A Brief History of Beer
The origins of beer are older than recorded history, extending into the mythology of ancient civilizations. Beer, the oldest alcohol beverage, was discovered
independently by most ancient cultures – the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Africans, Chinese, Incas, Tautens, Saxons and the various wandering tribes
that were found in Eurasia. These ancient peoples have left records to indicate they not only enjoyed their beer, but considered brewing to be a serious and important
In recorded history, Babylonian clay tablets more than 6,000 years old depict the brewing of beer and give detailed recipes. An extract from an ancient
Chinese manuscript states that beer, or kiu as it was called, was known to the Chinese as early as the 23rd century BC. Beer was enjoyed by ancient peoples at all
levels of society. Of course, some drank with more style than others. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Museum displays a golden straw used by Queen
Shubad of Mesopotamia for sipping beer.
With the rise of commerce and the growth of cities during the Middle Ages, brewing became more than a household activity. Municipal brew houses were
established, which eventually led to the formation of the brewing guilds. Commercial brewing on a significantly larger scale began around the 12th century in Germany.
Although native Americans had developed a form of beer, Europeans brought their own version with them to the New World. Beer enjoys the distinction of
having come over on the Mayflower and, in fact, seems to have played a part in the Pilgrims decision to land at Plymouth Rock instead of farther south, as intended.
A journal kept by one of the passengers – now in the Library of Congress – states, in an entry from 1620, that the Mayflower landed at Plymouth because We could
not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer…
The first commercial brewery in America was founded in New Amsterdam (New York) in 1623. Many patriots owned their own breweries, among them
Samuel Adams and William Penn. Thomas Jefferson was also interested in brewing and made beer at Monticello. George Washington even had his own brew house
on the grounds of Mount Vernon, and his handwritten recipe for beer dated 1757 and taken from his diary – is still preserved!