No one knows exactly when or where beer was invented. Some believe that because beer and bread used the same ingredients, they must’ve happened around the same time. Archaeologists and scientists have discovered ancient beer recipe tablets, beer residue inside pottery jars, poems mentioning beer, cave drawings depicting beer, beer drinking songs, and more.
From around 8000 BCE to 1000 CE, beer was warm, slightly thick, murky, and probably had particles floating in it. Hops became popular to use when making beer around 800 CE because it added flavor, bitterness, and, most importantly, helped with preservation. Up until the 1400s, beer was something one made at home. By the 1500s the brewing of beer had become commercialized. Beer ingredient laws were passed, lagers were accidently discovered, and beer was stored in cool places underground or in caves. The 1700s brought the Industrial Revolution and beer production soared.
When the American Prohibition (1920–1933) started, it put 1,300 breweries out of the alcohol business, so they had to sell other products. Some sold ice cream and some used their equipment to make dyes. The large breweries such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller sold malt extract (what you needed to make beer at home), but they advertised it as a bread-making product.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter made it legal to sell beer ingredients for home brewing, which kick-started the microbrew movement of the 1980s. Today, America has over 4,000 breweries. Almost every big city offers several local beers in all types and styles.
Top 10 Things to Know
Beer (or ale to be accurate) is the world’s first known alcohol on record.
The Black Velvet beer-cocktail was invented in honor of Prince Albert in 1861. It was made with stout beer layered on top of champagne.
Beer breaks down into two categories: ale and lager. Ale uses top-fermenting yeasts and lager uses bottom fermenting yeasts. Ales are ancient and lagers are only a couple hundred years old.
Beer uses the most types of glassware/vessels of any alcohol category. The largest is a yard and the smallest a half pint.
The most popular beer-cocktail shooters in the world include the Flaming Dr. Pepper, Boilermaker, and the Irish Car Bomb.
Beer also wins for using the most types of packaging/storage in various sizes. Examples include cans, glass and aluminum bottles, kegs, and casks.
The beer stein was invented in the 1300s and, 200 years later, lids were added to keep flies out of the beer.
The Anchor Steam brewery in San Francisco has been using both top and bottom fermenting yeasts in their beer since 1896.
The oldest operating brewery in America is Yuengling & Son.
A beer-cocktail called Hangman’s Blood was mentioned in the 1929 novel A High Wind in Jamaica. Hangman’s Blood consists of porter ale, rum, gin, whisky, port, and brandy. And in 1960, Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) wrote in the Guardian Newspaper (England) about this same cocktail, "It tastes very smooth, induces a somehow metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover...I recommend this for a quick, though expensive, lift."
Types of Beer
Individual households, small inns, and pubs (public houses) made ale from 8000 BCE to the 1400s. From the 1500s to the present, ale had been mostly made commercially. Styles of ales include stout, porter, bitter, brown, wheat, cream, lambic, and pale. Popular ale brands include Guinness, Newcastle Brown, Bass Ale, Redhook, Sam Adams Porter, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Blue Moon.
Produced in the Czech Republic in 1842, Pilsner Urquell was the first commercial pilsner lager. It is still made today. Most people think that all lagers have a clear yellow color, but this is untrue. Creating a lager has to do with the bottom fermenting yeast, time, and temperature. Styles of lager include pilsner, bock, dry, ice, dunkel, and amber. Popular lager brands include Budweiser (and all the others like Coors, Michelob, etc.), Stella Artois, Shiner Bock, Warsteiner Dunkel, Keystone Ice, Corona, and Negra Modelo.
Photo by met museum Edinburgh / Public Domain
Fun Beer Facts
Beer is just liquid bread.
It has been said that Russia did not consider beer to be an alcoholic beverage until 2013.
The world’s most expensive bottle of beer, “Vieille Bon Secours,” ale costs $1,000.
A Scottish brewery makes the strongest beer in the world, called Snake Venom. Its alcohol content is 67 percent ABV. To compare, Budweiser has a 5 percent ABV.
In 1996, the Corona Limon became popular. It is easy to make—just pour a shot of Bacardi Limon rum in a Corona beer. Another popular Corona cocktail is a Corona Margarita where you insert an opened bottle of Corona into a large Margarita.
In 2012, Amsterdam starting paying alcoholics in beer to pick up trash in the streets.
On October 17, 1814, in London, England, eight people drowned when the Meux and Company Brewery’s beer vats burst, pouring almost 1.5 million liters of beer through the streets.