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A Brief History of Everything (and by "Everything" I mean "Beer")



If you are anything like me you are sitting at your desk at work with a nice, cold, frosty beer in your hand (if my boss is reading this, it's totally apple juice). But did you ever stop to think about the history of that liquid uberness that you have? Many a millennia have brought us down the drunken road to where we are today and I would like to share with you a bit of what I have learned staggering down that road. 

Most people know that beer, malted beverages and wine alike, are thousands of years old but to pinpoint an exact date on the creation of beer is nigh impossible. The Chinese have been brewing rice into alcohol for over 9000  years but they turned that into a drink closer to wine. Beer brewed from barley, as we know it today, dates back about 3000 years before the birth of our 8 pound 6 ounce savior Baby Jesus. Coincidentally enough, it comes to us right around the corner from Baby J's birthplace in the land of Sumeria which is now present-day Iraq.

                              In west of Sumeria born and raised,

                        in clay pots is where I spend most of my days

The first production of beer is obviously lost to time but what most people agree on is that it's creation was almost certainly an accident. To make beer you only need 3 ingredients: Yeast, starch, and water. Soak some bread in water, let the wild yeast in the air do a little work, and voila! You have beer. Without controlled conditions, exact recipes, and the right yeast it will probably taste like ass in a glass but we will get to that. As for now, we have beer! 

                                      Ancient partiers sharing a bit of brew from a clay pot

Realizing what they had done the ancient Sumerians started tweaking their recipes and producing beer on a much larger scale which led to nomadic tribes settling down and starting farms. Beer production got to be such an enterprise that it is even mentioned in the Hammurabic Code. MC Hammur decreed that any tavern owner or brewer that was caught watering down their beer would be drowned in it.  Cerevisaphile's (a fancy word for beer enthusiast) had spread so far and wide that it was used as currency at one point in time. In addition to normal wages, the workers who built the pyramids in Giza were also give 4 liters of Egyptian beer called "kash" a day as payment for their work. If "kash" sounds familiar, it should. It is the reason we call our money what we do. 

                                           Built by beer

Fast forward to the Middle Ages where we see beer production hit a renaissance. One key thing distinguishes the beer made in the good ol Mess O' Potamia from the beer that we know and love today; hops. Hops are flowers of the hop plant and are what lend a bitter and tangy flavor to beer and can be found in almost EVERY craft brewers logo nowadays.  Hops were cultivated in Europe and when brewers and farmers put 2 and 2 together beer blew up around the world. From Bavaria all the way to the Far East people that could brew beer started to brew beer. Business was booming which gave rise to a new job title: Brewster. Back in the middle ages records show that over 90% of Brewsters were women and were held in very high regard in the community, which was no small feat back then.  

                                    What a Brewster might or might not look like

Fast forward another few years and we get to Colonial America. Seeing as our history comes from Europe, why would our beer be any different? Women continued in the role of Brewster and expanded the business into making beer from just about anything: corn, wheat, rye, oats, honey, and even molasses. Sadly, the reign of the female Brewster would come to an end with the Industrial Revoltion. With the advent of the steam engine many products made by hand, beer included, began being produced in giant factories. This led to less Brewsters but more beer. I am pretty sure that we won that trade.

                                      Cranking out crappy beer at the speed of light

With mega breweries making  billions of gallons of beer a year nowadays it is safe to say that our love for beer is stronger that ever. But with that comes an interesting niche in the beer business called craft breweries. These breweries, unlike the big boys Bud, Miller, Coors, make up to 6 million barrells a year. The creaft brewers of the world harken back to old school style and creativity to make some insanely good beer. The Brewwers Asscciation says that a majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer. If you have never been out to a brewery to take a tour DO IT NOW! If you are still reading this I can guarantee you that you will enjoy it! If you are near Houston I recommed Texas' oldest (and best in my opinion) brewery St. Arnold or one of Houston's newest No Label based just west of town in Katy. Austinites check out Austin Beerworks or Jester King Brewery. Folks up in South Oklahoma Dallas should give Deep Ellum Brewing or Lakewood Brewing Co. a try. 

 

As always - drink well, drink often, drink local. 

Jason