The Long Effervescent History Behind Beer

Weird History Food explored the long effervescent history behind the invention of beer.

The history of beer dates back thousands of years, and it has helped shape the course of civilization. At times, beer has even saved lives. There are so many amazing facts about beer that you probably don’t know – and they’ll definitely give you a deeper appreciation for this magical elixir.

The first appearance of beer was in China using a recipe based on chrysanthemum flowers and Hawthorn fruit. A close facsimile of this original recipe can currently be tasted in the Dogfish Head brew “Chateau Jiahu”, which was researched by biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

 You can still get one at Dogfish Head Brewing in the form of Chateau Jiahu, a brew pieced together from the oldest known beer recipe. For the record, no time travel was involved. Dogfish Head was able to deduce the recipe from excavated pottery jars, …The recipe includes things like chrysanthemum flowers, wildflower honey, rice flakes, and Hawthorn fruit.

The Sumerians made the first grain-based brew. Vikings brought their own version of beer across the sea via a brew stick. Germany felt so strongly about their beer, they passed a law regulating the purity of ingredients. This law was amended to include yeast, after the discovery of pasteurization.

In 1516, they formally passed the Bavarian Purity Law, called the Reinheitsgebot. The law stipulated that beer would be made with only three ingredients– barley, hops, and water. And …the penalty was just a limit on how much you could charge for offending beverages.

Beer made its way to the New World at Plymouth Rock.

It’s widely believed that the Pilgrims wound up at Plymouth Rock because the Mayflower ran out of beer. The Mayflower had initially intended to sail to Virginia. But when it arrived on the rocky shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, the Captain of the ship noted that they were running low on suds. …Had he not noticed, the ship likely would have continued on to Virginia and American history might look completely different right now.

George Washington had his own recipe for “small beer” using molasses. Abraham Lincoln taxed alcohol in his prime. Beer became the rage until Prohibition became national law in 1919. Alcohol became legal again with the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933. Home brewing became legal in 1978. And the market for beer took off once again.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.