Guide to Beer

Beer is one of the most popular beverages in the world. People drink it during special occasions, family gatherings, while watching TV, at the bar, in restaurants, and more. There are even beer festivals that are being celebrated in different parts of the world. In our post about The Early History of Beer, we’ve mentioned that it is known to be among the earliest beverages civilization has made. In fact, it even preceded the invention of bread. 

We’ve also mentioned the technological and scientific breakthroughs that beer had gone through during the industrial revolution in our article about The Recent History of Beer. It is where its quality and taste improved significantly and paved its way to becoming one of the largest businesses in the world today. This means that beer had gone through different transformations, uses, and enhancements for many years before it became the beer we know and love today.

In the present time, you can find many different kinds and brands of beers in the market. Some are very interesting and unusual, while some are among the most expensive beers. Sometimes, it is quite challenging to choose which one to buy. Almost every country around the world has its own versions of the beer, and some people are even trying to make their own versions at home. If you are interested to learn more about beer, read on as we’re giving you a guide to all things beer. 

Brief History of Beer

toast of different types of beer

When we talk about the history of beer, it is like talking about the history of human civilization as well. The very first chemically confirmed barley beer dates back to the 5th millennium BC in Iran, and it was found in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which was spread throughout the world. 

It is also possible that beer-like drinks were independently developed in different parts of the world after a group of people had domesticated cereal, just like almost any cereal containing sugars can undergo natural fermentation because of wild yeasts in the air. Another proof was chemical tests of ancient pottery jars, which discovered that beer was made as far back as around 7,000 years ago in what is known today as Iran. This discovery also revealed one of the oldest known uses of fermentation, which is also the earliest evidence of brewing. 

The oldest evidence of beer in Mesopotamia, which is now known as Iraq and occupies some part of Iran, is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet that illustrates people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a shared bowl. There was also a 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem found, which tributes Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing. The poem includes the oldest surviving beer recipe, which describes how beer is produced from bread that is made from barley. 

Did you know that the invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for the capability of humans to create technology and build civilization? The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer to date was discovered at Godin Tepe, which was located in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran. It is where the remains of a jug from 5,400 and 5,000 years ago were found to be covered with beer stone, which is a by-product of the brewing process. 

In Neolithic Europe, beer may have been known as far back as 5,000 years ago. During these times, it is brewed on a domestic scale. The production and selling of beer before the Industrial Revolution continued on a domestic scale. However, by the 7th century AD, beer was also being produced and sold by European monasteries. 

In the 14th century, beer steins were invented in Germany. During that time, there was a severe infestation of flies in Europe, along with the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. With these issues, there were laws passed to stop the spread of the plague. All citizens were instructed to cover any bowls or tins of food and beverages. This was when the first beer steins were made. They were modest mugs that have a plainly crafted hinged lid. If you want to learn more about it, you can read our article about the History of German Beer Steins

The production of beer transitioned from artisanal manufacture to industrial manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. When the 19th century came, domestic manufacture was no longer significant. Eventually, hydrometers and thermometers were developed, and these changed the brewing of beer by giving the brewer more control of the process and as well as more knowledge of the results. 

In the present time, the brewing industry is one of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world. It consists of many dominant multinational companies and as well as thousands of smaller producers. Did you know that there are more than 133 billion liters or 35 billion gallons of beer being sold per year? That’s billions of revenue, too! 

If you want more information about its history, you can read our article on the History of Beer, which contains the timeline of the development of the beer.

You might also want to learn about the history of beer in different parts of the world. If you do, you can check out these articles:

How are Beers Categorized?

water, barley, and hops containers for brewing beer

As mentioned earlier, there are now many different types and styles of beer that we can buy in stores, restaurants, and even online. There are American beers, Asian beers, Mexican beers, and more. 

If you are curious about these types, you can read our article on The Different Types of Beer, which provides information about beer types and styles, including ales, lager, and more. In addition to knowing the types of beer, have you ever wondered how they are categorized into those types? Well, there are a number of factors in which beers may be categorized. Here are some of them:

Appearance

Beers can be categorized through their appearance, which involves their color, clarity, and nature of the head. The color of a beer is usually conveyed by the malts used. But other factors may also contribute to it, such as the styles of some fruit beers. A lot of beers are transparent, but there are some that are cloudy because of the presence of yeast, which makes them translucent. One example of this is hefeweizen or wheat beer. In addition to that, thickness and retention of the head and the lace it can leave on the glass are also aspects of the appearance of a beer. 

Aroma

The aroma of a beer can be formed from the malt, the strength and type of hops, esters, the alcohol, other aromatic components due to the yeast strain, and additional elements that may originate from the water and the brewing process. 

