All About Beer - History of Beer Making

The history of beer making is a story of creation, devotion and honour. Although wine making is a very old art that possibly originated with the Phoenicians some 2,600 years ago, the art of beer making is said to be older than that of farming. As far back as 8000 BC, women were known to gather wild grain and utilise it to make beer with fermentation dependant on spontaneous air borne yeast

With the birth of civilization also came the birth of controlled beer brewing. The Sumerians developed several varieties around 4000 BC by soaking barley bread in water. The Babylonians came up with many more varieties some two thousand years later.

At that time, the resulting brew was thick, flat and somewhat bitter. But it was also said to be healthy, much more so than the water from most sources.

Wine making dominated the regions of southern Europe for centuries, but in the northern and some eastern regions, the climate was too cold for growing grapes. But where grapes could not grow, barley grain could and in these areas, the art of beer making flourished. Some countries, such as Germany, were blessed with climates, that were suitable for both grape and barley growing hence the reason that beer making and wine making were possible in the same country. The weather in Britain was generally too cool and wet for vineyards so the country developed beer brewing instead.

Delving into the long history of beer making, the start of the twelfth century saw the first big growth of breweries, where the monks turned to investigating ways to supplement food rations and income. Largely protected by royal patrons, it was the monasteries that developed the use of hops for both preservation and later, for flavoring.

Beginning in 1397, the Spaten brewery in Munich expanded greatly the art and science of beer brewing, but it was the mid nineteenth century, with the introduction of both steam power and refrigeration, that brewing came to a head. Techniques introduced by Gabriel Sedlmayr, and later his son, are still used today by his descendants in the production of fine lagers.

The famous Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen, for instance, came about as a direct result of the work done at Spaten . Its founder was a student of Sedlmayr's and began his own brewery using Spaten yeast.

Pasteur's work on the procedure that later came to be named after him, added considerably to this progression. His studies, in fact, were not 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 appear. These quickly spread to Vienna, Austria and then to Dortmund, Germany and soon after that, all of Europe. Following the great immigration of the late nineteenth century, America was the next to adopt the same style.

In the far north of Europe, the Finns developed their own unique brew, called sahti . Using predominately juniper, with only small amounts of hops, gives the brew its one of a kind flavor. The eighteenth century saw the rising popularity of this unique, fruity brew, then stored in cool stone cellars, where it would keep for extended 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 will find evidence of the long history of beer making and the efforts to perfect this brew - efforts that have enjoyed great success, thanks to the dedication of thousands of tireless brewers whose pride in their results is well deserved.

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