Where Did Beer Come From?

In a world where information is readily available, one thing always seems to come down to a debate. No, not whether or not the lunar landing was real. We’re talking about the history of beer and the age old question: where did beer come from?

Beer has been a huge part of culture. Every fictional-but-based-off-reality medieval TV show has fat kings guzzling goblets of ale. But then the Bible tells us that Jesus turned water into wine and not beer.

Does that mean that beer came about at some point between the Bible and the medieval era? Let’s explore!

The History Of Beer

Beer can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, two hotbeds for ancient culture. Early writings indicate that beer was around as early as 4,000 BC (and possibly earlier). An early indication of brewing comes from a poem to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of brewing. Looks like ancient Egyptians also enjoyed a nice barley wine after a hard day of doing whatever ancient Egyptians did! Case closed.

It can’t be that easy, can it? More or less. Let’s take a closer look at the beers made way back when.

In ancient Sumeria and China, there’s evidence that people were making beer using the barley from bread. Some of these brews even included other grains, an example of these early brewers showing off their chops.

So there’s evidence that beer was being brewed in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China…and Europe. Did they trade their beer knowledge with each other? Maybe, maybe not. When you think about the way brewing works, the basis for beer is actually pretty simple – just barley and fermentation for the most part.

In fact, any bready beverage can ferment from yeast that floats around in the air. Not only is there a good chance that beer emerged across the planet by chance, but it could even be that people never actually created beer themselves.

It’s almost as if the world wanted us to have beer.

Who Brewed The Beer?

We know that beer came from everywhere. But who were the masterminds behind the beers back in the ancient times?

For the most part, it was women.

Women brewers dominated the brewing industry in the western world up until Industrialization started spreading across society. From that point, it started to become a profitable industry, and men back then decided that men should be brewing beer. This could be why our culture is so quick to think of beer as “manly”…even though women were making it for hundreds of years.

In other parts of the world, just about anybody was making beer. If you owned a farm, you were able to make your own batch of brews pretty easily. The only downside is that they probably tasted horrible.

If we can take anything away from the history of beer, it’s these three things:

  1. Nature wanted us to have beer
  2. Women should embrace their beer-brewing heritage
  3. Everyone should feel encouraged to make their own beer

Why Is Beer So Prominent In Medieval Culture?

Every medieval movie has ale – it’s a fact. But why do we associate ale with the Middle Ages?

A big part of it could be because of Charlemagne, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800 AD. He was a mega-fan of beer, and he probably made some of it himself.

Back then, you did whatever a king did. Charlemagne was like the king of kings; even the Pope did what Charlemagne wanted. Because Charlemagne’s reach was through Western Europe (modern day France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, etc.), he probably had a profound impact on the brewing in those areas. These areas are generally considered to have some of the oldest (and best) breweries in the world.

A Few Beer Fun Facts

  • The word beer comes from the Latin “bibere” which means “to drink”.
  • Sophocles thought the perfect diet was bread, mean, vegetables and beer.
  • Christian monks used breweries as places to house travelers. They would also give them food and drink.
  • The average person in 1600’s Hamburg drank about 700 liters of beer each year – or 185 gallons.
Thomas Short
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