2 October 2012
Never Fear, so Long as There's Beer! - A detailed overview of the history, trends and types of that delicious brew; BEER!
OverviewBehind water and tea, beer is the world’s most popular drink. Sales of beer are four times that of wine – the world’s second most popular alcoholic beverage.
Possibly the oldest of all alcoholic beverages, beer can be traced back to the history of Ancient Egypt.
Beer is produced by brewing and fermenting cereal grains, such as malted barley, wheat, maize and rice. More often than not, hops are added for bitterness and to act as a natural preservative.
Beer is a significant part of many cultures worldwide, with various traditions and celebrations arising as a result of – and dedicated to – beer.
History Beer has had an impact on virtually every culture worldwide for the past 5000 years. The Egyptians taught the Greeks how to brew beer and the Greeks taught the Romans how to brew.
For the most part of its history, beer was produced and consumed on a domestic scale. Produced by women, who were the main food preparers in a house, beer was considered as part of the staple diet – a ‘food-drink’.
By the 7th Century, beer was being produced and sold by European monasteries, precursors of the ‘abbey beers’ of today, such as Leffe. This is the first real evidence of beer being sold commercially, hand in hand with the advent of the increasing popularity of the Christian era.
Monks were mastering and improving upon brewing techniques, building many of the first breweries and as such were pioneers of the hotel business; providing shelter, food and drink to pilgrims and other travellers.
Apart from serving as a refreshing and comforting beverage, beer was also commonly used as a medicine. A medical document written in about 1600BC lists about 700 prescriptions of which about 100 contained the word ‘beer'.
Although they weren’t aware of the fact at the time, the reason beer was seen as possessing medicinal properties was due to the water being cleansed of contaminants during the boiling process necessary to produce beer. As a result, beer was a good deal safer and more palatable than the available drinking water which was often drawn from polluted rivers.
In fact, by the end of the 17th century, the allowance for pupils of all ages at one English school was two bottles of beer per day! Beer was also widely consumed during the workday, with American scientist and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who lived in London from 1757-1774, recording that the daily beer consumption in a London printing business was around 5 pints per day!
Beer made a very early appearance in Australian colonial history. Captain Cook brought beer over to Australia on the Endeavour as a means to preserve the drinking water. Beer originally played a major role in early colonial life, and still continues to dictate much of Australian social habits.
Today, Australia ranks the fourth internationally in per capita beer consumption, at around 110 litres per year.
Worldwide, the brewing industry of today is a truly global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brew pubs to regional breweries. More than 133 billion litres of beer are sold per year, producing a total global revenue of around USD 294.5 billion.
Aussies Test the Waters (Beers).Australians are going posh when it comes to beer.
Sales skyrocket thanks to Christmas parties and summer barbecues, and a lot more of the beer is premium, boutique and imported.
Market analyst Ibisworld says lower-priced standard beers are going out of favour as more drinkers choose sophisticated, fashionable brews.
Though standard beers still hold 70% of the market, consumption of the fancier beers—local and imported—is growing by 10% a year, Ibisworld says. In 2010, premium beer sales grew by 15% and imported beer was up 30%.
Beer StylesThe classic beer styles all originated from the northern part of central and Western Europe, but today all styles are brewed with exceptional skill in countries all around the world.
Abbey Beer:Not necessarily made in an abbey, or by monks, but imitating the Trappist (traditional monk) style. Sometimes licensed by an abbey. Examples include Leffe Blond, Leffe Brun and Leffe Radieuse.
Ale: The English-language term for a brew made with a top-fermenting yeast, which should impart to it a distinctive fruitiness. Ales are produced to a wide variety of colours, palates and strengths.
Belgian Beer: Beer produced in Belgium. Examples include Hoegaarden, Stella Artois and the Leffe beers.
Brown Ale: In the south of England these ales are dark-brown and sweet in palate. In the northeast, they are reddish-brown and drier. The slightly sour, brown brews of Flanders are also ales, though they do not generally use the designation. Examples include Newcastle Brown Ale.
Dark Beer:There are many, quite unrelated, styles of dark brew. If this vague term is used without qualification, it usually means a dark lager of the Munich style.
Genuine Draft:Bottled or canned beer that, like most draughts, is unpasteurised. Unlike them, it is sterile-filtered for shelf-life.
Lager: Lager is a type of beer that is brewed using bottom-fermenting yeast at lower temperatures and for longer durations than those typically used to brew ales. In German, the term "lager" refers to storing a beer at cool temperatures and does not necessarily imply bottom-fermentation. Examples include Grolsch, Heineken, Asahi, Budweiser Budvar, Cabana, Carlsberg, Kronenbourg 1664, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Sapporo and Tsingtao.
Pale Ale: Pale in this instance means bronze or copper-coloured, as opposed to dark brown. Pale ale is a term used by some English brewers to identify their premium bitters.
Pilsener / Pilsner / Pils: Loosely, any golden-coloured, dry, bottom-fermenting beer of conventional strength might be described as such though this most famous designation properly belongs only to a product of "super-premium" quality. Too many brewers take it lightly, in more senses than one. In their all-round interpretation, German brewers take the style most seriously inspired by the ‘urquell’ (original) brew from the town of Pilsen, in the Czech province of Bohemia. A classic pilsener is characterised by the hoppiness of its flowery aroma and dry finish. Examples include Grolsch, Beck’s, Classe Royale and Corona.
Stout: An extra-dark, almost black, top-fermenting brew, made with highly roasted malts. Sweet stout, an English style that usually contains milk sugars (lactose), and is a soothing restorative. Dry stout, the Irish style, is typified by Guinness, and sometimes contains roasted unmalted barley. Imperial stout originally brewed as a winter warmer in the Tsarist Russian Empire, is medium dry and distinguished by its great strength.
Weisse/Weissbier: The German term for ‘white beer’, implying a pale brew made from wheat. Different styles are produced by the north, south, east and west. Generally, the flavours are tart, fruity, spicy, sometimes with notes of cooking apples and cloves. If the beer contains a yeast sediment, it may be prefixed ‘Hefe-’. Southern wheat beers are produced in dark versions with a delicious complex of fruitiness and maltiness.
Wheat / White: A term once used to describe wheat beers. Apart from those of German-speaking countries, Belgium's white beers (Witbier, Biere Blanche) are of considerable quality and interest. Examples include Hoegaarden Original White Beer and Leffe Blond.
School's Out! Thankyou for taking the time to enjoy our Never Fear, so Long as There's Beer! Guide.
Feel free to check out many of the beers mentioned at great prices in our eBay store.
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" - Benjamin Franklin.