Beer is one of mankind’s oldest beverages. When cereals were first grown for food, thousands of years ago, a fortunate by-product was discovered. When these tasty grains got wet, they would ferment. This process of fermentation had the ability to transform water into a very palatable drink and so the first beer had been discovered.
Nowadays we know for a fact that this transformation is not some dark magic but is caused by the presence of wild yeasts in the air.
Although Belgium is, without doubt, the world’s beer capital, the great drink was not invented in Belgium.
Clay tablets indicate that brewing was a well-respected occupation in what is now Iran more than 7,000 years ago, but it’s thought that beer was already known to the Sumerians and Babylonians some 3,000 years before that. Back then most brewers were women.
One of the first discoveries of the early brewing industry was that using one container for all your fermentations produced a much more reliable result. The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer dates from between 3500 and 3100 BC and was discovered at Godin Tepe in the Central Zagros Mountains of Iran.
Tablets discovered in Syria dating back to 2500 BC indicate that the city of Elba produced a range of beers. It was quite common for female brewers to double up as priestesses and some beers were specially brewed for religious ceremonies.
Beer was very important in Ancient Egypt and its manufacture was strictly controlled; beer had a privileged role and was used as an offering to the gods. It was also prescribed to treat various illnesses.
There is historical evidence that the Egyptians taught the Greeks how to make beer and it was very popular in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome until wine took over as the favoured drink.
One of the reasons for the popularity of alcoholic drinks was the uncertain quality of the water supply. Although people didn’t understand the science, there was a clear indication that drinking water increased the likelihood of contracting diseases like cholera. Sophocles, writing in 450 BC, said that he believed the best diet for the Greeks was: bread, meat, vegetables and beer, but that beer should be drunk in moderation.
The Ancient Greek historian Polybius describes how the Phoenicians made barley wine that they kept in large silver and golden vases known as 'kraters'.
In time beer moved north and west across Europe and by 2,000 years ago brewing was a popular cottage industry in Belgium.
Around the same time the Gauls hit on the idea of replacing pottery jars with wooden barrels as brewing and storing vessels. Following the demise of the Roman Empire the church started to step into the void, becoming major land-owners, and as monasteries were established, breweries were set up in every abbey.Read Full Article