A Brief History of Beer

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The Spanish consume more than 50 liters per capita a year

August 7th is International Beer Day, and though it is one of the world’s favorite libations, we tend to know little about its origins. We can certainly recognize the most popular brands of beer, and maybe we’re even familiar with some craft beers, but beer also has a very interesting past.

One of the Oldest Recipes in the World

Historians believe that the first beer in the world was made in China around the year 7,000 B.C.E. However, the beer production process originated in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago, where women made a mix of grains, water, and spices that spontaneously fermented.

A few centuries later, the Egyptians recorded one of the oldest recipes in the world: beer. For them, this beverage formed a very important part of society, religious rituals, and everyday life.

Beer then traveled to the ancient Greeks and Romans, though it never became as popular as wine for them. It wasn’t until it arrived in Europe during the Middle Ages that it transformed into something more reminiscent of the drink that we enjoy today, thanks to the addition of hops.

Starting as early as 1040, Christian monks in Germany began brewing beer. They regulated its production, declaring that the only ingredients that it could contain were water, hops, barley, and, later on, yeast. In fact, there are monasteries that still produce this beer today, following the ancient guidelines and recipes that were created almost seven centuries ago.

From Beer Empires to Microbreweries

At the end of the 19th century, commercial beer empires began to form in Europe and the United States. New production methods and technological innovations helped to increase the volume produced but without diversifying to include a wide variety of beers for all tastes.

However, the ‘70s and ‘80s saw a very important change that set the stage for the current beer scene: the craft beer revolution. Beer makers in England and the United States began to produce small-batch brews, just like the Germans, Belgians, and Czechs were still doing, bringing us to the craft beer trend that is so popular today.

The Craft Beer Boom

An unknown market up to just a couple of decades ago, craft beer has been on the rise for years. It is estimated that the global craft beer market will surpass 400 billion euros in the next five years, and just in Spain 200 new microbreweries open each year.

While the craft beer movement originated in the United States, Europe is now experiencing the most growth on a global scale. In 2018, North America made up 19% of new craft beer launches, while 54% were produced in Europe (6% coming from Spain).

Though beer has changed immensely since its Chinese and Mesopotamian origins, it continues to form an important part of our society and culinary culture. Additionally, thanks to all of the innovation that the industry has seen in recent years, with inventions like meat, tomato, milk, chili, and banana beer, it is sure to be in a constant state of evolution.

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