pageAB - After Beer
For about 300,000 years humans were like other wild animals, hunting and being hunted. This was BB - Before Beer.
As nomadic groups we crisscrossed the globe after leaving Africa searching for game and edible plants. Then about 10 to 20,000 years ago we discovered that the seeds we collected for food would re-grow next year. Probably like this “Darling throw those rubbish seeds out they’ll be bad by now.” Seeds carried by the family group were discarded and then germinated. Everything changed. Instead of following the migrating herds and collecting plants and seeds, we could settle down and develop more substantial dwellings, villages, pottery and eventually cities and writing. We domesticated plants and animals and they domesticated us. This transformation occurred in the Middle East where the three farming essentials coincided, good soil, plentiful water and indigenous cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, wheat, barley and rye. Agriculture was born, initially between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, later the Nile and Indus rivers, possibly the greatest accidental invention ever.
And how does beer fit into this agricultural beginning? It went a little like this – “Darling throw out that old grain it’s wet and smells …. Actually it smells interesting, and it tastes …. well, great!” Yes beer was born with another happy accident, in what was called Sumeria, then Babylon, and now Iraq. The Sumerians recorded the first beer recipe. It appears that wherever we hung up our hunting spear and started growing crops, beer soon followed. The Chinese and Egyptians were soon brewing and recording their favourite beer recipes. The Egyptians created a hieroglyph for “brewer” and they buried model breweries in their tombs for beer in the afterlife.
AB – After Beer. The Sumerians used barley bread and water, the Chinese used wheat, the Incas used corn, Eastern Europeans used rye – all flavoured with their favourite bitter herbs.
The Romans spread beer throughout Europe and later Christian monasteries improved brewing technology. German monks discovered that hops not only improved the flavour, but also kept beer fresh for longer as well. This major breakthrough eventually led to large breweries exporting beer.
In 1516 William IV, Duke of Bavaria proclaimed the Reinheitsgebot or purity law, codifying that “beer” could only be made from barley, water and hops, (yeast was unknown at this time). In 1987, the Reinheitsgebot was repealed by the EC as part of the opening up of the European market. Many German breweries voluntarily maintained pure brewing out of respect for their craft and heritage, and to maintain the good reputation of German beer.
Since yeast was unknown until Louis Pasteur discovered microbes in the 19th Century, fermentation had always been a hit and miss process, unknowingly using wild yeasts floating in the air. Many batches of spoiled beer resulted. Pasteur used his discoveries to improve brewing standards. Yeast could then be isolated, purified, cloned and added to the brew deliberately. A very recent scientific breakthrough continues the yeast story…..
For millennia beer had been of the Ale style until a microscopic stowaway jumped ship in the 15th Century when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic. The newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and Ale. The resulting hybrid represents a marriage of species as genetically separate as humans and chickens created a yeast species that enjoyed fermenting grains at colder temperatures – the next happy accident in the beer saga. This yeasty journey of over 11,500km from South America to Europe changed the beer world forever. The Age of Sail facilitated the Age of Lager - the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed in Bavarian monasteries and today perhaps the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world.
Closer to home, Captain James Cook sailed for the Pacific with brewing equipment onboard and in 1773 made the first beer in New Zealand.
Though rum was king in early Sydney town, businessman John Boston became Australia’s first official brewer in 1796, using corn and Cape Gooseberry leaves to bitter. Australia’s first hotel was The Mason’s Arms in Parramatta. Convict, James Squire grew the first hops and opened a brewery in 1798. Breweries opened up all over the nation. In 1887 the Fosters brothers arrived from the US with the advancement of refrigeration technology. But only the larger breweries survived the 1890’s recession - Toothes and Tooheys in Sydney, Carlton and United Breweries in Melbourne and Lion Nathan in New Zealand. The larger breweries began to swallow up the smaller ones. This has continued, with Coca Cola recently purchasing Blue Tongue, and SABMiller (South African Brewing) purchasing Fosters, and then SAB being purchased by AB inBev to create the world’s biggest brewer. With large scale brewing came a growing dependence on chemical additives. Most modern brewers replace some malt with sugar syrup to save money and then use additives to improve the flavour and mouthfeel.
However, recently there has been a great revival of small scale brewing returning to its origins, as consumers appreciate all things handcrafted. Today boutique and microbreweries are making some great beers, in Australia and the rest of the beer world. WILDE Beer is one of them following the original recipe, making a natural all-malt beer, with an ancient malted grain, water, hops and yeast. The ever popular beer is now the 3rd most consumed liquid on the planet after water and tea.