Beer is the world’s oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage. It is produced through the fermentation of starch-based material, fermentation of yeast & cereal grains, hops, barley & many, many other organic products.
Only beverages produced by this method are considered to be beer. Neither alcoholic beverages made from the fermentation of sugars derived from non-starch sources (e.g., grape juice or honey), nor beverages which are distilled after fermentation should be classified as such.
Because the ingredients and procedures used to make beer can differ, characteristics such as taste and color may also vary. While local names for beers made with the same methods and ingredients may vary, the similarities of method and ingredients can be detected to form a study of the nature of beer styles.
But I am remiss… Why don’t we start at the beginning? OK… So… Somewhere around 3000 BC or about 7000 years ago. sustainable society was coming together slowly yet surely… because of the advent of agriculture, which was necessary to be able to feed large groups of people consistently. Perhaps simultaneously in Mesopotamia (somewhere near present day Baghdad) AND Mesoamerica (present day South America).
No matter… every society or grouping of people, utilized what was available to them. Of course one of the most popular & cost effective of these products was grain. There are many forms of grains, some of these grains, were hard & bitter. So… picture the woman of the house, preparing the daily meals, or more likely the family ration of grain. These would be prepared in as much variety as possible. She wants to make her family happy. So one day… this fine woman… weather she be from Argentina or Persia… Makes a mash of grain on her grinding stone. To this mash, she adds water… heated over her fire. She mixes some herbs & spices. The lady of the house has prepared a fine meal of mush for her family. Some of this she serves to her family… but some she saves. This is stored somewhere… Probably with a layer of water on top. Well somewhere near… traveling on the winds, are some naturally occurring ‘yeasts’. Like perhaps the white frosting that you may see on a wine grape cluster. That is yeast. So this yeast finds it’s way to the ground mash of grains & water. Well… now we have all the components of making beer. Grains, heat, water & yeast. So the ‘leftovers’ (nobody eats leftovers today) soon came to be noticed as having a different effect on the body & mind. A somewhat puzzling one, yet pleasurable… So… Our fine maiden, making dinner for her family… may have accidentally become the first brew master. People from miles around were talking about her magic meal. The food that makes you feel whacky, but good. Well as time progressed… these foods became drinks, and fast became an overwhelming force in many, many cultures.
Religious consumption was of great value to many ancient civilizations. Ceremonial use of these elixirs was very popular throughout history & before… Recreational use to these fine varied brews was, and is still enjoyed by many across the globe. It has taken root & is now woven into the fabric of our society.
Different grains were used in different cultures:
a) Africa used millet, maize and cassava.
b) North America used persimmon although agave was used in Mexico.
c) South America used corn although sweet potatoes were used in Brazil.
d) Japan used rice to make sake.
e) China used wheat to make samshu.
f) Other Asian cultures used sorghum.
g) Russians used rye to make quass or kvass.
h) Egyptians used barley and may have cultivated it strictly for brewing as it made poor bread.
Brewer’s yeast A common method of categorizing beer is by the behavior of the yeast used in the fermentation process. In this method of categorizing, those beers which use fast acting yeast which leaves behind residual sugars are termed ales, while those beers which use slower and longer acting yeast which removes most of the sugars leaving a clean and dry beer are termed lagers.
Ale A modern ale is commonly defined by the strain of yeast used and the fermenting temperature. Ale yeast is normally considered to be a top-fermenting yeast, though a number of British brewers, such as Fullers and Weltons, use ale yeast strains that settle at the bottom. Common features of ale yeasts regardless of top or bottom fermentation is that they ferment more quickly than lager yeasts, they convert less of the sugar into alcohol (giving a sweeter, fuller body) and they produce more esters (which give a fruity taste) and diacetyl (which gives a buttery taste).
Ale is typically fermented at higher temperatures than lager beer (15–23°C, 60–75°F). Ale yeasts at these temperatures produce significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavor and aroma products, and the result is a beer with slightly “fruity” compounds resembling but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, banana, plum, or prune.
Stylistic differences between some ales and lagers can be difficult to categorize. Steam beer, Kölsch and some modern British Golden Summer Beers are seen as hybrids, using elements of both lager and ale production. Baltic Porter and Bière de Garde may be produced by either lager or ale methods or a combination of both. However, commonly, lager is perceived to be cleaner tasting, dryer and lighter in the mouth than ale.
