Food - Drinks
By: - at March 19, 2015

10 Surprising Facts About the History of Brewing Beer

The brewing of beer has been a science for several centuries. Beer is brewed in a wide range of venues - from elaborate facilities to backyard breweries. No matter where the beverage is prepared though, it contains four basic ingredients. These ingredients include the primary component of water plus fermented sugar, yeast and hops.


Since water is the main ingredient of beer, brewers must make sure that the taste is not affected by the products used to keep it safe. Therefore, backyard brewers boil the water first to get rid of any chemical taste.

Malted barley is usually used for the fermented sugar. Brewers experiment with various types of grains to flavor a beer as well, some of which may include wheat, corn, or rice. A beginning brewer will often use a malt extract to perfect this part of the process.

Malt Extracts
brewing Malt Extracts
By Shermozle from Wikimedia Commons

Beer yeast (not bread yeast) is used for cultivating the drink into a lager or ale. Ale yeasts are top fermenters while the yeasts used for lagers are bottom fermenters. As a result, ales tend to be taste more fruity while lagers exhibit a character and taste that is clean and crisp.

Hops, another main ingredient, comprise the flowers that come from the hop vine and plant. Bitter in taste, hops are meant to equalize any sweetness. Hops also prevent spoilage and maintain the beer’s frothy top, known has the “head.”

Beer brewing goes back, in North America, to 1587, when colonists brewed ale using corn. The first brewery was founded in New Amsterdam (Manhattan) in 1612, where a number of brewery businesses were eventually established. Even beer played a part in the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Seamen running the ship forced the group ashore early to guarantee that they would have enough beer on the return trip home.

Pabst Malt Extract From 1897
Pabst Malt Extract

The following ten facts also add to the interesting history surrounding the brewing of beer and its influence worldwide.

10)  A Microbrewery Turned Down a Deal with the Rock Band Nickelback
While most microbreweries would jump at the opportunity to sign a lucrative endorsement deal, the Dark Horse brewery passed on the chance in 2009. The deal called for the company’s “Dark Horse” truck to be prominently featured in a video showcasing the Canadian band, Nickelback. (“Dark Horse,” is the name of the 2008 album featuring the group as well.)


In addition, video producers wanted to feature frat boys consuming the “Dark Horse” product. However, the proposed video never got off the ground as the company did not like the idea of having their brand associated with drunken frat boys. They also were not too thrilled with the notion of appearing in a Nickelback video as they really hated the band’s music and sound. As far as the company was concerned, no amount of money was worth going ahead with the project.

Dark Horse's Taproom in Marshall, MI
Dark Horse Taproom

9)  Educational Institutes Have Been Established for the Brewing of Beer
While brewing is a science, it is also an art form as well, as is evidenced by the number and variety of ales and lagers in the market.

For example, types of beer and ale can include wheat beer, brown and pale ales, India pale ale (IPA), double IPA, which contains more hops, Bock (stronger than lager), and very dark Porter and Stout, both which contain roasted malts and barley.

Holy City Brewing School
Holy City Brewing School

Because brewing involves a number of processes, institutes have been established for educating brewing enthusiasts. In the U.S. the Siebel Institute of Technology, located in Chicago, has been teaching brewing since 1872. Dr. John E. Siebel, the founder of the school, expanded the business during the 1890s when two of his sons joined the institute. Because Dr. Siebel hailed from Germany, courses were given in both the German and English languages.

By 1907, the institute featured five regular brewing courses, including a six-month curriculum, a post-graduate course that lasted two months, and malsters and engineering courses that lasted two and three months, respectively. A bottlers’ course was also featured that took two months to complete.

As Prohibition approached, the school added courses on such topics as refrigeration, milling, and carbonation. The focus, however, returned to brewing when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The institute, which located to Peterson Avenue in 1952, still offers courses from that location today.

The Institute of Brewing and Distilling, located in the UK, is yet another brewing institute of higher learning. Established in 1886 by a group of scientists, the facility was once known as “The Laboratory Club.” The educational institute is now as a leading authority in the art of brewing beer.

Gala at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling
Institute of Brewing and Distilling

8)  President Obama Brews Beer in the White House
President Barack Obama is one of the many people who likes to brew beer at home. In fact, the mix he makes is brewed at the official residence. Taking honey made by bees in the East and Rose gardens, Obama makes a beer that is called “White House Honey Ale.”

white house honey ale

Besides President Obama, George Washington was also known as an avid brewer. Because the White House had not yet been built during Washington’s presidency, Obama is the first U.S. President known to brew beer within the White House itself.

obama honey ale

Because of the President’s many responsibilities, much of the brewing process is overseen by the White House kitchen staff. The beer is offered to guests during such celebrations and events as St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl.

7)  Home Brewing in the U.S. Has Been Legal Since 1978
While many people may believe that home brewing was made legal soon after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, actually it was put into law in 1978. In October of that year, President Jimmy Carter officially legalized the practice even though people had been brewing beer prior to the time of the event.

home brewing setup

With the endorsement of the President, the hobby of brewing skyrocketed throughout the country. Today, brewers can legally make as much as 100 gallons of beer per year in their home.

