The way to make beer is quite simple and that is to combine barley, hops, water and yeast. However, the formula and method has changed over the centuries as man has searched for the formula that will produce the perfect beer. Beer, or ale, has been around since the pre-historic nomads. It has even been written that space was left on Noah’s Ark for supplies of beer, and recipes for beer even outdate those for bread. The different cultures from Babylonian, to Assyrian, to Egyptian, to Hebrew, to Chinese, to Inca all record beer being produced and consumed by their populations. The Babylonians record 20 different recipes on tablets and this was 4300 BC. But beer was found to have been consumed in Iran as far back as 7000 BC.
The reason for there being such a wide spread consumption of beer is that it can be made from any cereal containing sugars that will allow the fermentation process to take place. There seems to be a close relationship between the production of beer and bread in history. Where there was bread there would soon be beer.
Beer came to Europe 5000 years ago and was brewed on a domestic scale mainly by women, with the first mass production in the UK occurring in the 7th century in its monasteries. It was even said that it was healthier to drink the ale than the local water. One such monastery that produced its own ale was Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk. As urbanization occurred local inns became popular and they produced their own ales for their customers. Once ale house was seen as a social gathering it was not long before the production of ale gathered pace. In the 15th century hops were imported from Europe to give the ale more flavour and it now became known as beer
The Industrial Revolution created breweries as entrepreneurs identified market’s that would produce a never-ending demand. The first successful British breweries produced a beer known as porter. Porter was a dark beer made from brown malt and was ideal for to be consumed immediately as it was already aged.
One of the first big breweries was Truman’s Brewery located in Brick Lane East London and its beginnings can be traced back to 1666. By 1873 it became the biggest brewery in the world, but sadly competition from imported beers resulted in its closure in 1989. The first beers were dark and malty and the first time that they became lighter and resembled the bitters that we find today, came with the growth of beer production in Burton-on–Trent, Derbyshire. The brewers managed to get a fine balance between the hops and the malt, and with a high gypsum content found in the local water produced a much lighter beer.
There was a stage when one quarter of all beer sold in Britain came from Burton and by 1881 there were 30 different brewers in the region. However, once the “burtonisation” process had been discovered by other brewers the location of the breweries became more widespread. In time beer has become more refined with the advancements made in technology and now the industry is able to supply vast ranges of different styles of beer. So much progress has been made from such humble beginnings.