Craft beer flight at a brewery
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When was beer invented?

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When was beer invented? And who came up with this idea? Because even though that guy is probably long gone, millions of people would probably want to raise a glass in his honor.


Roll out the barrel

He was a wise man who invented beer. – Plato

Ah, there’s nothing quite like downing a cold one after some yard work, out at the game, at the bar with some friends, or alone in front of your computer. (No, I never do the last one. Why do you ask?)

Anyway — is there anything more quintessentially American than a nice cold beer on a hot day?

Well, see, here’s the funny thing — beer is far from an American invention. And don’t listen to the Germans or the Brits, they didn’t invent the stuff either. It goes back a lot further than that.

Glass of beer
Photo by jirkaejc/Envato

Strange brew

I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.
–Frank Sinatra

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, beer dates back over 8000 years to Sumatra and Babylonia, where it was made from barley. Around the same time, the ancient Chinese, Africans, Egyptians, and some South American civilizations were all independently creating beer.

Beer was loved by these ancient cultures for its ability to preserve water for drinking (as the alcohol prevented anything from growing in it) — and for many of these cultures, beer was used in religious ceremonies. In fact, some Ancient Egyptians were entombed with beer, in preparation for the afterlife.

As civilization migrated to Europe, beer migrated as well. By the 1st century BC, the Roman historian Pliny noted that the Saxons, Celts, Nordic and Germanic tribles all drank ale.

As the 7th century AD rolled around, beer was being produced and sold by European monasteries — a tradition that continues to this day. The Germans had discovered and were using hops (one of the foundations of modern beer) by the 11th century, and in the 15th century, they were introduced to Britain via Holland.


Beer revolution

Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

As the Industrial Revolution came, almost no field of production was left untouched — and the brewing of beer was no exception. No longer restricted to small batches brewed by monks, the production (and consumption) of beer took off, as the foundation for the modern brewing practice was in place.

Malts were no longer dried over fires, thus brewers no longer had to work to keep the “smoky” taste out of their beers.

Pints of draft beer - 4 types
Photo by RawPixel/Freepik

The widespread use of the hydrometer forever changed the way beer was brewed — they no longer were brewed from single malts, as brewers could use the hydrometer to calculate the yield from the various malts and mix and match as they pleased to create desirable results.

From there, well, it just took off. Beer can be found in every nook and cranny of the world today, and almost every single country has a natively-produced beer they can call their very own. As of 2018, over 51 billion gallons of beer (1.94 billion hectoliters) were being sold per year, equalling a total global revenue of over $400 billion.

Some of the quotes in this article appear in the book Keep Calm and Drink Up — which would also be a nice housewarming gift for someone (together with a 6-pack, of course).