Home » Beer: A History

Beer: A History

The first and most important step in brewing is cleanliness. “Brewing is ninety percent janitorial,” said Frederick Bowman, founder of Portland Brewing. (Bowman) The first step in the actual brewing process is malting. Malting is what is done to the barley to prepare it for brewing. The steps of the malting process release the starches that are contained in the barley, while minimizing haze and off-flavors. Grain is allowed to soak in 60 F. water to increase the moisture content of the grain to about 40-45%. The grain is usually spread out on the floor of the germination room, or some other container.

These grains are kept at a temperature of about 60 F. The germination is complete when the sprout has grown to about 3/4 the length of the grain and the hard part of the grain, or the shell, has turned soft. The goal for germination is for the starches within the grain to break down into shorter lengths. At this shorter length stage, the grain is called green malt. Kilning is the next stage after the grains have sprouted. Kilning is the process of drying the grain in the kiln where the temperature is slowly raised during the 30-35 hour period.

After kilning, the result is finished malt, with soluble starches and developed enzymes. These grains each have a different and distinct flavor depending on how long they are cooked in the kiln. (Porter) After the malting, the grain is ready for milling. Milling is the cracking, and crushing of the grain. This procedure is controlled carefully so as to break the grain while keeping the husk as large and as intact as possible. Milling allows the grain to absorb the water it will be mixed with later as the water will extract sugars from the malt. The malt will now be mixed with warm water in the mash tun.

This vessel holds the grain and water mixture for a period of time. Two important things will take place in this step. One is to break down proteins to the more soluble and usable amino acids, providing food for the yeast and foam for a nice head on the beer. The second thing is to break down the starch to simple sugars so yeast can convert them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. (Porter) Mash filtration consists of filtering the converted mash by gravity or pressure in a lauter tub or mash filter to separate the insoluble matter in the malt from the soluble sugars and nitrogen compounds.

The sugar liquid recovered is called wort, pronounced wert, or sweet wort. Boiling the wort is best but is also the most expensive method, Microbreweries generally use this method. The sweet wort is boiled and treated with hops in the brew kettle in a planned schedule, usually somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes. The boiling has many effects: all bacteria are killed, it produces color and flavor compounds, the so-called browning compounds, from the malt and sugars. Boiling the wort extracts bitter and aromatic flavor compounds from the hops, and volatilizes most of the harsh hydrocarbons.

It sterilizes the wort and stops all enzyme action. (Porter) The boiled wort is strained to remove the hops and then transferred to a holding tank called the hot wort tank. The insoluble matter, called trub, is centrifugal separated in the whirl pool tank. The wort is now passed through a heat exchanger that rapidly cools the liquid. Cooling is necessary in order to add the yeast. Yeast is unable to ferment or grow at high temperatures, so cooling the wort to about 70F is needed. Here is where hydrometer readings are taken to record the amount of sugar in the wort by measuring the density of the liquid.

This is called the specific gravity. The specific gravity is used in determining the alcohol content of the finished beer. The more sugar there is, the more dense the liquid. The higher the specific gravity, the more sugars there are available for fermentation, producing more alcohol. (Porter) It is here in the fermentation tank that the yeast changes the sugars into alcohol over a period of days or weeks, depending on the style of beer being brewed. Ferment is taken from the Latin “to boil”. Watching the yeast in active fermentation, one can understand the reason the word is used.

Fermentation begins with pitching, or adding the yeast to the cooled wort. Pitching can only be done when the wort is at the proper temperature, around 70-80F. Fermentation temperatures also can vary depending upon the type of yeast used. Fermentation temperatures for ales are 55-65F. , while for lagers 40-55F. is used. (Porter) There are different types aging techniques. Of these are Rhu, Lagering, Secondary Fermentation or Krauesening. Rhu, which means, rest, is usually a short period of two to seven days in which the beer is cooled and the yeast that did not settle in the fermentation vessel now will settle.

This results in a reduction in yeasty flavors in the beer and makes filtration easier. Lagering, from the German, means, to store. This is a longer period, seven to fourteen days, during which the temperature falls more slowly, reducing yeasty and sulfur flavors. The beer also clarifies and mellows. Secondary Fermentation usually takes ten to fourteen days and involves transferring beer out of the fermentation vessels before its yeast has completely fermented the sugars, and allowing the rest of the fermentation to continue cool and slow.

