The Recent History of Beer


Thanks to technological and scientific breakthroughs during the Industrial Revolution, beer’s quality and taste significantly improved. These pioneering discoveries, inventions and research paved beer the way to become one of the biggest worldwide businesses today.

Beer making during the Industrial Revolution

From its beginning during the ancient civilization to the Middle Ages, beer had taken gradual improvements in terms of its composition and taste. If you have ever tried a brew done the middle-ages way you would definitely agree.

Beer’s development took a greater and more significant step during the Industrial Revolution. The era started with innovative inventions such as the steam engine, the hydrometer, and the artificial cooling process that paved the way to the industrialization of beer. Beer production, consequently because of these inventions, had begun to increase.

Since the invention of the hyrdrometer, it has become a very useful tool for brewers for measuring the gravity (density) of a beer after it has been fermented, determining if the fermentation is ideal. It is also an easy tool to calculate and measure the beer’s alcohol percentage.

Artificial cooling was a perfect way to brew and produce beer into mass quantities, and enabled brewing to become a full time activity, since a good quality beer requires a certain temperature to taste great.

New brewing breakthroughs were introduced through further scientific research. In 1876 French chemist Louis Pasteur discovered the knowledge of micro-organisms (in particular yeast in fermentation) through his book “Etudes sur la Biere” (“Studies Concerning Beer”). His pioneering discovery allowed brewers to prevent the beer from becoming undesirably sour. This scientific knowldedge does not only apply on brewing but also on other certain foods and medicines as well. That paved the way to pasteurization.

The Danish scientist Christian Hansen discovered another way to improve the quality of beer. From his discovery, a single yeast cell is isolated, causing it to reproduce on an man-made culture medium. Because of this, fermentation became more markedly purified causing the beer’s taste to become more consistent.

In different cultures, beer play different roles and has various symbolisms. Learn more about this in our article about the role beer plays in stories and myths across cultures.

Beer becoming a big, ever-booming global business, while small traditional breweries remain and home-brewing is on the rise

Ales were predominant in the United States until the latter half of the 19th century. A wave of German immigrants such as Adolphus Busch, Eberhard Anheuser and Adolph Coors introduced beer and opened their own breweries. Since then beer displaced ales as a popular alcoholic beverage; even in the Prohibition era beers were either clandestinely produced or marketed; or watered down to market a weaker lager.

Since Prohibition was lifted in 1920, the production, sale and consumption of beer has continued to grow bigger and bigger into a major corporate businesses. Many of the original brewers in the late 1800s and early 1900s began to merge making very large companies in the beer business and ubiquitous advertising.

Today, beer is one of the largest global industries. Multinational companies, regional and local breweries continue to produce beer of different kinds (from the dark stouts and pale lagers). Aggressive marketing campaigns are also directly responsible for the success of many brewing companies. These factors leave the consumers and enthusiasts with more types and different ranges of beers to choose from than ever than before.

Even with these big international brewing companies you can still find some small and local breweries that still adhere to the traditional brewing methods. And there has also been a popular rise in home brewing with complete brewing kits available on the market.

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