Flavor

Beers are also characterized by their flavors. The characteristics of a beer’s taste may come from the type and amount of malt used, the flavors from the yeast, and the strength of bitterness. The bitterness of a beer is measured on an International Bitterness Unit scale. In North America, brewers record the bitterness on that scale as IBUs. 

Mouthfeel

Also, part of a beer’s style is its feel in the mouth. This includes both the thickness of the liquid and the carbonation. If the beer is more dextrinous, it feels thicker in the mouth. Also, the level of carbonation or nitrogen in smooth beers differs depending on the beer style. For some types of beers, it may give a thick and creamy feel, while others may have a prickly sensation. 

Strength

The strength of a beer pertains to the amount of alcohol it contains. It can be measured either indirectly by measurement of specific gravity or via other methods like alcohol concentration.

Yeast

There are different kinds of yeasts used in making beer. Most of them are strains of either bottom-fermenting yeast or top-fermenting yeast. The kind of yeast strain can provide different flavors and aroma to beers. They may also vary on the complex sugars they can ferment and how high the alcohol tolerance is. 

Grains

The specific grains used in making a particular beer is called “grain bill.” Any grain can be used in making beer, but most of the time, barley malt is the primary source of fermentable sugars by most beers. There are also some beer styles that mandate it to be used exclusively, like German styles that are developed under Reinheitsgebot. There are times when grains like corn and rice are added. However, they are known to make less of a flavor contribution and more of an added source of fermentable sugars. 

Bittering Agents

There are many different flavoring agents that have been added to beer through the years to convey intricacy and add bitterness to the final product. The modern beers we have today are flavored with hops. They are the immature flowers of a certain species of the hemp plant, which can give bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beers. The amount of hop bitterness and aroma depends on the beer style. 

Water

The main ingredient in beer is water. Even though it is flavorless, its chemical composition can affect the final taste of the beer. In fact, many brewers regard water as the most important ingredient in making beer. There are two particular styles of beer that are especially noted for their water chemistry, which are pale ale and pilsner. 

Other Ingredients

Of course, other ingredients are also put into consideration when categorizing beers in different types and styles. Some of these include fruits and spices. There are times when vegetables are also used in making beers. Other fermentable sugars are sometimes added, such as candy sugar, honey, molasses, and more, which can also add distinct flavors to beers.

How is Beer Made?

man making beer in a brewery

Beer is made with four basic ingredients, which are barley, water, hops, and yeast. The basic idea when making it is to extract the sugars from grains like barley, which can turn yeast into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2), creating beer. 

You might also wonder if it is legal to brew beer at home. In the USA, home brewing has been legal since 1979. In the present time, there are 50 states where it is legal to brew beer. If you want to find out more about this, check out our article that tackles the topic Can You Legally Brew Beer at Home?

Here are the steps on how beer is made:

1. Malting

The beer brewing process begins with the grains. Barley is usually used, but other grains work well, too, such as wheat and rye. The grains are harvested and process through a method of heating, drying out and cracking. The goal of malting grains is to isolate the enzymes that are needed for brewing, preparing them for the next step. 

2. Mashing

After the malting process, the grains will go through the mashing process. In this step, they are steeped in hot water for an hour, but they should not be boiling. It is like making tea. This step activates the enzymes in the grains, causing them to break down and release their sugars. After that, you need to drain the water from the mash, which is now filled with sugar from the grains. The sticky, sweet liquid acquired from mashing the grains is called wort, which is basically unmade beer. 

3. Boiling

In this step, the wort is boiled for an hour while adding hops and other spices several times. Hops provide the bitterness, and it also balances out all the sugar in the wort, providing it flavor. In addition to that, it also acts as a natural preservative. 

4. Fermentation

After boiling the wort for an hour, it needs to be cooled, strained, and filtered. Then, it is placed in a fermenting vessel where yeast is added. The brewing process is done in this step, and the fermentation will begin. The beer will be kept for about two weeks at room temperature for ales and for many weeks at cold temperatures for lagers. During this process, the yeast eats up all the sugar in the wort and exhales CO2 and alcohol as waste products. 

5. Bottling and Aging

After the fermentation stage, you now have an alcoholic beer. However, it is still uncarbonated and flat. When it is bottled, it will be either artificially carbonated like a soda or bottle conditioned, where it will naturally carbonate with the CO2 that the yeast produced. After letting it age for a few weeks to a few months, you can drink the beer. 

If your state or country allows the brewing of beer at home, you can easily create one using beer-making kits. If you want to get one, you can check out our post on Where to Find Home Brewing Beer Making Kits for a list of resources. 

pouring beer in a glass

Largest Beer Brands in the World

On our Overview of Top 10 International Beers, we’ve listed the different brands of beers that are popular in different countries. But if you are searching for the top beer brands out there, here’s a list of the largest and most popular beer brands in the world:

Corona Beer

bottles of Corona beer

Corona Beer originated in Mexico. It is produced by Group Modelo, which is a company owned by AB InBev, but Constellation exports it to the United States. It is one of the best-selling beers not just in the US but worldwide. If you want to learn more about this brand, you can read our article about the History of Corona Beer.

