Did you know that beer is the oldest recorded recipe in the world? It is quite refreshing that this is so for all beer lovers around the world, it would not be quite the same if the oldest recorded recipe of all time was for a lemon drizzle cake or a type of soup, but beer that is certainly acceptable.
The First Brews
It is thought that it was in Mesopotamia in 10,000BC that beer was originally brewed but it was the ancient Egyptians that first started writing about brewing beer around 5,000BC, the brew was nothing like we know today. These early ales were made from things like pomegranates and figs and would have tasted nothing like modern beers today, but they were alcoholic. It is cited that beer was used for festive occasions like religious ceremonies, and the Pharaoh would order his servants to produce enough beer to be distributed to the masses. Eventually after many thousands of years beer made its way from the Middle East over to mainland Europe, where it was adopted as an integral part of normal life. Especially in the northern regions of the continent where abundant barley crops were easily available as the primary ingredients of beer.
Not only was beer nutritional it was far safer for people to drink than water at the time, as many of the rivers were contaminated with human waste.
The Middle Ages
It is commonly thought that modern beer was created during the Middle Ages, it was then that hops started being infused into malted barley to add a bitter taste to the brew. Before the 12th Century, herbs and spices were used as a flavoring agent to balance the sweetness of the barley. These early beers had all sorts of ingredients added such as flowers, plant roots, leaves etc. It was the monks in Germany that began using wild hops and appreciated their bitterness that gave the ale an almost thirst quenching property. It was later on that the monks noticed the hops also acted as a preserving agent and their brews lasted longer.
It was not just in Germany that monks liked their beer, other countries in Europe the beer production was also controlled by monks with nearly every monastery having their own brewery. Monks were the beer innovators of the age, not only were they responsible for the addition of hops they are also credited with lagering beer, or storing beer in cool chambers to improve the flavor. Today there are certain breweries in Belgium that the monks are producing beer in the old traditional ways, and some of the beers are recognized as the best in the world.
The British Isles
Together with Germany and Belgium the British Isles was a main brewing area of Northern Europe. The British developed many different styles of beers that still exist today; stouts, porters and pale ales have been brewed in England and Ireland for centuries. We continue our look back into the history of beer in part two of our blog, where we see the growth of beer in the rest of the world and how it became a favorite tipple for many countries.