6)  The Carlsberg Brewery Honored a Nobel Prize Winner with a Lifetime Supply of Beer
Breweries, over the years, have shown their appreciation by giving back to their communities or rewarding certain achievements. One such brewery was the Carlsberg Brewery in Denmark. The company was founded in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen just outside of the capital of Copenhagen. Jacobsen pioneered such techniques as steam brewing and refrigeration. He was also instrumental in propagating a single yeast strain for the brewing process.


Because of its own interest in science, the company honored Niels Bohr, a world famous scientist and Nobel Prize winner in 1922. At that time, the researcher was given the reward for his investigations into the structure of atoms and his work in Quantum mechanics.

Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr

The famous scientist was showered with accolades and gifts for his achievement, although none as impressive as the gift given by the Carlsberg Company. The brewery gave Bohr a house located next door to its production facility. The home, which featured a pipeline that ran directly between it and the brewery, provided Bohr and his family with a lifetime supply of beer.

5)  The Guinness Company Originally Signed a Lease for 9,000 Years
Since its establishment back in the 1700s, Guinness ale become one of the most beloved beverages in the world, all which has made the Guinness Company one of the most profitable breweries as well. Arthur Guinness, who came from a wealthy and influential Irish family, established the first brewery after receiving 100 pounds from an inheritance.

The first brewery was founded in Leixlip, a town situated in northeast County Kildare where Arthur Guinness brewed ales, beginning in 1755. In 1759, Guinness signed a lease for 9,000 years for a brewery in Dublin at St. James Gate – still home to the Guinness Company today.

"You are Better for Guinness" Poster in Gaelic
Gaelic guinness

By 1838, St. James Gate had become the biggest brewery in Ireland and, by 1886, it was known as the largest brewery in the world. While the Guinness Company no longer enjoys this status, it still is considered the largest producer of stout.


The lease on the property was bought out by the Guinness Company during the 1800s and 1900s, invalidating the original lengthy lease.

4)  One German Brewery—the Oldest Known Brewery in the World--Has Been Operating for Nearly 1,000 Years
The Weihenstephan Abbey, which was established in 725 AD, began the brewing of beer in 1040. At that time, monks at the Benedictine monastery began producing the beverage. Now called the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, the building is located in the state of Bavaria.


The activities of the facility are closely aligned with the Technische Universität München, whose graduate curriculum features courses in manufacture of beverages and beer. The company is recognized as the oldest brewery worldwide.

Weihenstephan Abbey Manufacturing Site
Weihenstephan Abbey
By Pahu via Wikimedia Commons

3)  The Guinness Company is a Strong Supporter of Troops
The Guinness Company has always shown its support during a major war. In fact, the company’s generosity dates back to World War I when the brewery guaranteed soldier employees their job upon their return. The company also covered the workers’ salaries while they were away.

Royal Irish Rifles During the Battle of the Somme
Royal Irish Rifles

Guinness showed its generosity during the Second World War as well. Besides covering the salaries of workers who were participating in the War, they also gave each British soldier a bottle of Guinness on Christmas Day. Servicemen and women were also entitled to two free drinks of Guinness wherever the beverage was served.

Guinness Planned to Advertise in Nazi Germany
nazi ad guinness

The generosity of the company was further demonstrated during the Great Depression. Workers, during the period, were provided with free medical care and numerous other perks, all meant to keep them healthy and well during the economic downturn.

2)  Barley for Beer Has Been Grown in Outer Space
In 2009, Russia collaborated with Japan, to grow barley for beer during a 5-month period at the International Space Station (ISS). The grain was grown in the Zvezda Service Module as part of an experiment.

Bottom of Zvezda
Bottom of Zvezda

The barley was then brought back to Earth and to the Tokyo-based brewery, Sapporo, who used the grain to produce 250 six-packs of beer. The beer was known as “Sapporo’s Space Barley.” In turn, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Okayama University and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, ran a lottery in Japan for those who wanted to try the product. Six packs cost $100 each.


The proceeds of the promotion were used to educate Japanese and Russian children about space and science research. Because of the success of the experiment, the Space Station is now looking into the possibility of using the space module for the future production of beer.

1)  One Pakistan Brewery Sells Beer to Only Two Percent of the Populace
Founded in 1860, the Murree Brewery in Pakistan was set up to address the increasing demand for beer by British workers who resided in the country and then British-ruled India.

Today, the Murree Brewery is Pakistan’s biggest and oldest manufacturer of beer. Although the beer producer enjoys a large following and has won numerous awards, its operations are quite small when compared to similar companies.


Because Pakistan’s population is primarily made up of Muslims, only two percent of the country’s population drinks the beer and alcoholic products featured by the company. For people who do not drink alcohol though, the company does highlight non-alcoholic products in its line-up of beer, malt whisky, gin, vodka, and brandy.

murree spirits

The company cannot ship its products outside of Pakistan. As a results, its beer is frequently sold and distributed illegally. Only expansion into Europe has enabled the company to survive from a profit standpoint.

A beloved beverage, beer has been brewed for over a millennium. Whether you brew your own beer or enjoy it on-tap, the brewing process is not only a science but an art form as well. Historically, brewing has proven to be worldwide phenomenon, if not a favorite avocational and vocational pursuit.





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