A Brief Timeline Of Beer’s Extensive History
We are all pretty aware of just how integrated beer has become in today’s society, but when did this integration actually begin? Some may say it started in the mid 70’s when the first original craft brews began to pop up. It’s deeper than that. Maybe right after prohibition ended in the 1930’s is when the love affair began? Still even deeper, A LOT deeper, to get an idea of just how far back it goes we need to look all the way back to 4300 B.C. Here’s a brief timeline of just some of the important dates in beer history:
- 4300 B.C.
Some historians believe that nomads learned to make beer from grain and water before they learned to make bread. Babylonian clay tablets have been found with beer recipes on them.We’re not talking about just one beer, but up to 20 varieties. It was a vital part of civilization and the Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, and Inca cultures and was so valued that it was used to pay workers as part of their daily wages.
- 1800 – 1600 B.C.
During this era there has been found over 100 Egyptian medical prescriptions that included beer. Women were forbidden to drink beer at this time, and if a man gave a sip of beer to a woman they would be betrothed. Ironically, the “Hymn to Ninkasi” the Sumerian beer GODDESS was also inscribed on a tablet.
- 500 – 1000 A.D.
During this period, beer played a very large role in how man survived, quite literally. A large part of this time frame was spent with people enduring plagues and other fatal illnesses. The culprit of these illnesses was the impure and rat infested water they were drinking. St. Arnold of Metz, one of the patron saints to beer, brewers and hop-pickers, begins to convince people to drink beer instead of the water. Consequently, the plagues begin to end. It was also during this time that brewing began to be practiced in Europe in monasteries and convents. This was also the first use of hops in the brewing process.
- 1200 A.D.
The first signs of beer as an established commercialized product begin to take hold in Germany, Austria and England. Brewing tastes and processes also begin to separate by different regions as well. Germans preferred cold temperature lagers that they stored in caves in the Alps, whereas the English stored their brews in cellars for more mild temperatures.
- 1400 – 1600 A.D.
The Germans played a large part throughout this era of beer in both the brewing process as well as standards. They developed and mastered the lager method of brewing as well as formed the first brewing guild called “Brauerei Beck.” In 1573 German Heinrich Knaust wrote the first extensive book on beer highlighting over 150 different German brews. In Bavaria the original beer “purity law” was put into practice. The law states that beer is only to be made with barley, hops and water. Although slightly revised this law still remains in effect today. In America this is also when Columbus first discovered Native Americans making beer with corn and black birch sap.
- 1700 – 1900 A.D.
In 1716 the tavern that was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn opens in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The tavern would eventually adopt this name and after 300 years is the oldest continually operating inn in the United States. By 1757, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned their own private brew houses and as part of their rations during the Revolutionary War soldiers would receive a quart of beer a day. It was in 1842 that the first Bohemian golden lager was also produced. By the end of the 1800’s our friends (not really) Adolphus Busch and Budweiser had become the first national brand.
- 1919 – 1938 A.D.
Yes my friends and fellow beer lovers, a very dark era for beer indeed. This is when the 18th Amendment, A.K.A. Prohibition was signed into law. It made the people very sad. BUT thankfully in 1933 the people had enough of this Amendment and President Franklin Roosevelt created the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition. It made the people very happy. In 1938 Elise Miller John (Another one of our not really friends) joined the scene. Creating and heading Miller Brewing for 8 years, she was the first and only woman to ever run a major brewery.
- 1965 – 1985 A.D.
The mid – 60’s through the mid – 80’s is really when most consider the craft beer renaissance as we know it began. In 1965 Fritz Maytag purchased Anchor Brewing and for the most part kept it true to its brewing heritage. This was big because it was around this time that unique beers were beginning to disappear as big beer companies took over the industry. In 1976 Albion Brewery in Sonoma, California was opened by a homebrewer, one of the first of its kind. Although the business failed it laid the paving stones for craft breweries of the future. In 1982 John Mitchell opened what became known as the first brewpub The Horseshoe Bay Brewery in Canada.
- 1990 – 2003 A.D.
The American craft brew industry struggled to grab a significant foothold throughout most of the 90’s. It experienced highs and lows, with volumes as high as a 58% increase in volume and as low as 1%. While American beer production was reaching all – time highs the craft brew industry remained largely inconsistent. But that was all about to change.
- 2004 – 2015 A.D.
In 2004 American craft brewing began to hit its stride and begins the wave it is currently still riding. Gains in volumes have consistently been between 6 -12%. While big beer companies have resorted to cheap ingredients and poor quality beers, the American trend in taste has lent itself more to the quality, consistency and innovation that craft brews have always subscribed to. From a 4% market share in 2008 up to 12% in 2015 the trend only seems to be increasing, making the big beer companies very, very nervous.
So there you have it, a (not so) brief run down of the beer timeline. Its been a part of history for thousands of years, and seems it will be for thousands more. Now that the craft beer revolution is in full swing, I personally can’t wait to see what the future brings!