Beer is the world's most widely consumed and probably the oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. The production of beer is called brewing, which involves the fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grains—most commonly malted barley, although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are widely used. Most beer is flavoured with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative, though other flavourings such as herbs or fruit may occasionally be included. The fermentation process causes a natural carbonation effect, although this is often removed during processing, and replaced with forced carbonation. Some of humanity's earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer: the Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlours, and "The Hymn to Ninkasi", a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, served as both a prayer and as a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people.
Beer is sold in bottles and cans; it may also be available on draught, particularly in pubs and bars. The brewing industry is a global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries. The strength of beer is usually around 4% to 6% alcohol by volume (abv), although it may vary between 0.5% and 20%, with some breweries creating examples of 40% abv and above. Beer forms part of the culture of beer-drinking nations and is associated with social traditions such as beer festivals, as well as a rich pub culture involving activities like pub crawling, and pub games such as bar billiards.
The word beer comes from old Germanic languages, and is with variations used in continental Germanic languages, bier in German and Dutch, but not in Nordic languages. The word was imported into the British Isles by tribes such as the Saxons. It is disputed where the word originally comes from.
Many other languages have borrowed the Dutch/German word, such as French bière, Italian birra, Romanian "bere" and Turkish bira. The Nordic languages have öl or øl, related to the English word ale. Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan have words that evolved from Latin cervisia, originally of Celtic origin. Slavic languages use pivo with small variations, based on a pre-Slavic word meaning "beverage" and derived from the verb meaning "to drink".
History of Beer
Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC and recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. As almost any cereal containing certain sugars can undergo spontaneous fermentation due to wild yeasts in the air, it is possible that beer-like beverages were independently developed throughout the world soon after a tribe or culture had domesticated cereal. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced as far back as about 7,000 years ago in what is today Iran. This discovery reveals one of the earliest known uses of fermentation and is the earliest evidence of brewing to date. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. A 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honouring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread.
The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity's ability to develop technology and build civilization. The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer to date was discovered at Godin Tepe in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran, where fragments of a jug, at least 5,000 years old was found to be coated with beerstone, a by-product of the brewing process.
Beer may have been known in Neolithic Europe as far back as 5,000 years ago, and was mainly brewed on a domestic scale.
Beer produced before the Industrial Revolution continued to be made and sold on a domestic scale, although by the 7th century AD beer was also being produced and sold by European monasteries. During the Industrial Revolution, the production of beer moved from artisanal manufacture to industrial manufacture, and domestic manufacture ceased to be significant by the end of the 19th century. The development of hydrometers and thermometers changed brewing by allowing the brewer more control of the process, and greater knowledge of the results.
Today, the brewing industry is a global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries. More than 133 billion liters (35 billion gallons) are sold per year—producing total global revenues of $294.5 billion (£147.7 billion) in 2006