Beer as a beverage probably dates back on the early Neolithic era, some 11,000 years ago. The process of brewing beer was, most likely, discovered by many cultures independent of each other. The earliest chemical evidence of beer was found in the Zagros Mountains in western Iran.
Brewing beer and distributing it are referenced in some of the earliest human writings. Remember your high school history and the “Code of Hammurabi”? If not, that’s okay. Anyway, this Babylonian code of laws was written almost 4,000 years ago and it contains rules regarding the production and distribution of beer. Or how about this; in Mesopotamia they had a beer goddess, Ninkasi, and one of the prayers recited to her was a recipe for beer! In fact, several years ago, Anchor Brewing Company made a limited edition and branded it Ninkasi.
The recipe was based on a reconstruction of the original ancient one and included twice baked bread, malt, honey and dates. Interestingly, it did not include hops so it ended up being much sweeter than modern beers. This just proves that those golden suds have a much more interesting history than you knew!
All beers are classified into two main types: Pale Lagers which are the most popular around the world, and Ales which are distinct to the region where they are brewed. These two main types are further defined into other varieties like stout, brown ale and pale ale. Beer is usually produced with about 4%-6% alcohol but can contain as little as less than one percent or, rarely, over 20%!
Beer was introduced to Europe around 5,000 years ago and was most certainly not the same sort of beer we know today. In those days beer brewing used fruits, honey, various types of plants, spices and even some narcotic herbs.
Notice that hops are not on the list. The first mention of hops in the brewing of beer comes 1,200 years ago by an Abbot (by the 7th century beer was being brewed and sold by monasteries).
It took the Industrial Revolution to bring beer brewing into what we would recognise today. It was during this time that both hydrometers and thermometers were invented. These gave the brewers much more control over the process and the ability to predict the results. This ability to standardise results led to brewing in much larger quantities and shipment over much wider areas.
Now, the brewing industry spans the globe. Where there are several huge international companies that dominate the market, there are literally thousands of small brewers also producing beer. Here is another fun fact: in 2006 more than 35 BILLION gallons of beer were sold for about $294.5 billion dollars.