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From Late Egyptian Times to the Nineteenth Century

1/15/2014 Sven-Olle R. Olsson

 

FROM LATE EGYPTIAN TIMES TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

Late Egyptian to Roman Times

The Egyptians exported beer to the Greeks, who traded it to Gaul, to Spain, and to the east coast of the Adriatic; it then spread to Germania (what is now Germany and some portions of central Europe), where it became very popular. Beer may also have been established in non–wine-producing areas at an earlier date. It is rather probable that beer production originated close to the geographic expansion of agriculture, which implies that beer could have been present in Europe at least around 3000 B.C.E., when use of the plow spread in Europe. In a female grave in Egtved in Denmark from about the year 1357 B.C.E. rests from an alcoholic beverage were found in a vessel made of birch bark. It contained rests of wheat, cranberry, honey, and bog myrtle (sweet gale). (Corresponding remains have been found in the Hallstatt beer amphora found at Kulmbach dated 800 B.C.E.).

In China, alcoholic beverages seem to have been present since 4000 B.C.E. in Dawenkou in Shandong; the oldest written documents come from the Shang dynasty, 1324–1066 B.C.E., written by Du Kang and describing the production of jiu. Jiu meant all alcoholic beverages, usually of 10–15 percent alcohol, obtained by fermentation of cereals, millet, and wheat. The process was first to make a ferment cake, which provided molds and yeasts that then started the fermentation process in a mash of cooked cereals. During the T'ang dynasty, 618–907 C.E., the cereals for this process were either glutinous millet or glutinous rice. These processes later spread to Japan, Korea, and all of Southeast Asia. Prior to the introduction of this process in Japan, brewers saccharified the rice by chewing boiled and raw rice.

Beer was a considered a barbaric drink by the Greeks and Romans, though, according to Pliny, beer was known in the Mediterranean countries before viticulture (the cultivation of grapes) became popular. There are frequent references—in Tacitus, for example—early in the common era to malt beverages being consumed by the tribes of Germania (as well as by the Saxons, Celts, Thracians, and Scythians), and even to the establishment of tabernae, or taverns. Originally, beer was produced from a variety of malted and unmalted grains such as millet, barley, wheat, oat, and rye, with different supplements such as honey, juniper, mushrooms, and bark—but without hops. In the Greek and Roman world, wine was the beverage of the upper classes and beer was the drink of the common people, as was the situation in pre-Ptolemaic Egypt. (For more details see Arnold [1911] and Hoffman [1956].)

Medieval Times to the End of the Nineteenth Century

Home brewing. From the year 719, when the Lex Alemannorum (a code of laws formulated by the Franks) was promulgated, all people in the Germanic area were entitled to brew their own beer. Home brewing began in Great Britain in about the twelfth century. With the growth of towns, commercial operations started brewing and selling in the same establishment. Later, the point of sale was centrally located in a town or city. Growth of brewing was slow until the industrial revolution made large breweries possible.

The types of beer and brewing techniques of the Middle Ages survived until recent years in the Nordic countries, as has the old method of spontaneous lactic and alcoholic fermentation of kvas ("kvass," in English—a beer made typically from rye) in eastern Europe.

Monasteries. Monasteries have had an active role in the brewing and sale of beer, and in the improvement of brewing processes. Two of the first beer-brewing monasteries—with brewing activities dating back to the seventh to eighth centuries—were St. Gallen (in Switzerland) and Weihenstephan (in Bavaria), both of the Benedictine order. Beer was a substitute for wine, a good nutrient during Lent, and an excellent base for spices used medicinally. In the year 1000, forty of the houses of the monastery of St. Gallen were devoted to brewing; they produced strong beer, oat beer, and light beer for themselves, guests, and pilgrims, and for sale. In the early Middle Ages, there were four to five hundred monasteries brewing beer in Germany; the practice was internationaland a large source of income for the monasteries. The famous Trappist beer is still made in Belgium by Trappist monks, whose order has developed from the Benedictine and Cistercian orders.

Cities. In southern Germany, Bavaria was a wine-drinking area until the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), and the monasteries were the main producers of beer. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, cities were burgeoning and they created licenses to produce beer, which could be heavily taxed by the authorities. In the northern part of Germany, many competing breweries were developed and great volumes of beer were exported by members of the Hanseatic League to other parts of Europe. In the northern city of Hamburg, there were six hundred brewers in the sixteenth century, as contrasted with only thirty in the southern city of Munich in the fifteenth century. Some of the most famous breweries in the sixteenth century were in Erfurt, Einbeck, Zerbst, Naumburg, and Braunschweig.

After the Thirty Years' War, which destroyed the northern cities and Bavarian viticulture, most of the brewing shifted from the north to Bavaria, where by 1420 the monasteries had developed the method of bottom fermentation that produces lager beer. Before this development, all beers were top-fermented—that is, ales. In 1516 the Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) was approved for Bavaria, which decreed that only barley malt, hops, and water were allowed for beer brewing. In 1551 another law was approved in Munich saying that bottom-fermenting yeast should be used. Northern Germany was opposed to the new law, and Baden and Württemberg did not accept it until 1896 and 1900, respectively. In 1906 it was accepted for lager throughout the German Empire. The only exception made was to allow wheat malt in the specialty ales Alt, Kölsch, and Berliner Weisse and in wheat beer.

Grut and hops. Ancient beer was flavored by many different spices, even medically active ones, during the centuries, and Hildegard von Bingen mentions in her Physica, which dates from about 1156, both hops and grut as additives to beer, which is the first documentation of the use of hops in beer. Grut was a mixture of several spices, chief among them being the leaves of bog myrtle or sweet gale (Myrica gale). It was used mainly during the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries and it survived in the northwestern part of Germany and in the Netherlands until the eighteenth century. In many areas, the authorities sold the right to use grut (Grutrecht). During these times, hops and grut were used for beer simultaneously.

