In this article, we’ll look at the brief history of beer and its health benefits. First, let find out what is beer.
What is beer?
Beer, as Wikipedia clearly puts, “is the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic drink.” It is a brewed alcohol made from fermented sugar derived from cereal grains or malted barley and usually flavored with hops.
You have seen the frothing contents from, usually green, bottles poured into long glasses at bars and lounges. In other instances, you have seen the amazing adverts of some of the world’s most popular beer brands, and have wondered what exactly the drink is.
For so many, beer was their first taste of alcohol; and we can’t forget the little squeeze on the faces of our sons when we gave them their first sip of beer.
According to research, beer is the third overall most popular drink, coming behind water and tea. Now with such a statistic attached to the drink, it shows you how much love the world has for it.
History of Beer
As recorded on papyrus scrolls around 5,000 B.C. by ancient Egyptians, the first brews of beer were made from dates, pomegranates, and other indigenous herbs. They were mostly used for religious ceremonies which were presided over by the Pharaoh’s, little wonder the royal heads of ancient Egypt are considered as the first brewmasters.
According to Wikipedia, “in 1868 James Death put forward a theory in The Beer of the Bible that the manna from heaven that God gave the Israelites was a bread-based, porridge-like beer called wusa.” This was due to the popularity o
Before the Egyptians, there are records that say the beer was brewed in the ancient city of Mesopotamia. Malted barley scraps and bowls with beer like residue have been dug up by archeologists. There are also mentions of beer in ancient poems and literature from different world cultures that have confirmed the presence of brewed alcohol for years. Further findings revealed that Chinese villagers were brewing fermented alcoholic drinks as far back as 7000 BC.
The culture of brewing beer was eventually imported to Europe where it became an integral part of the people’s culture. It was valued both for its nutritional value as well as its role as a substitute for water.
Brewed mainly in monasteries and convents (hospitality for traveling pilgrims), beer was used for tithing, trading, payment, and taxing during Medieval times in Europe.
The adoption of beer in Europe led to a new practice of brewing, which many refer to as the dawn of the modern beer – as we know it.
Besides the use of malted barley as the main source of fermentable sugar, hops were also introduced as a bittering and flavoring agent around1150. The recipe was introduced by German monks. Before that time, many different herbs and spices were used to balance the sweet malt flavors in beer; everything from spruce boughs to dried flowers to bitter roots had found their way into brew kettles. The idea was bought by brewers as they found that hops added a very pleasing, thirst-quenching bitterness and, as an added benefit, the hops acted as a natural preservative extending the life of their beers.
Germany, along with Belgium and the British Isles soon became a major brewing center across Europe – mainly for the new inventions they added to brewing beer. The Germans introduced the lager brew of beer, while pale ales, porters, and stouts have been brewed in England and Ireland for hundreds of years.
Through colonization, beer spread to other parts of the world including West and Southern Africa and the Americas. It is reported that the European colonists had the need to brew beer after running out of the supply they brought with them.
When it comes to making wine, the ingredients pretty simple. Most people know that it’s basically grape juice and yeast.
That’s not to say that it’s easy to make good wine, but the basic ingredients for wine are minimal and well-known. Beer is different. It’s just a little bit more complex. Let’s break down the ingredients needed to make beer.
To make beer you need four main ingredients. You can use all sorts of adjunct ingredients throughout the process to create unique specialty beers, but even those contain these four basics ingredients: malt, water, hops, and yeast.
The making of any alcoholic beverage starts with a source of sugar. In wine, the sugar comes from grapes. In cider, it’s from apples. In mead, from honey. The sugar source for beer is grain.
Wheat, rye, rice, sorghum, and other grains have been used, but the preferred grain for beer is barley.
When the barley is harvested, the starch inside is not ready for fermentation. It has to go through the malting process. This means, they’ll soak the barley and apply a little heat, which starts germination – a process of converting all the starchy carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Before these things start to sprout, the germination process is stopped with heat. They’ll roast the barley (now called “malt”) to varying degrees. The length of the roast will help determine the color of the beer and the backbone of the beer’s flavor.
The malt that is lightly roasted will be used to make lighter styles (ex: Kolsch, pale ale, pilsner). Roast it a little longer and you’ll use it for amber ales or marzens. Keep roasting it and you’ll use it for dunkels, brown ales. On the extreme dark end of the spectrum, you have your porters and stouts. The malt used for these
has been very heavily roasted and will usually give the beer a distinct coffee/chocolatey flavor.
This is the ingredient needed to make beer that is most often overlooked.
Beer is typically about 90% water. If you have bad water, you’re not going to have good beer. We won’t get too in-depth here, but it’s important to know that there are tons of variables that can affect the taste of the water and therefore the quality of the beer. We’re talking about pH levels, hardness/softness, chlorine and
sulfate levels, mineral content and more.
