Professor Patrick McGovern discovers the earliest known evidence of beer in ancient societies. Preserved in Clay jars in a tomb located in Chinas Yellow River Valley, the oldest surviving proof of beer in ancient times furthers historians theories that the cultivation of cereal grains like wheat and barley inspired the dawn of civilized society, where hunters and gatherers settled down and embraced agriculture for the first time in recorded history – some 11 to 12 thousand years ago. Not only that, but it also served as the beer recipe for one of DogFishHeads Ancient Ale Brews – Chateau Jiahu.
The oldest surviving beer recipe, Found in Mesopotamia. The Sumerian poem serves to honor the patron goddess of brewing – Ninkasi and help the uneducated who couldn’t read or write at the time recall the production of beer from barley and bread.(partial translation below)
Ninkasi – you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat. It is like the onrush of the Tigris of Euphrates.
Enacted in 1754 BC by the sixth Babylonian King Hammurabi. One of the Earliest sets of written laws, the Code of Hammurabi contains 282 laws, each with a unique punishment to fit the crime. Because the practice of watering down beer to improve profit margins was such a problem with many brewers and tavern owners of the time – The Code of Hammurabi created several laws that referenced beer to create standards for it’s quality and production. One such law declared that anyone caught using inferior grains or watering down their beer would be punished. They took this law so seriously, that it was recorded that some were sentenced to be drowned in their inferior beer as punishment for their greed and deception.
The first recorded use of hops in beer making.
14th & 15th Centuries
With the adoption of Hops becoming more mainstream, the preservative qualities of hops allowed breweries to begin expanding their territory and for the first time made trading and shipping beer over long distances truly viable. The art of beer making began slowly transitioning from a common household practice to large scale brewery operations.
The Duke of Bavaria, William the IV put into place the Reinheitsgebot purity law, which regulated the ingredients breweries could use in their beers. While the intention was to create a set of quality standards to protect beer lovers from imbibing unknown ingredients – The reality of the situation was much more grim. These restrictive laws would stunt the growth, experimentation and variety of beers available throughout many parts of Europe for centuries.
The creation of the mercury thermometer allowed for easy mass production and availability – Giving homebrewers greater control over their beers by giving them the ability finely regulate it’s temperature during the boiling process.
Although the principles and technology behind the Hydrometer date all the way back to the 5th century, The variation that determines the sugar content and ultimately the gravity of our beer, A saccharometer wouldn’t be invented until the late 18th Century. The first saccharometer constructed to measure alcohol was created by Benjamin Martin, to be used in the distillation process, which then quickly translated to winemakers and brewers alike.
Louis Pasteurs discovery of yeast’s role in fermentation. (A full 12 years before it was ever introduced to the milk industry I might add!) This simple realization would later allow us to isolate different yeast strains to target desirable beer qualities.
A dark day for american beer lovers and breweries. With increasing pressure from religious and womans right movements – Congress establishes the prohibition act that declares the sale, transportation and production of beer illegal. (oddly enough you could still drink it?) Prior to prohibition there were over 4,000 breweries, 15 years later there were roughly only 500 remaining. The lucky/adaptable few survived the prohibition era by selling beer making ingredients disguised as ‘cooking’ food stuffs. With comical labels that read like beer making instructions…
-Do not mix with water and boil to 170 degress for 60 minutes
-Do not then cool the wort, add yeast or hops.
Congress repeals Prohibition and ratifies the 21st amendment.
Mortan W. Coutts developed the continuous fermentation technique. Allowing for a completely closed loop brewing system that allowed the beer to never come in contact with the outside atmosphere, even during the bottling process. While this technology briefly showed up in the UK and US – It is only currently being used in New Zealand.
Due to an unfortunate oversight of congress when they repealed Prohibition, HomeBrewing wasn’t made legal until 1978 when Gimmy Carter signed the H.R 1337 bill into law. Interestingly enough – wine making was legalized as part of the 21st amendment.
Even the president of the United States has taken an interest in the growing homebrewing movement! Using a pound of honey collected from the beehives on the southern lawn, In 2011 President Barack Obama brewed the first batch of beer on white house grounds. As of 2012, Hehas brewed three different styles of beer:
-White House Honey Blonde Ale
-White House Honey Porter
-White House Honey Brown
Even with the growing enthusiasm for homebrewing, not every state permitted it. It wasn’t until this year (2013) that Alabama and Mississippi became the 49th and 50th states in the US to legalize homebrewing! Finally making homebrewing legal in every state.
HomeBrewing & Craft Beer Statistics
- The United States is home to more than 1.2 million homebrewers.
- The American HomeBrewers Association has more than 37,000 members.
- Nearly 8,000 entries were submitted to the 2012 AHA National HomeBrew competition.
- Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams & George Washington – All homebrewers.
- Believe it or not beer actually increases your “good” cholesterol ( or HDL), and contains about as many anti-oxidants as red wine and 4-5 times as much as white wine.
- A 1999 study conducted by the Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported that moderate drinkers who consumed 1-2 beers per day were shown to have a 30-40% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
- The University of Illinois reported that moderate drinkers were inherently better at problem solving, averaging a 40% faster solve time than those who were sober.
- At the end of 2013 – The American Brewing Society placed the number of breweries in the United states @ nearly 3,000 – with only 55 of them being non-craft breweries. While this number may seem disproportionate – keep in mind that the despite the impressive numbers, the market share for craft beer totaled only 7.5% in 2013. (and rising)