Raise Your Glass to the Craziest Facts About the History of Beer
Beer is one of the simple joys in life. It's affordable, refreshing and nothing tastes better when you're unwinding from a long day.
But where does the drink come from, and how has it come to be such an internationally beloved beverage? There's certainly more than meets the taste buds when it comes to the storied history of a drink that never seems to go out of style.
Accessible to All
Though we've found ways to complicate and switch up the formulata over the years, when it comes down to it, the basic ingredients in beer remain the same. Barley, hops, yeast and water come together. Then, through a little sciencey magic, voilá! You've got a brew.
One Ancient Beer Recipe Is 9000 Years Old
The oldest known beer recipe of all time dates back 9000 years. The beer is thought to have been developed in the neolithic Chinese village of Jiahu. Biomolecular archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern used excavated pottery jars to put together the recipe.
Bow Down to Beer
Have a passion for brewing? Well, that excitement is nothing compared to the level of importance beer held in Ancient Mesopotamia. They even had a Sumerian goddess of beer, Ninkasi, who had her very own hymn.
Straws may be on the outs these days, but their existence dates back much further than you probably realize. Plastic straws may be a relatively recent invention, but the straws themselves can be traced all the way back to Mesopotamia.
Beer Helped Make the Pyramids
Whether you've been lucky enough to see this wonder of the ancient world or not, there's no doubt that you’re familiar with the Egyptian pyramids. Have you ever wondered how the structure was built without the assistance of modern building technology? The answer is simple: beer.
Historically, Beer Helped Civilizations Survive and Explore The Globe
Can you imagine having beer with breakfast, lunch and dinner? While it may seem odd to consider cracking open a cold one as your go-to beverage all day long, before sanitation was widely understood, beer was seen as a safer option than water.
Women Got the Job Done
We may associate beer and brewing with men these days, but when you go further back in the history of the drink, it was actually ladies who did all of the beer-making. As early as Babylonian times and up through when the Pilgrims settled in America, women were the primary brewsters — the female equivalent of brewers.
Beer Baptisms Were a Thing
Medieval times were full of all sorts of unusual practices by today’s standards, and sometimes, they of course involved beer. In the 13th century , for instance, there were actual baptisms performed with beer rather than water. Can you believe it?
Beer Can Help In Childbirth
Child birth has never been an easy undertaking, but in medieval times, it was especially dangerous and difficult due to the lack of modern medicine, sanitation, or understanding of biology.
It's no secret that some of the best inventions were discovered by accident. If you're a fan of lagers rather than ales, you have a mistake made by medieval Germans to thank. Up until that point, all the beers enjoyed across the world were simple ales.
The Beer Purity Law Has Lasted
It's a rare occurrence that a law lasts hundreds of years through the development and destruction of civilizations, but a 1516 one has done just that. Put in place by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the "Beer Purity Law", forbids brewers from including anything but barley, hops, water and yeast in their recipes.
Lack of Beer Was Why the Pilgrims Stopped at Plymouth Rock
Knowing how important beer was on long voyages, it comes as no surprise that the famous voyage made by the earliest Americans on the Mayflower was stopped short when the barrels ran dry. Originally planning to coast all the way to Virginia, the captain of the ship decided to set down their anchor early when they ran out of beer.
In 17th century Germany, monks created a thick, malty beer that became the first of the doppelbock variety, so called because of its potency compared to a regular bock. The monks refused to eat anything solid during Lent, but beer provided a convenient loophole. According to a saying from the time, "Liquid bread won’t break the fast.
Hop It Up: The Origins of the IPA
If you like your beer hoppier than most, chances are you’d like an Indian pale ale (IPA). The beer was first invented in 1790 by George Hogeson of the Bow Brewery, whose goal was to create a beer that could survive the long journey from Britain to India.
Turns out that the greatest of Founding Fathers, George Washington, was a bit of a beer fanatic. A personal notebook of his from 1757 was discovered containing a recipe for a "small beer". That is, a beer with low alcohol content that could be easily made by soldiers.
Guinness Brewing Started With a Really Long Lease
In 1759, Arthur Guinness took a leap of faith and leased an out-of-repair brewery at St. James Gate in Dublin, Ireland. He put £100 down and was charged £45 per year. The twist? The lease he signed was no shorter than 9,000 years long.
A Brewing Flood Proved Deadly
Even in your worst nightmares, you probably haven't pictured your life ending in a literal flood of beer. For eight people in 1814 London, however, this is exactly how they met their hopsy fate. Turns out that swimming in a pool of beer isn't so fun.
Beer Led to the Discovery of Pasteurization
Louis Pasteur, the scientist who discovered bacteria and invented the pasteurization process, would've gotten nowhere in his research if it weren't for beer. Noticing that beer went bad under certain conditions, Pasteur concluded that bacteria was the culprit.
Home-Brewing Was Illegal for a Long Time
Speaking of home-brewing, though the practice has existed in the United States in some form since the country was first founded, it wasn't always legal. Starting with Prohibition in 1919 and all the way up until 1978, any sort of at-home beer making was strictly forbidden.
I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Yuengling
The Prohibition era shook things up for alcohol producers all across the country who suddenly were out of a job. While some distributors threw in the towel, others chose to do some strategic rebranding.
Ever made the connection between The Guinness Book of World Records and Guinness the beer? If not, you may be surprised to know that the former developed from the latter. In 1951, the managing director of Guinness at the time, Sir Hugh Beaver, thought up the idea for the book of records on a hunting trip.
Beer's Surging Numbers
Beer has been a popular drink for pretty much as long as human history can be tracked. In fact, it's the third most popular beverage on Earth, preceded only by water and tea. However, it's only been in the last 30 or so years that new breweries have been cropping up in crazy numbers.
Beer Spas Can Actually Make Sense
It may have been declared unholy to perform baptisms with beer, but it turns out that beer baths may actually be a great idea. This ancient tradition from the Czech Republic and elsewhere is now offered at various spas across Europe, this unusual method of relaxation could be just what you need.
Lone Star Beer Drinkers
Texas is a unique place in so many ways — there's no denying that. Maybe one of the oddest facts about the Lone Star State is that there's a town that has a goat elected as their mayor. Yep, you read that right. And not just any goat, but a beer-drinking goat.
A Shipwreck Contained Drinkably Aged Beers
In 2010, divers located a shipwreck off the coast of Finland. Inside were three perfectly preserved bottles of beer. Scientists have dated the shipwreck to between 1800 and 1830, meaning that those bottles of beer are approximately 200 years old.
Rule of Thumb May Actually Be About Beer
Every phrase we use in common conversation came from somewhere, but some origin stories are harder to track down than others. One popular explanation for the phrase "rule of thumb" was that it had to do with a law about domestic abuse.
Beer Makes Traps for Snails
Ever had an outbreak of pesky slugs or snails in your garden? Well, it turns out humans aren't the only species that are beer fans. Though it's not a fail-safe method, many gardening experts recommending setting beer traps for those not-so-welcome little friends.
Beer Can Help Your Hair
Speaking of non-drinking uses of the world's third-favorite beverage, have you ever heard of beer hair products? It may sound like it would just leave your hair sticky and smelly, but there are actually a lot of great benefits to it.
There are hoards upon hoards of beer fanatics these days, so it's not too surprising that our vocabulary has grown to match it. If you deem yourself to be a beer enthusiast, you better start using the proper term — cerevisaphile.
How the First American Brewery Was Established
When the colonies were first established, there was one thing missing: an adept brewer for this new population. Without someone to take care of all of the people's beer needs, the product was actually shipped all the way from England for the new colonists.