Krauesening is a delicate process in which fermented beer, after being transferred to another vessel, is mixed with young beer that has just started to ferment. (Jackson) Beer will naturally tend to turn cloudy when it is cooled to temperatures near freezing. To prevent this, an extract of the papaya, papain is often used to prevent this. The beer is then either filtered, centrifuged, or both to remove any yeast and insoluble matter. Diatomaceous earth, siliceous skeletons of ancient marine organisms, or cotton pulp is used as a filtration medium. Some beers are filtered twice.

Beer must be either pasteurized or sterile filtered to protect it from the continued growth of any stray yeast. The beer is now ready to be filled into bottles or kegs. (Porter) About 13,000 years ago, early humans discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering techniques and settled down to farm. Grain was one of the first domesticated crops that early farming methods. The oldest records found of brewing were in Sumeria dating back six thousand years ago.

Sumeria lied between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, encircling Southern Mesopotamia, in the area of the ancient cities of Babylon and Ur. Sumerians most likely discovered the brewing process by chance. No one knows today exactly how beer was first discovered. The earliest account of beer brewing was an engraving in the Sumerian language. This engraving is a picture of barley, followed by bread being baked, crumbled into water for mash, and then made into intoxicating drink. Baking bread was probably the most convenient way to store the source for making beer. In Russia, this method is still used to make a version of beer called kvass. Sumerians were the first able to repeat the process of brewing and are assumed to be he first civilized culture to brew beer.

They had discovered a spiritual drink that they offered to their gods. (Alabev) Although beer as we know it had its origins in Mesopotamia, fermented beverages of some sort or another were produced in various forms around the world. For example, Chicha is a corn beer and kumiss is a drink produced from fermented camel milk. The word beer comes from the Latin word bibere, meaning, “to drink”, and the root of the Spanish word cerveza originates from the Greek goddess of agriculture, Ceres. (Alabev) The Sumerian Empire collapsed during the 2nd millennium b. and the Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia. Their culture was derived from that of the Sumerians so they also mastered the art of brewing beer. The Babylonians knew how to brew 20 different types of beer. Of these, 8 were brewed from pure emmer, 8 from pure barley and 4 from a mixture of grains. (Alabev) Hammurabi, an important Babylonian king and founder of an empire, decreed the oldest known collection of laws. One of these laws established a daily beer ration. This ration was dependent on the social standing of the individual.

For example, a normal worker received 2 liters, civil servants 3 liters, and administrators and high priests 5 liters per day. In these ancient times beer was not sold, but exchanged for barley. Beer at this time was cloudy and unfiltered. As beer brewing was a household art, it was also women’s work. King Hammurabi once ordered a female saloonkeeper drowned because she exchanged silver for beer. Drowning was also the punishment for serving low quality beer. (Alabev) The Egyptians were brewers too. They used bread dough for making beer, and added dates to the beer to add taste.

Egyptian people along the Nile, Fellahs, still make beer the same way today. Beer was such a way of life that the Egyptian scribes created a hieroglyph for a brewer. After the Romans and Greeks succeeded Egypt, beer still was brewed. The popularity of beer was recorded in the Mediterranean area before the growing of grapes for wine took hold. Wine became the drink of the gods. Beer was brewed in the outskirts of the Roman Empire because wine was difficult to obtain. Romans, who were mainly wine drinks, considered beer a barbaric drink.

Beer of this era could not be stored, was cloudy and produced almost no foam. The oldest proof of beer being brewed on German soil, comes from the early Hallstatt Period, about 800 BC. (Alabev) The mood-altering effects of beer were considered supernatural by early civilizations, and the state of intoxication was regarded as divine. People though beer must contain some sort of spirit since drinking it possesses the drinker. Beer brewing played an important role in people’s daily lives. So stimulating was the recently discovered pleasure that early people decided never to be without it.

At a time before bread baking, beer was a non-perishable food. Protected by alcohol, beer had good taste lasting far longer than any other food. A vitamin-rich porridge used daily, beer is reported to have increased health and longevity and reduced disease and malnutrition. The self-medicating properties of alcohol-rich beer also eased the tensions and stresses of daily living in a hostile world. (Buhner 35) Beer was a driving force that led nomadic groups into village life. Ten thousand years ago barley was domesticated and worshipped as a god in the highlands of southern Levant.

