Beer making goes back as far as 8,000 BC, when women picked wild grain and used it to make beer. Fermentation was dependant on immediate air borne yeast. Controlled beer brewing is first recorded around 4,000 BC, when Sumerians developed numerous types by soaking barley bread in water.
2,000 years later, the Babylonians developed further varieties. The brew they made was quite bitter, flat and thick. However, it is considered to have been healthier than most water drunk at the time. Wine making dominated many parts of southern Europe for many centuries. However, the climate in the northern and some eastern regions was far too cold for growing grapes.
Where grapes were not able to grow, barley grain was able to. Hence, beer making flourished in those areas. Certain countries, like Germany, had climates which were and are suitable for both barley and grape growing. Thus wine making and beer making became possible in one country. Britain’s weather was on the whole too wet and too cool for vineyards, hence, the country developed beer brewing.
The early twelfth century witnessed the first extensive growth of breweries. Herein, the monks endeavoured to investigate ways to supplement their income. With the protection of royalty, it was these monasteries that developed using hops for preservation and flavouring.
In 1397, Munich’s Spaten brewery greatly expanded the science and art of beer brewing. However, it was the 1850s, with the advent of steam power and refrigeration, that brewing came into its own. Gabriel Sedlmayr and son introduced techniques that are still in use today in fine lager production.
Spaten is responsible for Copenhagen’s famous Carlsberg brewery. Its founder, one of Sedlmayr’s students, began his own brewery using Spaten yeast. Pasteur, who later went on to become world famous, began his studies on yeast as well as the improvement of beer.
In the 1870s golden lagers started to appear throughout Europe, due to innovations in Pils in the Czech Republic. After the great immigration of 1890s, America was next to adopt golden lagers.
In Finland, the Finns developed sahti, their own unique brew. They used juniper in the main, with a slight quantity of hops, giving the brew its own particular taste. This brew is still one of Finland’s national treasures.