Lager are the most commonly-consumed beer in the world. They are of Central European origin, taking their name from the German lagern (“to store”). Lager yeast is a bottom-fermenting yeast, and typically undergoes primary fermentation at 7-12°C (45-55°F) (the “fermentation phase”), and then is given a long secondary fermentation at 0-4°C (30-40°F) (the “lagering phase”). During the secondary stage, the lager clears and mellows. The cooler conditions also inhibit the natural production of esters and other byproducts, resulting in a “crisper” tasting beer.
Modern methods of producing lager were pioneered by Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger, who perfected dark brown lagers at the Spaten Brewery in Bavaria, and Anton Dreher, who began brewing a lager, probably of amber-red color, in Vienna in 1840–1841. With modern improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage, typically 1–3 weeks.
Lambic These are beers which use wild yeasts, rather than cultivated ones. All beers before the cultivation of yeast in the 19th century were closer to this style, characterized by their sour flavors.
Pale Ale Another common method of categorizing beer is by color. The color of a beer is determined by the malt. The most common color is pale amber produced from using pale malts. Pale ale is a term used for beers made from malt dried with coke. Coke had been first used for roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn’t until around 1703 that the term pale ale was first used. In terms of volume, most of today’s beer is based on the pale lager brewed in 1842 in the town of Plzeň, in the Czech Republic. The modern Pilsner lager is light in color and high in carbonation, with a strong hop flavor and an alcohol by volume content of around 5%. The Pilsner Urquell and Heineken brands of beer are typical examples of pale lager, as are the American brands Budweiser, Coors, and Miller.
Stout or dark malts. are very dark, almost black beers, and feature a heavily roasted flavor profile. This is achieved by brewing with malt that has been kilned until it resembles burnt toast. Although not always considered ales by consumers, these beers use top fermenting yeasts and as such are members of the ale family. Porter was originally an English, specifically London dark beer style that was the drink of the masses long before lagers were conceived or modern ales were fashionable. In the heyday of Porter in London, during the eighteenth century, the term “Stout” was used to denote the strongest and weightiest beers in a brewer’s portfolio. The same relationship still holds true to this day, with porters generally being lighter in body and color than stouts. Stouts and Porters are enormously popular among US craft brewers and virtually all brewpubs and regional microbrewers produce one or both as year round brews.
Porter are red-brown to black in color, medium to medium-full bodied, and characterized by a flavor profile that can vary from very subtle dark malts to fully roasted, smoky flavors. Being a centuries old style, there are differences of opinion with regard to what a “true” porter was actually like and there can be wide variations from one brewer’s interpretation to the next. Roasted malt should provide the flavoring character, rather than roasted barley as is used with stouts. Stronger, darker versions and lighter more delicate versions are equally valid manifestations of the style. The influence of hops can often be notable in the richer craft brewed examples of the style. Although Porter was the drink of the masses of the 1700s London, it is not a significant factor in the British market today, despite the production of a few outstanding English examples. In the US it is enjoying new found popularity among US craft brewers and many fine US examples are produced.
Some Ancient History
1600 BC Egyptian texts contain 100 medical prescriptions calling for beer.
If an Egyptian gentleman offered a lady a sip of his beer they were betrothed.
Early brewers used herbals like balsam, hay, dandelion, mint, and wormwood seeds, horehound juice, and even crab claws & oyster shells for flavorings.
Romans brewed “cerevisia” (Ceres the goddess of agriculture & vis meaning strength in Latin).
55 BC Roman legions introduce beer to Northern Europe.
49 BC Caesar toasted his troops after crossing the Rubicon, which began the Roman Civil War.
Before the Middle Ages brewing was considered a food as well as celebration drink.
23 BC Chinese brewed beer called “kiu”
500-1000 AD the first half of the Middle Ages, brewing begins to be practiced in Europe, shifting from family tradition to centralized production in monasteries and convents (hospitality for traveling pilgrims).
During Medieval times beer was used for tithing, trading, payment and taxing.
1000 AD hops begins to be used in the brewing process.
1200 AD beer making is firmly established as a commercial enterprise in Germany, Austria, and England.
a) German’s preferred cold temperature lagers (bottom-fermentation) stored in caves in the Alps.
b) English preferred mild temperature ales (top-fermentation) stored in cellars.
1295 King Wenceslas grants Pilsen Bohemia brewing rights (formerly Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia & Czech Republic).