With the creation of writing, using a stylus on wet clay tablets, beer, its history and mystery, became a large part of an ancient literary repertoire. Beer was considered a valuable foodstuff and workers were often paid with jugs of beer. Fruits, best when freshly picked during their short season, could be turned into wine but lacked the protein value of beer, wrote Steven Buhner. (Buhner 60) In many paintings of early monasteries you can see monks enjoying beer. After a short time they began to brew more than for their own consumption. Through an alcohol licensing charge, the monks received the right to sell beer.

With this many monasteries developed into well managed commercial businesses. Monasteries were so good at brewing that theirs was of the highest quality and very popular. There were two may types of beer brewed, low strength every day beer and, high strength special occasion beers. Brewing became the duty of commercial brewers after the reformation and weakening of the church. These brewers brewed under royal license and supplied the merchant class with beer. People of other towns constantly wanted beer, and as a result brewing became a respectable trade. (Alabev)

The local sovereigns introduced beer taxes that began to fill their coffers. As the monastery pubs did not have to pay these taxes because of their older, privileged brewery status, they adversely affected this new source of income and the dukes and princes quickly closed many of the monasteries. Emperor Sigismund was the first emperor to issue such a decree. Even though the sovereigns closed many monastery breweries, we owe much to the monks for being the first to develop the brewers’ art. Monasteries had become the centers for brewing as a result of their already being the centers of learning.

The local water supply was often contaminated, beer provided a safe drinking source and was promoted by the authorities of the day. Throughout the Middle Ages, hops became widely used as a way to make beer refreshing and also as a natural preservative. In fact, in France and Germany, hops were documented as being cultivated in the ninth century. (Alabev) Grut was a mixture of all sorts of herbs used to flavor beer. The flavoring license was similar to a patent, allowing a brewery to produce its own flavoring mixture and became the legal basis for every brewery and ensured a monopoly position for the respective brew master.

With the advent of hops as a flavoring, Grut was no longer necessary and therefore the monopoly position of the breweries endangered. For this reason, the use of hops was often simply and forcibly forbidden. Among other things, juniper berries, sweet gale , blackthorn, oak bark, wormwood, caraway seed, aniseed, bay leaves, yarrow, thorn apple, gentian, rosemary, tansy, Saint-John’s-wort, spruce chips, pine roots, and henbane found their way into these Grut mixtures. Some of these herbs were poisonous, and others induced hallucinations.

As we know today, the hallucinogen Alkaloid, for example, is produced from henbane during the brewing process. (Alabev) In the 19th century Industrial developments started to take their effect. With the introduction of the steam engine, industrialization began to invade brewing and efficiency increased. The first breweries to use steam power called themselves Steam Beer Breweries. The second invention, even more important to the brewing industry, was refrigeration, invented by Carl Von Linde. It had already been scientifically proven that the making of good beer required certain temperatures.

The brewing of bottom fermented beer, such as lagers, demand temperatures of 4 to 10 degrees Centigrade. Such temperatures only occur in winter, or in deep cellars filled with large quantities of block ice. Through the invention of refrigeration, beer brewing became seasonally independent. The first refrigeration equipment was tested in a Munich brewery. (Alabev) Important scientific research took place in breweries in the 19th century. One of the most important works was by Louis Pasteur entitled, “Etudes sur la Biere”, or “Studies Concerning Beer”. Louis Pasteur gained his knowledge of microorganisms from these studies.

This basic knowledge is still indispensable today, not only in the production of beverages, but also in medicine and biology. The brewing industry owes much to Louis Pasteur. Another pioneering discovery in beer brewing was the work of Christian Hansen. The Danish scientist, Christian Hansen, successfully isolated a single yeast cell and induced it to reproduce on an artificial culture medium. With the ensuing yeast propagation methods, the purity of the fermenting process has been improved and beer taste perfected. (Alabev) Wooden barrels have been almost completely replaced by metal barrels for most pub trade.

