The long and ancient history of beermaking is a story of invention, dedication and pride.
Though winemaking is a
very old art - perhaps beginning with the Phoenicians 2,600 years ago - beermaking is older than farming. As far back as 8000 BC,
women gathered wild grain and used it to make beer, depending on
spontaneous, air-borne yeast for fermentation.
With the birth of civilization came the birth of controlled brewing. The Sumerians
developed several varieties around 4000 BC, soaking barley bread in
water, the Babylonians many more two thousand years later. Many historians even make a case that civilization
came about because of beer.
The beer made was thick,
flat and bitter. But, it was also healthy, much more so than the water
from most sources in the ancient world. Fortunately for us who enjoy beer, the practice survived.
Winemaking dominated regions of southern Europe for centuries, but in the northern and some
eastern regions, the weather was too cold for growing grapes. Any region that could grow barley grain, though, was ripe for beermaking.
Germany, blessed with both climates, could do both. England's climate
is too cool, though, for vineyards and the country developed brewing
The beginning of the 12th
century saw the first big expansion of breweries, where the monks
turned to investigating ways to supplement food rations and income.
Largely protected by royal patrons, the monasteries developed the use
of hops, first for preservation and later for flavoring.
Beginning in 1397, the
Spaten brewery in Munich expanded greatly the art and science of
brewing. But it was the mid-19th century, with the introduction of both
steam power and refrigeration, that brewing came to a head. Gabriel
Sedlmayr, and later his son, introduced techniques that are still used
today by his descendants in the production of fine lagers.
The famous Carlsberg in
Copenhagen, for example, was a direct outgrowth of the work done at
Spaten. Its founder was a student of Sedlmayr's and began his brewery
using Spaten yeast.
Pasteur's work on the process that later came to be named after him, added immeasurably to
this progress. His studies, in fact, weren't oriented toward food or milk preservation, but centered on yeast and the improvement of beer.
In the 1870s, thanks to
innovations in Pils in the Czech Republic, golden lagers began to
emerge. They quickly spread to Vienna, Austria and Dortmund, Germany
and soon after all of Europe. With the great immigration of the late
19th century, America adopted the style not long after.
In the far north of
Europe, the Finns developed their own distinctive brew, called sahti.
Using predominately juniper, with only minor amounts of hops, gives the
brew its unique flavor. The 18th century saw the rising popularity of
this distinctive, fruity brew, then stored in cool stone cellars, where
it would keep for long periods. Still made today, the drink is one of
Finland's national treasures enjoyed by natives and visitors alike.
Wherever you visit in
Europe you'll find evidence of the long history of efforts to perfect
this brew. Efforts that have enjoyed great success, thanks to the
dedication of thousands of tireless brewers. Their pride in the results
is well deserved.
Review of Beer Brewing Made Easy
Learn Bartending at Home
The Country and London Brewer - 1736