BEER: A Brief History and Introduction

Written By: Christopher Thomas

March 16, 2016

A brief introduction and history of beer

Here at Ready2Ramble we often write about sports, because we are really, really passionate about sports. We have other passions as well, mostly hot pockets and toaster strudels, but I digress. I’m going to share the basics on one of my favorites: Home brewing

Disclaimer: This is a very cursory explanation on the basic processes and techniques. If you would like more technical information on getting into the hobby check out these resources: How to Brew by John Palmer; Reddit has a great, active community dedicated to home-brew; a local home-brew store; or feel free to contact me @R2Christopher

Alright, now let’s talk about that magic process that turns water into tasty, tasty beer. There are a few theories about the precise origin of beer, but it is well established as one of the original staples of society. When people decided they had enough of wandering aimlessly through the land, they began to farm it. One of the first known crops, also is an essential ingredient in beer: barley.

barley

Now, a popular theory has ancient man leaving some barley in a bowl outside during a storm. Warm water filled the bowl, and released the natural sugar within the barley. This sugar water bowl was left neglected in the elements. Another essential ingredient in beer is yeast. A little known fact: there are wild airborne yeasts all around us. These microorganisms made there way into our bowl and began to dig in to all that tasty sugar. Here lies the most essential step in the process. When the yeasts consume the sugar, they then excrete (yes, poop) carbon dioxide, and ethanol. This is the process we call fermentation. Yeasts are the little sugar mongering heroes that help us make our beers, wines, and spirits. At this point you have an alcoholic beverage, technically it is prison swill, but it got the job done. I just want to meet the guy who first picked up our fermented bowl and thought it was a great idea to ingest it.

So there you have it, the three ingredients to beer; mix water, yeast, and barley. Now many of you are wondering, “What about hops? The beer commercials I see show more hops than beer.”

homebrew hops

That’s right, almost every beer you can buy includes hops. This is because after fermentation beer still contains a lot of sugar, making it sickly sweet. After the initial jubilation of being able to get drunk wore off, people said, “We can make beer better.” What they discovered was certain flavors complement one another, but more importantly certain flavors counter one another. By adding herbs and spices (like sage) they were able to balance the sweetness of the brew. It wasn’t until 822 AD that we find our first documented use of hops in beer, and it’s not until far later that we see it in commercial production.

homebrewing beer styles

Okay, we have a complete, socially acceptable beer. Just like the majority of the beer on the shelves of your grocer, we have the principal ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops. However, all beers are not created equal. You might be wondering, “How do you get a rich Breckenridge Vanilla Porter vs. an ultra light 801 Pilsner?” What about ingredients like fruit and chocolate? In future articles we will continue to dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is home brewing and beer. Like our Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter @R2Christopher for updates on the series. Any comments, questions, funny jokes? I want to hear them, share below or on social media.