Hops had been introduced for beer brewing sometime between the years 764 and 1156, when the first hop agriculture was found in Geisenfeld in the Allertau area in Bavaria, and when Hildegard wrote her Physica, respectively. The introduction of hops probably came via contacts of the Germans with Slavic peoples in central Europe. The acceptance of hops in beer was very slow and even forbidden in certain areas. By the year 1400, the Dutch had already introduced hops, but it was not until the sixteenth century that the use of hops in beer was gradually accepted in England. One reason for this slow acceptance could have been the difference in taste of the beer, from a rather strong and sweet beer without hops to a less strong and somewhat bitter beer. The great advantage of hopped beer was the better storage capabilities it afforded.

Ale and lager. Ales were the only beer type in Europe before the advent of lager, beginning in the fifteenth century in Bavaria. In 1603 lager was forbidden by the city of Cologne. However, it slowly spread through Germany together with the Purity Law, and during the nineteenth century, production volume increased dramatically. The most important types of lager were the dark from Munich, the pale from Dortmund, and the pale and heavily hopped from Pilsen (pilsner). Dortmund Export became world-famous in the nineteenth century, and pilsner became the great winner in the world of the twentieth century. In the northern and western parts of Germany, ales dominated until the start of the twentieth century.

In England, Professor Charles Graham became interested in lager in 1888 and started a discussion about the two types of beer. It was not until the end of World War II that lager was accepted by the British people. One significant impediment to the success and spread of lagers was their great need for cooling.

In Britain, ales have been the popular beers and have influenced tastes in both British colonies and other countries through export. At the end of the seventeenth century, most of the export of ale from Britain went to America and the West Indies, but the trade of strong, sweet ale, "Russian Imperial Stout," and porter (a heavy, dark-brown ale) to Russia and the countries around the Baltic had begun. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, half of the ale exported by Britain went to Asia and Australia. That type was called Indian Pale Ale (IPA); it was strong, sweet, and highly hopped.

Development in America. Brewing in America started with the early British and Dutch settlers. As early as 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh malted maize (corn) for brewing, and hops were grown by 1637 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Malt and ale were imported from Britain, and New York and Philadelphia became the main brewing centers in the eighteenth century. In Canada, brewing was initiated in 1620 by the monastery of Notre Dame des Anges. The first steam engine was installed in Philadelphia in 1819. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were 150 breweries in the United States, producing 160 thousand Imperial barrels (7.2 million U.S. gallons).

From 1840 onward, German immigrants began brewing lager, and the number of breweries increased to 4,131 in 1873; this number decreased to 1,092 in 1918 and 230 in 1961. In 1850, ale brewing was dominant, and in 1860, lager production was less than twenty-five percent of the total production of 3.8 million barrels. Hopculture spread to California in 1851, Wisconsin in 1860, Washington State in 1866, and Oregon in 1880. After 1850, lager began to prevail, but brewing it required ice, and machines to make that ice. This requirement was met by the introduction of the refrigerator. The first one was installed in New Orleans in 1867.

Brewing companies and the science of brewing. By the beginning of the eighteenthcentury, three items had been invented that later had very great importance for the brewing industry: the hydrometer, the thermometer, and the steam engine. Both the hydrometer (along with its offshoot, the saccharometer) and the thermometer gave the brewer instruments to measure and monitor processes more exactly, and the steam engine—which replaced horses—opened possibilities of working with greater volumes in the brewery. All the vessels of the brewery were still of wood except the brew kettle, which was made of copper. The technical revolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the beginning of free trade among both cities and states, had a great impact on the development of the brewing industries in Europe and the United States, and it was during this time that most of the big brewing companies were started and formed.

However, the most important inventions for the breweries were made in the biological and biochemical fields. In 1833 Anselme Payen and Jean-François Persoz discovered an enzyme, diastase, that can split starch. In the late 1830s, Franz Schulze discovered the yeast cells, Saccaromyces; his discovery was confirmed by Louis Pasteur in 1857. The final synthesis explicating the fermentation process was performed by Eduard Buchner in 1897; he demonstrated that fermentation could proceed with just the juices of the yeast cells—without the living cells—showing that a complex of enzymes (zymase) is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Before these discoveries, people did not know why and how fermentation occurred. Often they ascribed it to supernatural forces, and many used the same equipment from fermentation to fermentation; sometimes sourdough from bread baking was used to initiate the fermentation. In any case, most of these beers and ales were also lactic-fermented and thus sour. In 1883, E. C. Hansen from the Carlsberg Laboratories of Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen isolated the active yeast culture from bottom-fermentation yeast, which J. C. Jacobsen, the founder of the brewery, had brought there from Munich. This species was called Saccaromyces carlsbergensis (it was later renamed Saccaromyces ovum) and today is considered a variety of Saccaromyces cerevisiae, the common yeast organism. Jacobsen's method of isolation and pure-culture propagation of yeasts from single cells was rapidly adopted. By 1896 it was in wide use in lager breweries in many countries and has become the standard method.

Germany became unified during the nineteenth century, and it was then possible for breweries to sell their products over a wider area than before. The first limited brewing company was formed in Dresden in 1838. Between 1831 and 1865, because of the great success of lager, there was a dramatic fall in the numbers of breweries producing ales in Prussia, from 16,000 to 7,400. The first scientific brewing research institutions were formed in Bavaria (Munich and Weihenstephan) in 1880, and in Berlin in 1883.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Sven-Olle R. Olsson

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