Homebrewing: History lesson

Brewing has been around so long that experts believe beer was the first alcoholic beverage ever created.

 
 

The use of barley, hops and other select ingredients has and remains important to many cultures to this day. Beer is the third most commonly consumed beverage on the planet, preceded only by water and tea.

The earliest beer brewers had challenges to overcome. Few knew how to read or write, so word-of mouth, stories, songs and prayers were utilized to preserve the craft of brewing beer. Twice baked barley-based bread was a common starter for brews. The same containers were also used over and over to increase potency and produce a consistent taste.

Medieval times paved the way for the development of widespread breweries and brew houses. Beer is said to have kept humans alive during these trying times since food was scarce and even dangerous to consume. Different types of brews started at this time too with experimental practices like boiling the liquid extract during the brewing process, making better preservation, consistency, and taste depending on the type of brew.

Jumping to the industrial revolution, this era produced significant opportunities for the hobby brewer. The invention of the steam engine along with thermometers being introduced in the brewing process greatly aided in temperature control and removed the unpleasant smoky flavor of brewing over an open flame. Even more styles of beer came from these upgrades including pale and amber ales.

The following prohibition threatened to put a damper on both wine and beer homebrewers, but it only gained in popularity throughout and after this era despite being an illicit practice. Watered down beer also became the norm since supplies were more difficult to acquire. Homebrewing exploded in popularity after a bill was passed that gave states the ability to create their own laws surrounding homebrewing.

With homebrewing ever evolving with supplies, equipment and educational material becoming more accessible, we only continue to add to beer’s rich history. From a simple cup over an open fire to the highly technological industry today, homebrewing was and is a common hobby albeit out of necessity or pure interest.