The Beer reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from


Connect with a children's charity on your social network
Beer in a GlassEnlarge

Beer in a Glass

A beer is any of a variety of alcoholic beverages produced by the fermentation of starchy material derived from grainss or other plant sources. The production of beer and some other alcoholic beverages is often called brewing. Historically, beer was known to the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians, and dates back at least as far as 4,000 BC. Because the ingredients used to make beer differ from place to place, beer characteristics (type, taste, and color) vary widely.

Table of contents
1 Ingredients
2 History
3 Types of beer
4 Beer and nationality
5 Related drinks
6 Brewing industry
7 Commercial brands of beer
9 See also
10 External links


Typically, beers are made from water, malted barley, hops, fermented by yeast. The addition of other flavorings or sources of sugar is not uncommon.

Because beer is composed mainly of water, the source of the water and its characteristics have an important effect on the character of the beer. Many beer styles were influenced or even determined by the characteristics of the water in the region.

Among malts, barley malt is the most often and widely used owing to its high enzyme content but other malted and unmalted grains are widely used, including wheat, rice, maize, oats, and rye.

Hops are a relatively recent addition to beer, having been introduced only a few hundred years ago. They contribute a bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt and have a mild antibiotic effect that favors the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable organisms. Yeast, in a process called fermentation, metabolize the sugars extracted from the grains, producing many compounds including alcohol and carbon dioxide. Dozens of strains of natural or cultured yeasts are used by brewers, roughly sorted into three kinds: ale or top-fermenting, lager or bottom fermenting, and wild yeasts.

A pint (or half litre) of beer typically contains about two unitss of alcohol, although alcohol content can vary significantly with style and brewer.


Beer in a Bruxelles barEnlarge

Beer in a Bruxelles bar

Almost any sugar or starch-containing food can naturally undergo fermentation, and so it is likely that beer-like beverages were independently invented in cultures throughout the world. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is on a 6000-year old Sumerian tablet which shows people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. Beer is also mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a 3900-year old Sumerian poem honoring the brewing goddess Ninkasi contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread.

Beer became vital to all the grain-growing civilizations of classical antiquity, especially in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi required that tavern-keepers who diluted or overcharged for beer should be put to death.

Beer was important to early Romans, but during Republican times wine displaced beer as the preferred alcoholic beverage, and beer became considered a beverage fit only for barbarians. Tacitus wrote disparagingly of the beer brewed by the Germanic peoples of his day.

In Slavic languages, beer is called "pivo", from the verb "piti" - to drink. So, "pivo" could be translated to English as "the drink".

The Kalevala, collected in written form in the 19th century but based on oral traditions many centuries old, contains more lines about the origin of brewing than are devoted to the origin of man.

Most beers until relatively recent times were what we would now call ales. Lagers were discovered by accident in the sixteenth century when beer was stored in cool caverns for long periods; they have since largely outpaced ales in volume. (See below for the distinction.) The use of Hops for bittering and preservation is a medieval addition. Hops were cultivated in France as early as the 800s. The oldest surviving written record of the use of hops in beer is in 1067 by Abbess Hildegarde of Bingen: "If one intends to make beer from oats, it is prepared with hops." In 15th century England, an unhopped beer would have been known as an ale, while the use of hops would make it a beer. Hopped beer was imported to England (from the Netherlands) as early as 1400 in Winchester and hops were being planted on the island by 1428. The Brewers Company of London went so far as to state "no hops, herbs, or other like thing be put into any ale or liquore wherof ale shall be made--but only liquor (water), malt, and yeast." However, by the 16th century, "ale" had come to refer to any strong beer, and all ale and beer were hopped.

Types of beer

There are many different types of beers. A comprehensive description of beer styles can be found at the website of the Beer Judge Certification Program.


Lagers are probably the most common type of beer consumed. They are of Central European / German origin, taking their name from the German lagern ("to store"). Bottom-fermented, they were traditionally stored at a low temperature for weeks or months, clearing, acquiring mellowness, and becoming charged with carbon dioxide. These days, with improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage (1 - 3 weeks).

