Beer Education

Brief History of Beer

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

03/03/2019 / by / in
How to Taste Beer Like a Pro

Over the last few years, craft beer has dramatically grown in popularity in the United States. A huge range of local microbreweries are now offering full-flavored beers, each of which deserves to be savored like a fine wine. Here are some tips to help all beer drinkers appreciate beer like a pro.

1. Know How to Get the Perfect Pour

The ideal tasting experience begins with the perfect pour. First, select a suitable glass. If the beer does not come with any glass recommendations, a tulip glass is usually a good bet. For highly carbonated beers, angle the glass and pour the beer down the side to reduce the size of the head. For beers with low carbonation, keep the glass straight and pour the beer directly into its center to create more foam.

2. Take a Good Look

Craft beers have a wide range of appearances. While some are pale and clear, others are cloudy and have a large head. Take the time to note the distinctive character of the beer’s appearance before moving onto using the other senses.

3. Swirl to Prepare

Swirling beer around in the glass releases subtle scents and flavors. Note how the head responds to this motion. Some beers will retain their head, while for others the foam starts to break down.

4. Take a Sniff

The sense of smell plays a big role in how a beer tastes. It is important to carry out this step in an area where there are no other strong smells. As soon as the beer stops swirling, it is time to push the nose into the glass and take two short, sharp sniffs. Take one more inhale at a normal pace. Finally, take a final inhale with the mouth open. This is the best way to appreciate all the fragrances present in the beer. It is a good learning experience to try to articulate what smells are present and how strong or weak they are.

5. Take The First Sip

After the eyes and nose have taken in as much information as they can, it is time to finally take a sip of the beer. This should not be a huge gulp, but be sure to take in enough to coat the mouth. Allow the beer to come into contact with the lips, teeth, gums, and all parts of the tongue. This helps to ensure that all flavors in the beer — sweet, sour, and bitter — can be fully appreciated.

6. Swallow and Appreciate

After allowing the beer to linger in the mouth for a while, go ahead and swallow. Keep the mouth closed and exhale through the nose. For many beers, the aftertaste is as important as the tastes it creates while it is in the mouth, so be sure to sit and reflect for a while before taking the next sip.

7. Taste the Beer Again

On the second sip, it is time to focus on the weight of the beer. Some craft brews feel very heavy in the mouth, while others are much lighter and more refreshing. Reflect on how the beer compares to other beers in the same style. The way a beer feels while it is in your mouth is called the “mouthfeel” and it is an important feature for craft brewers.

8. Reflect and Record

Serious beer tasters take notes on their tasting experiences in a journal or notebook. This allows them to look back on the experiences they had with different craft beers, which means they can easily identify favorite brews or work out which beer to pair with a certain food or event. Another option is to talk over the tasting experience with a friend. This has the advantage of making beer tasters more skilled at communicating the way a beer tastes and smells. Getting a regular tasting buddy can make the art of beer appreciation more fun and enjoyable.

9. Know the Lingo

Some beer drinkers struggle to say what kinds of beers they like as they do not have the vocabulary to express the way various beers taste and feel. To overcome this problem, practice using the following terms:

  • Balanced: The various flavors in the beer blend together so that no one overpowers the others.
  • Big: Strong-tasting or with a high alcohol content.
  • Round: Balanced.
  • Opulent: A rich, balanced beer with good mouthfeel.
  • Thin: Lacking body, flavor, or complexity.
  • Lightstruck: A beer that has had too much light exposure, which makes it taste “skunky.”
  • Chalky: A dry or powdery taste.
  • Session beer: A low-alcohol beer, suitable for a session which involves drinking several beers.
  • Finish: The flavors that are left in the mouth after swallowing, also known as aftertaste.

10. Practice Makes Perfect

By following these tips carefully, regular beer drinkers can become expert beer drinkers. The most important thing is to taste a wide range of different beers. This allows drinkers to experience and learn to recognize the differences between the various craft brews on the market. The more beers a drinker tastes, the better they are likely to become at tasting beer and articulating each brew’s strengths and weaknesses.

Find local breweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and more on BeerMaps.com. Start Exploring Today!

12/13/2018 / by / in