Snow Beer

The Snow Beer is the best-selling Chinese beer. It is produced by China Resources Beer Holdings, located in Beijing. The brand was founded in 1993 in Shenyang. It is named “Snow Beer” due to its thick, rich head that is pure white like snow. For more information, read our post on The History of Snow Beer.

Brahma Beer

Brahma Beer is the fifth largest beer brand in the world. It originated from Brazil and produced by AB InBev. Originally, this beer brand was brewed by Companhia Cerverjaria Brahma, which is one of the oldest existing breweries in the country. You can read our article on the History of Brahma Beer for more information about this brand. 

Skol Beer

Skol is another Brazilian beer brand. It is produced in Carlsberg, AB InBev in South America, and Unibra in Africa. Though it is a Brazilian beer, its origins are found in Great Britain during the late 19th century. You can learn more about this brand in our post about the History of Skol Beer.

Anheuser-Busch Beer

Anheuser-Busch is one of the largest beer companies in the world. It owns around 500 beer brands, and it uses its huge network of more than 600 company-owned distributors and wholesalers to sell its products around the world. Since it is referred to as the largest brewer in the world, it has earned the title “King of Beers.” You can check out our article on Why Anheuser-Busch is Called the “King of Beers” for more information.  

Coors Beer

Coors is a very popular American beer brand. It is brewed by Molson Coors Brewing in Chicago, Illinois. It is the second-largest beer company in the United States, which is also highly competitive in Canada and Europe. Coors Light is one of its best-selling beers. If you want to know how Coors Brewing Company began, check out our post about the History of Coors Beer.

Tsingtao Beer

Tsingtao Beer is one of the oldest existing beer brands in China, and it is among the top-selling beers in the United States. It is made by the Tsingtao Brewery Company Limited, located in the city of Qingdao in the province of Shandong in East China. If you want to learn about the origins and history of this beer brand, you can read our article about the History of Tsingtao Beer.

Yanjing Beer

Another popular beer from China is Yanjing Beer, which is produced by Beijing Yanjing Brewery. It is one of the biggest beermakers in Asia. How do you think it became the number one beer brand in China? You can read the History of Yanjing Beer to know the answer. 

Budweiser 

person holding a bottle of Budweiser at the beach

Budweiser is also referred to as the king of beers in the United States. In fact, it is considered one of the national icons of America. It is also the flagship brand of Anheuser-Busch InBev. To know more about the origins of this brand, check out our article on the History of Budweiser.

Heineken Beer

Heineken bottles in snow

Heineken is the largest beer company in Europe and the second-largest in the world. It has more than 160 breweries in 70 countries. This company can sell over 8.5 million barrels of beer in the United States. Their flagship brand of the same name is their best-seller. If you want to learn how the company started and its other products, read our post on the History of Heineken International.

Harbin Beer

Harbin Beer is another brand of beer originating from China. It is also produced by Anheuser-Busch InBev. It is the fourth-largest brewery in China next to Snow. You can read about its history in our post, The History of Harbin Beer.

Asahi Beer

When it comes to Asian beers, one of the most recognizable brands is Asahi. It is also popular around the world due to its history. It is among the oldest surviving beer brands, and it has been around since the 1890s. What do you think makes this brand so popular among beer enthusiasts? You can get the answers if you take a look at our article about The History of Asahi Beer.

Guinness Beer

Guinness is among the most popular and successful brands of beer in the world. It is known for brewing dark beer with a “burnt” flavor. The brand was established in 1759, and it is still one of the most famous in the world. Why do you think this Irish beer brand is so popular? Find the answers for this in our post about The History of Guinness Beer.

These are just the largest brands in the world. It means that there are many other beer brands out there that are not as big as the ones we mentioned above but are still very popular. Some of those include Samuel Adams Beer, Dos XX Beer, Yuengling Beer, Modelo Beer, and Mythos Beer

Conclusion

There are indeed a lot of things to learn and discover when it comes to beer. Aside from the big names in the brewing industry, many other brands are also available in different parts of the world. Some are paving their way to fame through different marketing strategies, such as billboards, commercials, and as well as fascinating beer label designs.

Beer has been around for thousands of years, and it has been part of the culture of many countries. Many different things are being invented that involves beer, like different recipes and even games such as beer pong. Festivals about beer are also celebrated in many places, particularly in Germany, which is called The Oktoberfest. 

If you want to learn more facts about beer, you might enjoy reading our list of Interesting Facts About Beer. We hope this post helped you learn more about beer. Note that this hub is intended for educational purposes only and not to promote the sale of liquor. 

Beer History and Trivia

Introduction to Different Beers