A Brief History of Beer
Beer is the oldest known alcoholic beverage. This is not surprising when you consider that if a cereal contains certain sugars, it can ferment under the right conditions due to wild yeast in the air. The first beer ever consumed by a human could have been stumbled upon completely by accident when approximately 10,000 years BC, hunter gatherers collected barley as a source of nutrition.
It is more than likely that the first "brewers" of beer were a group of hunter gatherers collecting barley in some kind of collection device. Perhaps they left behind their collection device filled with barley while they went hunting. The right combination of rain and wild yeast in the atmosphere could cause the barley to ferment and produce a very primitive form of beer! A curious member of that group must have tried that early beer and liked it and decided they needed to plant barley in order to make more. Many experts now believe that beer was the reason for the agricultural revolution!
The agricultural revolution was a very important event in the history of humanity. Humans had always been nomads, walking from one place to another in search of food. During the agricultural revolution humans started settling down in order to begin farming and producing their own food. This transition is what ultimately led to civilization as humans created new ways to plant and store their food.
Barley was one of the first grains to be cultivated by humans. For a long time it was assumed that this was because early humans were using it to make bread. However, new evidence suggests that perhaps humans began cultivating barley to make beer. If that's the case, human civilization could owe a great deal to beer!
Early beers were consumed throughout the Middle-East, Asia and parts of Europe. As humanity progressed in the medieval period, beer become even more widespread and brewing techniques continued to improve.
Medieval Europe and Pre-Modern Europe
Beer was consumed all over Europe during the Middle Ages by all classes. Hops were added to beer for the first time sometime in the 9th century and began becoming common around the 12th century. One of the reasons for beer's popularity was its nutritional value and easy access in places where drinking water was not available. This is ultimately what caused monks to begin brewing beer.
Trappists monks followed a principle of being completely self-sufficient and also considered it their duty to provide pilgrims and visitors with food and drink. Naturally, they began brewing their own beer to meet these needs. Beer also served as a nutrient-dense liquid for them to consume during their 40-day Lenten Fast. The monks took their craft very seriously and today some of the best beers have come from monasteries.
By the 14th and 15th centuries, beer was becoming an artisan trade. Brewers and monasteries were producing beer for mass consumption. The industry in northern Europe began shifting from a small-scale operation focused on domestic consumption, to a larger, export industry. The use of hops in beer began spreading throughout Europe and new styles emerged. During this period, bottom-fermented beers were also discovered which would lead to the creation of popular beer styles like lager and pilsner.
Today, beer is brewed all over the world in countless different styles and employing various brewing techniques. Many beers that were founded in the 1800s are still popular today, beers like Budweiser, Heineken, Coor's, and Brahma. Craft beer is also becoming more popular as beer drinkers begin to shy away from traditional light beers.
barley: a cereal grain, cevada
bottom-fermented beer: beer brewed at lower temperates in which the yeast collects at the bottom of the fermenting beer
brewer: a person or company that manufactures beer
craft: an activity involving skill
hops: the flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus, lúpulo
monk: a person who practices religious asceticism, monje
to stumble upon: to discover something by chance
widespread: found or distributed over a large area
yeast: single-celled microorganisms classified as fungi, levedura