The Fascinating History of Beer
July 4th is the biggest beer selling holiday in the United States. More beer is sold than on the Super Bowl! But did you know that beer has a fundamental role in the history of civilization? Man needs air, drink and food (in that order), and when the water is contaminated, beer saves the day. Practically forever, everyman was nourished primarily by bread and beer.
Even if beer will not help you lose weight, it has a fascinating history and is a part of so many people's lives that we wanted to give you a quick overview of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The History of Beer, Condensed
- Around the world, prehistoric man discovers fermentation by chance occurrence as decaying fruit mixes with yeast, molds and bacteria in the air to produce alcohol.
- 12,000 BC: Nomadic hunters and gatherers settle down to farm grain (presumably to make beer because bread-baking is unknown)
- 7,000 BC: Brewing (i.e. intentionally making beer from grain or bread) is practiced in Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Israel, China, and South America.
- 500 BC - 500 CE: Wine takes over as the preferred drink in the Western world. Beer is for peasants.
- 500 CE - 1000 CE: Beer is brewed in monasteries for the monks, pilgrims and the community. Beer leads Nomads into village life. Workers are paid in beer.
- 1000 CE: The Flemish add hops as a preservative.
- 1500 CE: The Germans establish standards for brewers.
- 1620 CE: The first commercial brewery opens in New Amsterdam (New York City). The Pilgrims bail out at Plymouth Rock because they are running out of beer.
- 1776 CE: Revolutionary War soldiers receive a ration of one quart of beer per day.
- 1840 CE: The Germans perfect larger beer. Before that, beer was actually ale.
- 1865 CE: Pasteur kills the bacteria in beer.
- 1880 CE: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union villainizes beer.
- 1919 - 1933 CE: Beer goes underground during Prohibition.
- 2009 CE: Beer continues to be central to the economy. The beer industry pays over $41 billion in yearly taxes and benefits the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation industries.
The first frothy, cloudy, bitter, highly nutritious, unfiltered beer is a far cry from today’s processed version. Still, beer supplies glucose, B-vitamins and a host of trace minerals. Fermentation improves the nutritional status of grain. Early beer had less alcohol than beer has today.
Alcohol and Dieting
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your risk for motor vehicle accidents, falls and other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, inflammation of the liver, violence, suicide, and certain types of cancer. Be sure to consume a balanced diet before you make room for alcohol.
For the definitive book about beer, read A History of Beer and Brewing by Ian Hornsey.
Somewhere in the world, it's "Beer-o'clock". Do you drink beer?