In 1964 metal kegs were introduced in Germany. Firstly, cleaning and filling was much simpler. Secondly, tapping and closing off was much easier for the bar personnel. This was well liked by pub and restaurant owners. (Alabev) “For most of the past ten millennia, alcoholic beverages may have been the most popular and common daily drinks, an indispensable sources of fluid and calories. In a world of contaminated and dangerous water supplies, alcohol truly earned the title in the Middle Ages: aqua vitae, the “water of life,” said Bert Vallee, Doctor. (Vallee 80)

Frederick the Great, whose economic strategy was threatened by importation of coffee stated in 1777: “It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quality of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country as a consequence. Everybody is using coffee; this must be prevented. His majesty was brought up on beer, and so were both his ancestors and officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied upon to endure hardships in case of another war.

A world leader today may have their mental competence questioned if they urged alcohol consumption over coffee, particularly by the military. No more than an eye blink ago in historical time a world leader could describe beer in terms that made it sound like mother’s milk. (Vallee 80) Rachelle Carter, title unknown, wrote, “Beer and Ale were two of the beverages most consumed in the middle ages. Water was not often drunk because it was mostly polluted. For this reason the average daily consumption of beer or ale was much greater in the Middle Ages then it is today.

The Household records at the time specified what and how much one could consume at individual meals. The average daily consumption of adults was a gallon a day. Children also consumed beer and ale on a daily basis. However, their average daily consumption was less then that of adults. ” (Carter 1) Natural processes have most likely produced alcohol-containing food for years. Yeast, when metabolizing sugar to obtain energy, creates two byproducts, ethyl alcohol, and CO2. The process of fermentation periodically inebriated animals that eating spoiled fruits.

Birds and mammals have been reported intoxicated throughout the ages. Humans have a gene for the enzyme alcohol, dehydrogenate; this gene is suspected to have evolved over millions of years by animals encountering fermented food enough to have evolved a way to metabolize it. Investigation of alcohol was unintentional or by chance for humans until 10,000 years ago. (Vallee 81) About this time, some Late Stone Age gourmand probably tasted the contents of a jar of unattended honey that had been left unattended longer than usual.

Natural fermentation had been given the opportunity to occur, and the taster, finding the effects of mild alcohol ingestion provocative, probably replicated the natural experiment. The technique was fairly simple; leave the sweet substance alone to ferment. Beer relies on large amounts of starchy grains, and the production of this substance would have to wait until the advent of agriculture. (Vallee 81) The fertile river deltas of Mesopotamia and Egypt produced massive crops of wheat and barley; the diets of peasants, laborers and soldiers of these ancient civilizations were cereal-based.

It might be viewed as a historical inevitability that fermented grain would be discovered, wrote Bert Vallee, Doctor. (Vallee 81) The arrival of agriculture led to food surpluses, which led to an even larger population and close living quarter, in villages or cities. These people faced a problem of how to provide inhabitants with enough clean, pure water. The water supply in cities quickly became polluted with their waste products and in turn made the water dangerous or deadly if drank.

The lack of liquids safe for human consumption prevented long-range voyages over the oceans until recently. Christopher Columbus made his journey to the New World with wine on board, and the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock only because their beer provisions ran out. (Vallee 81) Evidence arguing against the widespread use of water can be found in the examination of both the Bible and Greek texts. In both versions of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is virtually empty of references to water as a common drinking source.

Likewise, Greek writing make scant references to water drinking, with exceptions to deep wells, mountain spring water or rain water. Ancient civilization clearly understood that most of their water supplies were contaminated. (Vallee 82) Since most water was polluted to the point that it was undrinkable, ethyl alcohol may have been the number one source of hydration. Beer and wine are both free from pathogens. The antiseptic power of alcohol, as well as the natural acidity of wine and beer, killed many pathogens when the drinks were diluted with the dirty water supply.

With the application of the fermentation process, people of all ages consumed beer and wine on a daily basis. The alcohol content of these daily drinks was low, consumers focused their brewing techniques on issues of taste, thirst quenching, hunger satisfaction and storage, rather than on intoxication. (Vallee 82) Eastern civilization differed greatly in the coming of alcohol. For at least the past two thousand years, the practice of boiling water for such things as tea, created a potable supply of nonalcoholic beverages. Genetics played an important role in Asians avoidance to alcohol.

Almost half of all Asian people lack an enzyme necessary for complete alcohol metabolism, making the experience of being intoxicated miserable. Consequently, beer and wine took their place as staples in the western world and remained there until the end of last century. (Vallee 83) Alcohol was also used to distract from the fatigue and boredom of day to day life in most cultures, and alleviating pain for which remedies were nonexistent. Today people have all sorts of ways to rid themselves of pain. Until this century the only anesthetic available in the West was alcohol.

