What is the Oldest Beer in the World, the Answer is Found in 13000 Years of Human Civilization

Beer-history-13000-years

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?

 

12 thoughts on “What is the Oldest Beer in the World, the Answer is Found in 13000 Years of Human Civilization”

  1. A lot of thought went into this post. All the information was easy to understand how beer came to be. Good information for someone interested in the making of beer and the history behind its journey to what we are familiar with as beer in our time.

    Reply
  2. Wow, nice to see that you can tell us about the history of beer. I have never taken out time to try to read about anything like this but I really think it would be nice for me to be able to get some really accurate answers to when beer started rolling out. Love how you are able to share this awesome information. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi, thank you for reading and commenting on my article.

      The history of beer and food during history is very interesting. Beer has had a significant impact on human civilisation, more than we normally understand. As it was a central part of a healthy diet in older times it was a major factor in surviving during difficult times. 

      It is fascinating to learn how people have experimented through history to get to the type of beers and ales that we know today.

      Roy

      Reply
  3. I loved this post. I enjoyed a beer or two last night in a new pub I wanted to try, obviosuly only had two and it closed at 10pm (due to covd restrictions. Who knew beer dated back so far?! I have always wanted to brew my own beer but I ahve never really known how. I will take a look at the home brew link you have posted. Great work!

    Reply
    • Hi, Russ. Thank you for your comment on my article. It is easy to forget how old the original recipe of what you drink at your local pub can be. For that matter, whoever does 😄. I was quite surprised to learn how far back in time beer can be traced.

      As for starting with craft beer, I encourage you sincerely to try it. It is a lot of fun and very social if you invite your best buddies to be a part of it. Me and a childhood friend of mine shall brew some Christmas Ale next weekend. I am excited. It is the first time I am doing an advanced recipe as that.

      Roy

      Reply
  4. Hi Roy,

    As a beer drinker (and lover) I found this truly fascinating.

    I was aware that the brewing of beer became extremely popular in the Middle Ages and always (mistakenly) assumed that this was when beer first came into existence.

    With that said, I recall during many History lessons during my days at school we studied King Arthur and British history from the 5th and 6th century.

    Many stories were regaled of the various banquets that King Arthur and the knights of the round table, and this typically involved their drunken antics while drinking mead.

    At this tender age I always fantasized mead to be a type of fruity wine (wrong again, as it seems to have a more prominent connection to gin).

    However, these stories never included beer, which led me to believe it simply wasn’t a thing at the time.

    So, to discover that beer is potentially 13,000 years old, and that it was even written about over 5,000 years ago is amazing.

    The things you learn.

    I loved this Roy, truly insightful and a fantastic read.

    Partha

    Reply
    • Partha, thank for reading and commenting. I was surprised as well to how old beer was. I thought I had the history of beer pretty well sorted out, but wow, was I wrong. In Norway, it was a period of time where it was required by law to brew your own beer. If you didn´t you ran the risk of being exiled, losing your land and properties to the state. The beer was quite different before the monks put hops in it. What is quite interesting today, is that it is becoming more popular the old recipe without the hops. You can easily buy mead in the shops now as they always have a small stock of it.

      Your comment about mead being similar to wine is interesting as you have a type of Ale called Barley Wine. I haven´t tasted it yet, but will have it as a part of the next beer tasting evening with my best friends.

      I am very happy you liked the article😊

      Roy

      Reply
      • Ah Barley Wine, I know it well.

        My advice Roy, don’t drink it, LOL.

        During my university days I worked in a pub, typically the early shift (11am in the UK).

        We’d regular have retired folk come in, enjoy a few beers for a couple of hours, and then I guess go home to enjoy a nap (sounds perfect to me, LOL).

        One such gentleman used to enjoy a couple of pints of bitter and then he’d round of his morning session with 2 bottles of barley wine (they were 330ml bottles I believe).

        I had no clue what it is was, but a quick scan of the label showed the variety we stocked had an ABV of 9.8% (I believe some even go as high as 12%).

        Obviously being young, impetuous, and inquisitive, I recall one day after my shift swallowing down 5 bottles in the space of about 90 minutes.

        Suffice to say I can’t remember the next few hours very well, and I certainly had a banging head the next day.

        Cheers
        Partha

        Reply
        • I have the same story from my younger days, but not with barley wine. It was during a social gathering in the air force which was called “hunting lottery”. The main dish was reindeer and bone marrow. It was served with beer and Aquavit, the Norwegian Spirit which is often referred to as the Water of Life.

          The two beverages go very well with each other. But eating bone marrow those two beverages can give you a little surprise. The fat in the food stops the alcohol from entering your bloodstream for a while. I didn´t know that and around 8 PM, and it was lights out for me, LOL.

          I woke up the next morning around lunchtime. The rest of the day wasn´t that good.

          Thank you for a great story, Partha.

          Cheers,
          Roy

          Reply
  5. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful piece of information here with us. I must say i really did enjoy reading your article as it contains a lot of interesting facts about how beer came about. That beer was 13.000 years old was a surprising fact. I thought that beer wasn´t discovered until the time of the Vikings.

    One of the most interesting information in your article is that the Monks and the Church that was the real drivers in changing beer brewing into big Industrial ventures around the whole World. The article shows how important it is to make sure to preserve our history as there is a lot of knowledge available to us if we just want to read up on it.

    It is always good to know more about history and how things came up about, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading and commenting on the article. History is essential to understand where we are coming from and lessons learned from our ancestors. One of these areas is food and beverages, which has developed on the basis of survival and after a while also our day to day comfort. Further, food and beverages have had a profound impact on the development of our civilisation.

      Roy

      Reply

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