Beer is the oldest and most widespread alcoholic beverage in history. It is, in fact, one of the World´s most popular drink. Water and Tea are ruling at the top. Since it´s arrival on to the food scene, it has had a central position in the world of men in social, political and religious life.
According to the website History, the art of brewing beer surfaced somewhere between 10000 to 13000 years ago, in the area near modern-day Haifa in Israel. Researchers from Stanford University found evidence of beer making inside the Raqefet Cave.
The discovery of the beverage can be attributed to the time when humans started to cultivate the earth, growing crops( grain), and some scientists are of the opinion that humans settled down to be able to grow crops for brewing beer. If this is true, the discovery of beer brewing is the seed of the modern civilisation. So if you ask what is the oldest beer in the world, the answer is found in 13000 years of human civilization.
Old Mesopotamia is the Original Brewers
The oldest written sources of beer come from old Mesopotamia about 5500 years ago. The oldest beer recipe was found on a stone tablet written in cuneiform. The Sumerians were worshipping the Goddess of beer, Ninkasi. They were also using beer as medicine to cure the sick in their society.
Beer rose in popularity quickly in the Sumerian population, and several hundred years after the oldest written records, the Babylonian lawmakers made laws that were intended to regulate the use of beer. These laws are found in the Worlds´s oldest known written law text; The Code of Ur-Nammu which is the oldest known law code surviving today. It is from Mesopotamia and is written in cuneiform, on stone tablets, dated to 2100–2050 BC (Wikipedia, last edited on 6 October 2020, at 07:11 (UTC))
It is quite possible that our Worlds various societies and cultures in pre-historic times, independent of each other, started to brew different types of beer as a result of the fermentation processes. The fermentation processes that lead to great beer arise naturally in all fluids which contain carbohydrates, sugar and starch. Due to this beer was probably accidentally discovered when a mixture of grain and water started to ferment.
The Middle Ages and the Rise of Modern Beer
In the ancient times the beer that was consumed, was quite different from what we drink today. Around 822 AD, hops were mentioned in writings, but it was not until after the 12th century that hops was added by monks to the beer they were brewing and we got the taste profile we appreciate today, with the bitterness and freshness the hops provide. Before 822AD, beer was mixed with fruit, honey, different herbs and spices to get the taste they wanted.
Before the Industrial Revolution, beer was made at peoples farms and it was the women that were responsible for the task of brewing. This started to change from the 6th century when the monasteries and Christian preachers started to spread the message about the joy of beer.
During the Middle Ages beer became very popular due to the challenge of drinking water often being contaminated by human waste and other sources of waste. You got sick if you drank water.
The Industrial Revolution and Beer Becoming a Big Industry
Modern beer took its form in the Middle Ages. As written above, brewing beer became more and more important as a source of income for the European monasteries from around 600 AD. Due to this, the “industrialization” of the craft of beer brewing was in its meagre beginning.
Today the traditions of the monks and the monasteries is still alive and some of the Belgian monasteries are ranking among the best breweries in the world.
When King William IV of Bayern introduced the law of purity in 1516, he basically monopolized beer brewing by law. His action gave a big push for the German Industry of beer brewing. According to the 1516 Bavarian law, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops.
The “law of purity” I still followed by many countries and breweries today.
In the 1800s´, brewing technology was improved and got more and more automated. The thermometer and the hydrometer were invented and the inventor Louis Pasteur spread new knowledge about fermentation and pasteurization. By these events and development, today’s brewing industry was born.
Beer Brewing Industry Goes Global
Today beer brewing is an Industry encompassing the whole world. It is dominated by big multinational companies. but the art of craft beer among the common people is thriving. Tens of thousand minor producers are making beer. There are regional breweries, pub breweries and microbreweries.
The worlds biggest brewery company is InBev which has renowned brands as Budweiser, Michelob, Stella Artois and more in it s portfolio, Sab Miller which has Urquell, Grolsch and Miller and more and the Heineken and Carlsberg group.
Today we drink approximately 135 billion litres of beer every year, net worth 1.735 Billion NKr (about 186 Million USD). To visualize this amount of beer, a can of beer containing all the beer consumed in the whole world in one year, would cause the dimension of the can to be 510m long and 60 meters in diameter.!
Some Final Words
The art of beer brewing is the oldest art of making food and appeared around 13000 years ago. I thas been a source of necessary nutrition and health. Today it is an international beverage with tough competition among breweries to attract consumers.
Nevertheless, there is international cooperation to promote beer culture and the “safe” breweries interests. In Europe, there is an organization called “Brewers of Europe” which safeguards the interests of the European breweries and there are similar organisations elsewhere in the world
Today, craft beer in the private sphere is a hobby that has attracted increasing interest. More and more people discover how easy and fun it is to make beer at home. You can read an introduction to homebrewing here. The availability of commodities and equipment needed to brew is readily available at a fair price.
So, what are you waiting for? Why don´t you try yourself?