Every time, when you go to a pub or just sit on your sofa at home and drink one beer you might not be really conscious of what you are actually drinking. What is behind this ordinary drink? In this simple glass of beer there are almost 10.000 years history! Each culture had its own way of making beer.
There were different kinds of ingredients used, for instance: barley in Egypt, wheat in Mesopotamia, millet and sorghum in other parts of Africa, rice in Asia, and corn in the Americas.
Beer, which according to agricultural historians may have been produced accidentally, has become one of the most popular beverages in the world. As time went by, brewing techniques became more sophisticated. In Europe brewers banded together to form guilds societies that protected their trade while setting standards for beer making.
Important steps in the development of today’s beer were:
- Way to dry malt in large rotating heated drums: grain light in color lead to pale, golden beer
- Compressed gas refrigeration: beer could be shipped greater distances without spoiling
- Standardization of the water used in production: produce identical-tasting beer at different brewing locations
With technological developments, some breweries turned to mass production, employing large-scale, state-of-the-art brewing equipment to produce large quantities of beer. Although today there are extreme large breweries producing millions of barrels per year, more recently, brewers have returned to some of the older ways of making beer.
Currently there are microbreweries and brewpubs which prefer brewing in smaller batches and forgoing filtration and pasteurization to produce beers that retain more of the flavor and character imparted by the yeast during fermentation.
As mentioned before, beer is one of the most popular drinks worldwide. Each folk has its own beer culture and drinking habits. For instance, in Brazil people are used to drink light (less alcoholic) and very cold beer while in Austria people usually drink modestly cold and strong (more alcoholic) beer. Well, beer can also be served warm! Sake, a Japanese beer made from fermented rice, is clear in color and tastes and looks more like wine than beer. It contains approximately 15 percent alcohol. Sake is typically served warm to enhance its flavors.
As we see, beer has really different faces. It seems as if this great diversity mirrored the world’s multi-cultural environment. Some even argue that beer was the cause of civilization… well, for some it might certainly be.