“The art of brewing is as old as civilization. Between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, some humans discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering and settled down to farm. Grain was the first domesticated crop that started that farming process.” (Beer in the World)
Beer is made with mainly four ingredients: hops, malted barley, water and yeast. In fact, most beer labels may only list these ingredients although there are others that can be added in to the recipe including maize, wheat, rice etc.
The oldest documented case of beer brewing is from 4000BC. “Chemical analysis has identified a 6,000-year-old brewery at an archaeological site in what is now modern Iran. The evidence, which was published recently in the scientific journal Nature, suggests that fermentation of barley was first practised in Sumer – southern Babylonia – between 4000 and 3000 BC. The Sumerian civilisation occupied the flood plain between the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers, land that is today mainly shared by Syria and Iraq. One of the oldest literate civilisations, the Sumerians had a sophisticated system of agriculture, in which irrigation was used to grow cereal crops, including barley.” (Ancient Wisdom)
Other cultures throughout history such as the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Romans have been documented as keen brewers as well.
During the Middle Ages, the largest breweries were the monasteries. “The refreshing beer made a welcome break in a very austere lifestyle and could still be enjoyed during times of fasting. Monks soon acquired a taste for ale and records show that in some monasteries consumption up to five litres a day was allowed.” (Beer Academy)
(Ale and Hearty by Alan Wykes)
In Germany 822 AD “hops were added to beer ‘reduced the putrefaction’ caused by spoilage organisms. The addition of hops slowly spread throughout Europe reaching Britain by the middle of the 15th century.”(Beer Academy)
“The next great development occurred in the mid-nineteenth century, through work done by Louis Pasteur, the first to propose an explanation of how yeast worked. Shortly thereafter, samples of Bavarian yeast provided the successful identification of a single-cell and strain of the bottom-fermenting lager yeast. German brewers had started to make beer by lagering (storing) in 1402. Brewing was not possible in the warm months because wild yeasts prevalent in the warmer weather of summertime would sour the beer. Brewers discovered that brewing in the cold months and storing the beer in caves in the nearby Alps impacted stability to the beer and enhanced it with a cleaner taste, although they did not know why. Today, we know that the reason the beer was clearer and cleaner was due to the fermentation process the beer underwent in the cold, during which the chemicals and bacteria responsible for clouding beer were unable to thrive and were therefore filtered out of the beer.” (Beer in the World)
“In 1840, America’s first lager beer was introduced, a departure from the usual colonial ales. In 1865, America was home to about 2,250 breweries, but by 1915 only 1,400 or so were in business. However, in the interim beer production actually rose by 40%. Prohibition in 1920 delivered a brutal blow to breweries. By 1979 there were a mere 89 left. Yet beer production still increased! (Why? Chalk it up to DIY bathtub brewing.) Since 1985, American breweries have been on the rebound — there are currently some 2,400 across the country. Finally, an interesting, if not essential, bonus fact: the first commercial beer can hit the market in 1935, and six-packs were introduced in the 1940s after research showed that was the number housewives could easily carry home from the store.” (99 Designs)