The Book of Proverbs states: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto them that be heavy of hearts. Let him drink. And forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. ” Wine was used as a remedy for almost all acute or chronic sicknesses known at the time. A Sumerian cuneiform tablet dating back to 2100 B. C. is cited as the oldest preserved record of medicinal alcohol. (Vallee 83) People in ancient times knew the potentially delirious effects of drinking. The call for moderation began early in Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures.

The Old Testament frequently disapproved of drunkenness. In the New Testament, Jesus approved of alcohol consumption, resorting to miracle in the transformation of water to wine, and act that may acknowledge the goodness of alcohol versus polluted water. His followers worked to balance the use and abuse of alcohol but never supported total prohibition. Rather than rebuking the drunken effects of alcohol, Christians considered it a gift from the Gods, both for medicinal qualities and tranquilization characteristics that offered relief from the pain and anxiety of day to day life.

Vallee 83) After about nine thousand years of relatively low alcohol beer, mead, and wine, Western civilization was faced with alcohol in highly concentrated form, due to distillation. Arabic alchemists developed distillation around AD 700. This brought about a significant change in the mode and magnitude of alcohol consumption since the beginning of civilization. Although yeast produces alcohol as a byproduct in their life cycle, they cannot tolerate concentrations over 16 percent before killing themselves by their own excretions. Therefore fermented drinks had a natural maximum proof.

Vallee 83) The Arab method spread to Europe, and distillation of wine to produce spirits started around AD 1100. The medical school at Salerno, Italy, was an important center for the exchange of thoughts and theories relating to chemicals and medicines. Combining traditional alcoholic drinks of beer and wine, which had low alcohol concentration and positive nutritional benefits, with beverages that have high alcohol levels to cause widespread problems still plaguing us today. (Vallee 84) The process of distillation eventually spread from Italy to Northern Europe.

Hieronymus Brunschwig described this process in detail in his book Liber de arte distillandi, the first printed book on distillation. By the time he was a best-selling author, distilled alcohol had a split personality as nourishing food, beneficent medicine, and a harmful drug. The drinking of spirits followed the bouts of plague, especially the Black Death. Alcohol, completely ineffective as a cure, was used to make the victims feel relatively better. No other substance could do even that much. (Vallee 84) Economic recovery following the plague throughout Europe generated higher standards of luxury and increased urbanization.

People of this time witnessed unparalleled display of, gluttony, self-indulgence and inebriation. “Despite the obvious negative effect of drunkenness, and despite attempts by authorities to curtail drinking, the practice continued until the beginning of the 17th century, when nonalcoholic beverages made with boiled became popular,” said Bert Vallee, Doctor. Coffee tea and cocoa began to break alcohol’s monopoly on safe drinking water. (Vallee 84) I have learned quite a lot on the subject of beer. To my surprise there was a wealth of information on the subject.

My job shadow also provided me with much information on the brewing process. I now know that beer most likely originated in Sumeria about thirteen thousand years ago after the early nomadic people started to farm grains. I know that Egyptians were also brewers, using bread for the starch instead of grain. An interesting thing I found in my research was that hops, a main ingredient in beer, was once illegal to grow or posses. Another item I found interesting was that since water in the middle ages was mostly stagnate and since there wasn’t any way to filter water beer was made as the daily drink for hydration.

Brewing has come a long way to where it is today. Early brewing was literally hit or miss. Unknowingly the brews of old relied on stray yeast particles in the air to ferment their beer. Different yeast’s can change the flavor of beer. It wasn’t until a Danish scientist, Christian Hansen, isolated a single yeast cell. Also, refrigeration was a key factor in the success of brewing. I have learned a lot from my job shadow at Portland Brewing Co. I know how the brewing process works and what happens in each step.

The research I did was beneficial to me I have learned quite a lot about brewing. I know enough to say that this most likely will not be my career of choice. The money isn’t great you wouldn’t make much starting out, and even the master brewer doesn’t make that much either, somewhere in the range of forty-five thousand to sixty thousand if you are really good. Although I probably will work as a brewer when I going to college because the hours a very flexible. Portland brewing has many brewers that come in at different hours of the day, which would be good while going to school.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.