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Beer

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Beer

An alcoholic beverage, brewed from malted barley, sugar, hops and water.

Not only is beer one of the most popular alcoholic beverages, it is also one of the oldest.

While it isn’t known just how old beer actually is, chemical tests performed on ancient pottery shows that the beverage dates back at least 7,000 years. As if that weren’t old enough, evidence shows that residents of ancient China may have brewed beer at early as 7,000 B.C.

During the Roman Empire, wine was the drink of choice. Beer was brewed at that time, although Romans viewed beer as being a beverage that Barbarians drank, not those in higher social classes. Europe’s Germanic people, however, liked beer very much.

Throughout the middle ages, eastern and northern Europeans, regardless of social class, preferred to drink the brewed beverage. It wasn’t unusual to see beer at the table for each meal, and it was estimated that more than 275 liters of beer was consumed per capita each year in that area.

The art of using hops to create beer was perfected by the Germans in the 13th century, although the ingredient was used in the brewing process earlier than that. Prior to this time, beer was most often brewed in the home. However, thanks to the new breakthrough in hops use, Germans could create a beer that lasted longer, tasted better and could be sent to other European areas.

The Duke of Bavaria, William IV, instituted Reinheitsgebot, a purity law, in 1516. The law stated that beer could only contains three ingredients - hops, water, and barley. In 1857, yeast was added to the law’s ingredient list. In 1987 this law expired, however beer lovers find that the purist varieties are those that still are made using the law’s guidelines.

The brewing industry was hit hard during prohibition in the United States. Before that time, the US boasted thousands of breweries. Once prohibition ended, a mere handful remained, and it stayed that way for several years. Over the years, more and more breweries have made their way into the beer scene, not only bringing the number of breweries into the thousands, but also offering more brew choices than there have ever been.

From light beers to full-bodied beers to those that are infused with exotic flavors, there are many to choose from today. Among the various beer types are:

  • Ales:
    Ales are created with top-fermenting yeast. In the US, Ales are often referred to as Pale Ales, while other countries have their own names for the brew. This type of beer is usually lighter in color and has a medium bodied flavor.
  • Lagers:
    Lagers differ greatly from ales because they are bottom fermented, may have a high alcohol content, may have a low alcohol content, and can be found in a wide variety of colors from light to dark. Most beers created in the US are lagers or of the lager style.
  • Stouts/Porters:
    The barley and roasted malts used to create this type of beer give it a heavy malt flavor. You’ll find that ingredients such as milk, chocolate, coffee, and oatmeal are used to create some stouts and porters. This type of beer is dark in color and has a thicker and heavier body.
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