer brewers combined various botanicals to add flavor to beer while reducing bacteria growth. This form of beer is known as gruit and it dates back to the 10th century. But during the reign of Carolingian kings, gruit became so valuable thanks to its nutrition and taste that it became a right of people of royal families. Yet, time would soon see this right extended to counts. Gruit would fall out of style in the 12th century and remerge again in the 15th century as a popular choice that is reminiscent of English Ales today.
In fact, modern beers owe much of its recipes and processes to medieval beer when hops took over from malted barley, spices and herbs as the main ingredient for the fermentation process and flavoring techniques of beer. German monks were often credited with making hops popular and often had breweries located on-site at their monasteries. Beer brewing of this time influenced the beers of today, which include stouts and pale ales. The British army even helped spread beer to the locations it occupied and shipped ales to troops. Beer even became a commonplace in the military conquests and sparked the naming of popular beer brand Indian Pale Ale. It was only a matter of time that beer brewing would reach America when the Pilgrims would create a brewery as their first permanent structure in modern-day America. New York and Philadelphia soon became the main hubs of beer breweries that eventually produced dark variations of English ale.
From Prohibition to Tradition Today
While beer reached popular levels across the world, prohibition became the practice in the United States by the roaring Twenties up until the early 1930s. It put a damper in the production of beer as the Prohibition ban forbade all production and sales of alcoholic beverages, including beer. However, alcoholic beverages and beer were still prevalent to the tune of $60 million during that time thanks to bootleg beer and speakeasies. But this era sparked mass-produced beers consumers love today.
Beer has come a long way from its Ancient Egyptian beginnings. Now, beer lovers have several options for finding the beer the best pleases their palettes thanks to the advent of craft breweries. Like the pharaohs of Egypt, today’s brewing masters are often in charge of the development of beers. But beer lovers can find their favorite ales and preferred styles at unique breweries around the world, including a Belgian monastery to the craft breweries in local towns.
From the days of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the modern breweries of today, beer and its uses have evolved significantly over time. What was once used in religious ceremonies and overseen by pharaohs has transformed into a beverage that decks the halls of bars and high-end breweries alike and continues to be a popular beverage today.