The last 1000 years of beer brewing

The making of beer actually dates back to the ancient world to Babylonian times. It was not until the Middle Ages that it really began to come into its own as an art and science of beer brewing. This brewing of beer has passed through several major milestones over the last one thousand years.

Abbey Production of Beer

Barley had begun to be cultivated farther and farther to the Northwest in Europe in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. The technology of brewing beer from barley went along with it. In the early to mid Middle Ages, the production of beer came under the purvey of the Roman Catholic Church. Abbeys were the early great centers of beer making a thousand years ago. As repositories for ancient knowledge and science, and also agricultural hubs, abbeys proved to be ideal for improving the means of brewing beer. They made their beer in these early years as a hospitable drink for the monks and for pilgrims who came to visit the abbeys. In subsequent years as the popularity of beer grew, this brewing industry became a way to finance their monastic communities and activities. At this point, the abbeys and their brew masters did not yet understand the importance of yeast to finish off the fermentation process.

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Over the following few centuries, the brewing of beer came to occupy a more critical place in the daily lives of individuals. Nomadic groups would interact with villages in order to obtain it. Beer took on the value of an important storable and transportable foodstuff to the point that workers would many times receive their salary in jugs of beer.

The Arrival of German Standards in Beer Brewing

By the 1500's, hops had become widely accepted and utilized in preserving beer in place of the former agents leaves and bark. The Germans began to take their beer making so seriously that they established standards for their brewers to follow. This was codified in the best known purity law for beer, the Reinheitsgebot of 1516. The law required that only four key ingredients could be utilized in the brewing of beer. These were malted barley, water, hops, and malted wheat. Yeast was also allowed to be used in the process of brewing, as it was finally recognized as necessary for effective fermentation. Thanks to the Reinheitsgebot law, consumers all over Europe understood that German beers were the finest in quality. This set the precedent for German beers being the best on earth.

The Pasteurization of Beer Dramatically Improves Beer Brewing

Now German brew master had begun to produce beer by storing it, or lagering it, all the way back in 1402. The problem was that they could only make beer in cooler months, since wild yeast would contaminate the beer during the hotter months of the summer. This caused the beer to get sour. To avoid this problem, the brew masters in Germany would brew the beer in colder months and then store it safely in Alps caves located close by. These beers had a cleaner taste to them. Nowadays it is known that the beer fermented well in the cold, since bacteria could not infect it and multiply at the lower temperatures.

In the middle of the 1800's, beer brewing took another gigantic leap forward. Louis Pasteur was the French scientist who came up with an explanation of how yeast actually worked. After his pasteurization work became widely known, Bavarian yeast was used to show the single strain and cell of bottom fermenting lager yeast. Pasteurization helped the beer brewing process to improve yet again.

Beer Brewing in America and Light Beer

Breweries existed on a large scale throughout the United States before prohibition. In 1880, around 2,400 different breweries produced beer according to various classic styles of brewing. The Volstead Act of 1919 changed everything when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution started the era of Prohibition. As a result of the hard times that it caused for beer breweries, there are only 375 of them left today.

Light beers came into existence during the years of the Second World War. Malt had to be substituted out with the resulting food shortages. This made for a lighter beer that proved to be highly popular with the female work force that had taken the place of the men who were away fighting the war.


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