Monday, August 30, 2010

25 Historical Facts about Beer

Get ready for more beer knowledge than you'll ever need! 

(from College Whether you're a casual drinker just out of college or a serious connoisseur, you probably don't think about the incredible history that's behind the brew you're enjoying. But the fact is that there are many interesting tidbits from the history of beer, from stories of the brewers themselves to inventions and laws created just for beer. Here, we'll take a look at 25 of the most fascinating historical facts about beer.

1.) Many brewers were women: Clay tablets from Mesopotamia indicate that the majority of brewing during that time was done by women, and that it was a fairly well-respected occupation.

2.) Beer is on the oldest document known to man: An ancient clay tablet discussing the preparation of beer is the oldest document known to man.

3.) The first consumer protection law was written for beer: In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria enacted a purity law limiting beer ingredients to barley, hops, and water. Yeast was not mentioned.

4.) The straw was invented for beer drinking: In 2,400 BC, Sumerians invented the straw so that they could drink beer without ingesting the solids left over from brewing.

5.) Double-walled railcars made Budweiser the first national brand of beer in America: Adolphus Busch pioneered the use of double-walled railcars to transport beer, so Budweiser could be distributed widely.

6.) Beer turned wanderers into farmers: In 5000 BC, Neolithic people left the nomadic life to farm and grow grain for beer brewing.

7.) Only 160 breweries in America survived prohibition: In 1880, there were more than 2,300 breweries in the US, but by 1934, only 160 remained. Today, there are about 1,640.

8.) Beer was part of FDR's Presidential campaign: Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to end Prohibition in his Presidential campaign. He was elected President in 1932.

Good call, FDR!

9.) Beer was a part of the oldest laws: The oldest code of laws is the Code of Hammurabi, which regulated drinking houses, including the death penalty for watering down beer.

10.)  Spit has its place in beer: The Incas made beer using chewed corn. Modern brewer Dogfish Head makes their Chicha beer in a similar way, chewing the corn used in the brew.

11.) Monks built with beer: In the middle ages, some monks used mortar mixed with ale to build their churches and monasteries.

12.) Brewing has a patron saint: St. Arnold brewed beer and encouraged the locals to drink it for its health benefits, particularly the fact that the bacteria was boiled out of it.

13.) Monasteries popularized brewing as a trade: Monks built breweries so they could provide drink to travelers and pilgrims, and they were among the first groups to brew beer as a trade. Monks also used beer for sustenance during times of fasting.

14.) Beer can be dangerous to more than your liver: In 1814, a vat at a London brewery exploded, sending more than 100,000 gallons of beer into the streets. The liquid destroyed two houses, one pub, and killed 9 people, including one person who died from alcohol poisoning after drinking beer out of the gutters.

15.) IPAs were made to sustain long journeys: As the British developed colonies in India, they discovered that the beer brought along could not make the trip. What resulted was more hops and a higher alcohol content, today called an India Pale Ale, which helped keep beer fresh on the long trip.

16.) Babylonians drowned bad brewers: The ancient Babylonians were so serious about the quality of their beer that they decreed commercial beermakers selling unfit beer should be drowned in their own brew.

17.) George Washington gave his soldiers beer: As one of his first acts while Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington proclaimed a quart of beer in the daily rations for his troops.

George rationed beer for his boys
18.) Louis Pasteur experimented with beer before milk: As he worked to perfect the pasteurization process, Louis Pasteur killed bacteria in beer before milk.

19.) The oldest brewery in America started in 1829: The oldest remaining brewery in the US is DG Yuengling & Son, which survived prohibition by creating de-alcoholized beer and dairy products.

20.) Rule of thumb came from beer: Before thermometers, brewers would dip a thumb into the mix before adding yeast, and this is where we get the "rule of thumb" phrase.

21.) The Mayflower stopped at Plymouth Rock for beer: A diary from a Mayflower passenger indicates that instead of continuing on to Virginia, the pilgrims decided to stop in Plymouth Rock because they were out of beer.

22.) Diamonds can be tested in beer: Sierra Leone jewelers immerse diamonds in beer to study the way they reflect light and prove their authenticity.

23.) The term "wet your whistle" came from beer pubs: Regulars in English pubs had whistles baked into their mugs and cups so they could whistle for a refill.

24.) Beer made the pyramids: Egyptian pyramid slaves, stonecutters, and public officials were paid in beer. This particular beer was called "kash" and is where we get the word "cash" from.

25.) Marijuana and hops are cousins: Recreational plants marijuana and beer are actually first cousins, but we don't recommend trying to smoke hops.

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