A Brief History of Beer
The brewing of beer predates written history, so its exact origin is unknown. It occurred in many cultures that cultivated agricultural products containing sugars suitable for brewing. The ancient Egyptians used barley, while other parts of Africa used millet or cassava. In Asia, beer was brewed from sorghum, rice or wheat. In the New World they used corn, sweet potatoes or persimmon.
Archaeological evidence shows the Chinese brewed beer as early as 7000 B.C. Pottery jars with chemical traces of beer, dating to 5000 B.C. , have been unearthed in present day Iran. A 4300 B.C. clay tablet from Babylon specifies a beer recipe. A Sumerian tablet from 4000 B.C. shows people drinking a beverage which is believed to be beer. At that time, straws were often used to avoid ingesting grain hulls. In ancient Egypt, beer was part of the daily rations for the builders of the pyramids.
Although we think of the Greeks and Romans as wine drinkers, they also consumed beer. During the early part (500 to 1000 A.D.) of the Middle Ages, beer manufacture slowly transitioned from home brewing to centralized production (often at monasteries). Brewers began adding hops to beer around 1000 A.D.
When Columbus came to the New World, he found Indians making beer from corn. Although Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony in Roanoke did not survive, they were the first English settlers to brew beer in North America. The first commercial brewery in the United States was started by Dutch settlers at New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1612. During the Revolutionary War, beer was part of the rations for American soldiers.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the modern beer industry began to take root, with Budweiser became the first national brand. Pabst was the first brand with annual sales over one million barrels of beer. During most of the twentieth century, the beer industry consolidated, with a few breweries dominating the industry. This began to change in 1976, when America’s first craft brewery, New Albion Brewing Company started producing New Albion Ale in California. By the end of 2014 there were nearly 3,500 craft breweries in the United States.