1420 German brewers develop the lager method of brewing.
1489 Germany’s first brewing guild, Brauerei Beck, was established.
1490′s Columbus found Indians making beer from corn and black birch sap.
1516 Bavarian brewing guilds push for the Reinheitsgeobot purity laws make it illegal to use any ingredients but water, barley, and hops in the brewing of beer (they didn’t know yeast existed).
1553 Beck’s Brewery founded & still brewing today.
Late 1500′s Queen Elizabeth I of England drank strong ale for breakfast.
1587 the first beer brewed in New World at Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony in Virginia–but the colonists sent requests to England for better beer.
1602 Dr. Alexander Nowell discovers that ale can be stored longer in cork sealed, glass bottles.
1612 the first commercial brewery opened in New Amsterdam (NYC, Manhattan) after colonists advertised in London newspapers for experienced brewers.
1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock because the beer supplies were running low.
1674 Harvard College has its own brewhouse.
1680 William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) operated commercial brewery.
1757 George Washington wrote his personal recipe “To Make Small Beer.”
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had their own private brewhouses.
1786 Molson brewery is founded in what is today Canada.
1780s Samuel Adams operated commercial brewery.
Soldiers in the revolutionary army received rations of a quart of beer a day.
1789 James Madison proposes that Congress levy a low 8-cent duty per barrel on malt liquors to encourage “the manufacture of beer in every State in the Union.”
Beer and bread were the mainstays of the ordinary person’s diet for centuries.
Yeasts during this time were exactly the same as those used in bread.
Before the 1800′s most beer was really “Ale.”
1810 Munich establishes Oktoberfest as an official celebration.
1830′s Bavarians Gabriel Sedlmayr of Munich and Anton Dreher of Vienna developed the lager method of beer production.
1842 the first golden lager is produced in Pilsen, Bohemia.
In the mid-19th Century (1850′s) German immigrant brewers introduced cold maturation lagers to the US (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors, Stroh, Schlitz, and Pabst roots begin here).
The modern era of brewing in the US began in the late 1800′s with commercial refrigeration (1860), automatic bottling, pasteurization (1876), and railroad distribution.
1870′s Adolphus Busch pioneers the use of double-walled railcars, a network of icehouses to make Budweiser the first national brand.
1876 Pasteur unraveled the secrets of yeast in the fermentation process, and he also developed pasteurization to stabilize beers 22 years before the process was applied to milk.
1880 there are approximately 2,300 breweries in the US.
1890s Pabst is the first US brewer to sell over 1 million barrels in a year.
1909 Teddy Roosevelt brought over 500 gal. of beer on safari in Africa.
1914 commercial competition drives the number of operating breweries down to 1,400.
1933 Prohibition ends for beer (April 7).
1935 only 160 breweries survive Prohibition.
1935 the beer can is introduced (American Can Co. & Kreuger Brewing).
1938 Elise Miller John heads Miller Brewing for 8 years as the first and only woman ever to run a major brewing company.
1965 Fritz Maytag purchases Anchor Brewing Co.
1966 Budweiser is the first brand to sell 10 million barrels in a year.
1976 New Albion is the first in the rebirth of brewpubs and microbreweries in the US opening in California.
1988 Asahi Super Dry (Japan) introduces new beer category (soon to follow is Michelob Dry).
1991 the US produces 20% of the world beer volume (world’s largest).
Very Modern History (1992):
1) The US beer industry produced & sold 2.62 billion cases of beer.
2) Estimated per capita consumption was 22.7 gallons (ranked 13th worldwide).
3) Beer drinkers consumed 5.89 Billion gallons, enough to fill the Houston Astrodome over 12 times or 330 oil tankers.
4) Five brewers produced 89.4% of domestic product:
a) Anheuser-Busch (A-B), 44.5%
b) Miller Brewing, 21.8%
c) Coors, 10.4%
d) Stroh, 7.4%
e) G. Heileman, 5.3%
5) The world’s largest combined-site brewer was Anhueser-Bucsh, at 1.166 Billion cases per year.
6) The world’s largest single-site brewery was Coors Brewing, Golden, Colorado, at 272 Million cases per year.
US retail beer sales exceed $45 Billion.
First half of the 1900′s beer was associated with men, blue-collar workers, college students, and mainstream sports enthusiasts.
Late 1900′s beer had a different image and cultural function, with growth in popularity among a more diverse share of the population.
What more is there to say…Bottom’s Up!