Evidence of beer making dates as far back as ancient Egypt (2009-1998 BC) and the days of Sophocles (450 BCE). While beer remained as one of the most popular drinks during the Middle Ages, it mainly remained a home-making activity until about the late 14th and early 15th centuries. At this time, beer had slowly changed from a homemaking activity to an artisan one, where pubs and monasteries began brewing their own beers for mass consumption.
The introduction of hops in Northern Germany during the 13th century greatly improved the brewing process, quality, and longevity of the beer. The first hopped beers arrived in Britain from the Netherlands in the 15th century and were initially met with disapproval. Up until this time, a beer without hops would have been known as an “ale,” while one with hops was referred to as “beer.” The Brewers Company of London actually made regulations that nothing else besides water, malt, and yeast could be put into the beer, but by the 16th century (with the help of Henry III) all ales and beers were hopped. As alehouses grew and beer became more commercialized, taxes were also introduced.
Another significant change to the beer brewing industry occurred during the industrial revolution. With improvements to the kilning process and the inventions of the thermometer (1760), hydrometer (1770), and drum roaster (1817) the flavor, efficiency, and consistency of beer greatly increased. By the early 18th century, kilning technology had become such that malt was no longer dried over direct fire, which greatly minimized the undesirable smokiness of the finished beer. The thermometer was essential in knowing the proper temperature for mashing the liquor, especially when made in large quantities. The hydrometer allowed brewers to make beer from several kinds of malts (instead of single malt) because it made it possible to calculate the yield from the different malts. Finally, Daniel Wheeler’s drum roaster allowed for the creation of very dark, roasted malts, which improved the flavor of ports and malts. In fact, British law forbade the use of any other ingredients besides malts and hops.
- “History of Beer.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11
April 2014. Web. 14 April, 2014.
- Hornse, Ian. A History of Beer and Brewing. Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2003.
- National Trust Beer Club. A Brief History of Beer, n.d. Web. 14 April, 2014.