Which came fist the chicken or the egg?
Or better yet, was it beer or bread that made mankind settle down for the first time? While this question is debated to this day it is undeniable that beer and it predecessors enjoyed an important place in ancient cultures. Archeological finds indicate that beer (or its crude forbearer) was produced as long as 7000 years ago in what is now modern day Iran. 6000-year-old Sumerian artifacts depict people drinking from a communal bowl filled with what is believed to be a fermented beverage. The Sumerian people even had a patron goddess of brewing, Ninkasi. A poem written in her honor includes the oldest known beer recipe dating some 3900 years old. During this time in Mesopotamia women were principally responsible for the brewing of beer and priestesses were responsible for brewing beer for religious ceremonies. The Code of Hammurabi even included laws covering how taverns operated in Babylon over 4000 years ago.
Beer was used in ancient Egypt 5000 years ago by the Pharaohs and common people alike. Part of a laborers daily wage might be paid in beer.
Beer really hit the big time in Europe during the Middle Ages. Especially in Northern Europe, where grapes were hard to grow, beer was consumed by people in all social classes. Hops in beer made their first appearance during this time as a preservative.
During the 13th century, the Germans perfected the recipe for beer with hops, and beer production moved from a home based enterprise to small operations consisting of eight to ten people. The new operations and standardized barrel sizes allowed for large-scale exportation for the first time. These innovations were spread throughout northern Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Industrial Revolution with inventions such as the thermometer and hydrometer improved the control and precision of the brewing process. In 1857, Louis Pasteur discovered the role of yeast in the fermentation process, which enabled brewers to further refine this art.
Content provided by Jonathan Morgan, Martin Wine Cellar