Water content/quality is so important that it’s a point of emphasis for any brewery that’s looking to open a new production facility in a different part of the country. While evaluating various locations’ laws, taxes, access to highways, etc., they’re also testing the water.
Obviously, they want to produce a consistent product, no matter where it was made. For example, Sierra Nevada wants their pale ale to taste exactly the same whether made in California or just up the road in Asheville. A certain city may not be an ideal fit if it takes significant effort to adjust the water to meet the levels and quality of the original brewery’s location.
Everybody likes to talk about hops these days. Hopped up IPA’s have become the clear favorite beer style of the American public. We have beers with names like “Death by Hops,” “Hopsecutioner,” and “Vehopciraptor.” For some, it’s getting a little out of hand, but devout “hopheads” can’t get enough of them.
Hops are a small, green, cone-shaped flower that grows on a bine (similar to a vine.) These little cones are filled with resins that, when added to the wort during the boiling process, lend flavors, aromas and a bitterness that balances out the sweetness of the malt.
These hop additions happen at varying times. When used earlier on in brewing, they add bitterness. When used
later, they provide distinct flavors and aromas. There are dozens of varietals of hops, each offering beer its own qualities and tastes.
They can range from flowery to citrusy to piney or grassy. Breweries will use varying amounts of different hops in any individual beer to achieve the precise flavor profile they’re looking for.
Just because it’s the last to be added, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Without yeast, there is no beer. Many brewers will even tell you that they do not make beer. Yeast makes beer. They just exist to keep the yeast happy.
Yeast is a single-cell micro-organism. It eats simple sugars (from the malt) and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. After a week or two of gorging itself and reproducing, the environment becomes toxic for the yeast. It goes dormant.
At this point, most breweries will draw off some of it off and save it for the next batch of beer. If handled with care, it’s possible to use the same yeast strain for years. It’s not common though, as it will develop slightly off-flavors over time.
It’s still perfectly fine to drink the finished product, but brewers want to put out a consistent product, so they’ll use a fresh batch of yeast after a handful of generations. There are quite a few distinct yeast strains used in brewing.
Just like hops or malt, they can have a dramatic effect on the final product, resulting in flavors like apple, bananas or cloves. Some lend very little flavor to the beer, allowing the malt, water, and hops to shine through instead.
For something so small that it’s invisible to the naked eye, it has a huge role to play in the
making of beer.
Health Benefits of Beer
Apparently beer is not just popular because of its great bitter-sweet taste, or its refreshing feel to the body. The beverage has a whole lot of health benefits for the body.
1. It can help reduce the risk of heart disease
Beer contains phenol, a natural antioxidant that protects the heart. However, high consumption of beer does more harm to the heart than good. So it is best to always take in a controlled amount.
2. Prevents type 2 diabetes
According to a study by Dutch researchers, men who drink a moderate amount of beer are less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
3. Reduces the risk of having kidney stones
Researchers in Finland concluded that intake of beer reduces the risk of having kidney stones by 40%. This is a result of the hops in the beer that slows the release of calcium from the bone—which could get reabsorbed by the kidneys as painful stones. This plays out via the frequent visits to the restroom for drinkers of beer.
4. Protects against Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine concluded after several studies that beer drinkers were 23% less likely to develop different forms of dementia and cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s. The silicon in beer helps protects the brain from aluminum and other substances that may possibly cause Alzheimer’s.
5. Reduces the risk of cancer
Beer has been proven to contain an important antioxidant known as xanthohumol, which acts as a powerful anti-cancer property, helping to fight off cancer-causing enzymes in the body. It has been reported that beer also leads to a reduced rate of breast cancer in women.
6. It can help strengthen bones
The moderate consumption of beer helps in building stronger bones as a result of the silicon contained in the beer which helps to develop a higher bone density.
7. Boosts self-confidence
Do you know that the immediate confidence boost you get after a few glasses of beer? Well, scientists have proven that the drink itself causes you to feel more confident. British researchers found the more glasses of beer people consumed, the more attractive they found themselves, the more their cognitive performance.
8. Help treat dandruff
Beer is considered one of the most natural treatments of dandruff. The high yeast and vitamin B contents in beer work against dandruff in your hair if you rinse your hair with a bottle of beer two to three times a week. It also makes the hair soft and shiny.
9. A balanced diet.
Beer can some times pass as food as it contains all the essential ingredients that make up a balanced diet – carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and calories that build the body.
10. Reduces cholesterol levels in the body.
Beer is made from grain such as barley which makes it rich in fiber. The barley contains a soluble fiber known as beta-glucans that has been shown to help in lowering cholesterol levels.
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