Beer History Monday – Everybody’s Drinking It, Except Those Snobs Down South

posted on December 22, 2008 in Beer History

Although initially very popular with the Romans, beer fell out of favor and was replaced with wine during the Roman Republic. It was thought that only the barbarians to the north (early Europeans) drank beer. That seemed to be OK with the people of the North where beer grew in popularity largely based on the fact that water quality was sketchy to say the least. By the late Middle Ages beer was consumed with every meal.

Science, however, took a more narrow view of beer saying it was the source of a variety of ills causing everything from bad breath and rotten teeth to causing one’s flesh to appear white and smooth. This opinion did not stop the average person from drinking between 60 and 66 gallons of beer per year.

Hops was first mentioned in 822 by a Carolingian Abbot and not too long after that it was discovered that hops was far superior to the gruit, a mix of herbs, that had been previously used. Beer flavored with hops tended to keep much longer allowing it to be transported longer distances.

For most of the middle ages homebrew was king. Almost all of the beer consumed was made in people’s homes and although the oldest still operating brewery dates back to 1040 AD (the Weihenstephan – Bavaria – abbey brewery) brewing didn’t really become a largely commercial enterprise until the late 14th, early 15th century.
Next Beer History Monday – Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution (OK, there was more than I thought).

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Beer History Monday: In the Beginning…

posted on December 8, 2008 in Beer History

Beer is one of the oldest human produced beverages. It is thought that beer goes back nearly 6000 years and possibly more. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians provide written records referring to beer. “The Hymn to Ninkasi” appears to be both a prayer and recipe for making beer.

It is likely that the baking of bread and the brewing of beer developed hand in hand and were produced concurrently and independently throughout the civilized world. The earliest chemical evidence of beer was found by researchers form the University of Pennsylvania at the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. The researchers analyzed an organic residue from inside a pottery vessel dated circa 3500-3100 B.C. which tested positive for the oxalate ion. Calcium oxalate (the calcium salt from the oxalate ion) is a major component of “beerstone” and settles out on the surfaces of fermentation and storage tanks of barley beer, as the researchers believe occurred with the ancient residue

Europe’s Celtic and Germanic tribes knew of beer as early as 3000 B.C. Beer at that time was exclusively brewed on a domestic scale.

This is Part 1 of Beer History Monday. Next week, Part 2 – Beer from 1 A.D. to the Industrial Revolution.

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