Although many styles of lager exist, most of the lager produced is light in colour, high in carbonation with a mild hop flavour and an alcohol content of 3-6% by volume. Styles of lager include:


Top-fermented beers, particularly popular in
Great Britain and Ireland, include mild, bitter, pale ale, porter, and stout. Top-fermented beers tend to be more flavorsome, including a variety of grain flavors and fermentation flavors; they have also lower carbonation and are fermented and ideally served at a higher temperature than lager. Stylistic differences among top-fermented beers are decidedly more varied than those found among bottom-fermented beers and many beer styles are difficult to categorize. California Common beer, for example, is produced using a lager yeast at ale temperatures. Wheat beers are often produced using an ale yeast and then lagered, sometimes with a lager yeast). Lambics employ wild yeasts and bacteria, naturally-occurring in the Payottenland region of Belgium. Other examples of ale include stock ale and old ale. Real ale is a term for beers produced using traditional methods, and without pasteurization.


North American beers are listed below.

Beer and nationality


It is a common misconception that Australians drink
Fosters. This is untrue - it is a joke among Australians that Fosters was so bad that we decide to export that one and keep the rest. Australians are divided over their beer by their state; Queenslanders love their XXXX; South Australians drink Coopers; in New South Wales they drink Tooheys; Victoriansns prefer a VB; Western Australians drink Swan beer; and Tasmanians are further divided; those in the north drink Boags, and those in the sound drink Cascade. Although it is generally quite difficult to tell an Australian that there is any other beer than his home state's beer, other popular brews are Hahn and Crown. Particularly in the trendier areas of the major cities, specialty brews, including a wide variety of ales, some by new divisions of the major brewers and some by new microbreweries, are beginning to become popular, as are some foreign beers.


Like other nationalities, Belgians pride themselves on their rich beer culture. There are over 1500 kinds of Belgian beer (including label beer) among which Stella Artois, Alken Maes, Jupiler, Delirium Tremens (brand), Duvel and Kwak are some of the best known. It is often said (particularly by Belgians) that the Belgian beers are particularly excellent. Belgium is the only country that has Trappist beer. External link: Beers of Belgium.


One common stereotype of the British (and indeed most residents of the British Isles) concerns their love of "warm beer". In fact, their beer is usually served around 12 degrees Celsius - not as cool as most cold drinks, but still cool enough to be refreshing. Modern-day pubs keep their beer constantly at this temperature, but originally beer would be served at the temperature of the cellar in which it was stored. Proponents of British beer say that it relies on subtler flavours than that of other nations, and these are brought out by serving it at a temperature that would make other beers seem harsh. Where harsher flavours do exist in beer (most notably in those brewed in Yorkshire), these are traditionally mitigated by serving the beer through a hand pump fitted with a sparkler, a device that mixes air with the beer, oxidising it slightly and softening the flavour. Nowadays, only real ale tends to be served via a hand pump, not a typical way for mass-produced beers to be served - it is common to find the latter sold in bottles or drawn from a carbon dioxide-driven tap. Real Ale is championed by the Campaign for Real Ale.


Canada has a long history of beer production and consumption as the cold climate provides ideal conditions for brewing. It is well known for its two large commercial breweries, Molson and Labatt, and also for its large number of smaller companies. In addition, the popular SCTV character, Bob and Doug McKenzie, are famous Canadian characters who as associated for their love of beer as Cheech and Chong are for marijuana

Czech Republic

The Pilsener style of beer originated in the town of Plzen in Bohemia, and the Czechs make many well known and well regarded beers of this style, including the original Budweiser. The Czechs have the highest per capita consumption of beer.

Estonia and Finland

Both of these countries are known for their traditional Sahti, which is a beer made from rye or oat malts that are filtered through straws and juniper twigs. According to beerhunter Michael Jackson, it is by far the oldest continuous living tradition of beer making, representing nothing less than a direct link with Babylonian beer-making methods.


Although French market is dominated by industrial breweries the Nord/Pas-de-Calais possesses a strong brewing traditions, which it shares with its Belgian neighbor across the border. Alsace, has also a strong tradition in brewing beer with bottom fermenting yeasts in German style.


With a extremely strong beer-oriented culture, the German market is a bit sheltered from the rest of the world beer market by the German brewers adherance to the Reinheitsgebot dating from 1516, according to which the only allowed ingredients of beer are "Wasser (water), Hopfen (hops) und (Gersten-)Malz (barley-malt)". Through this agreement (which was law up to 1988), beers from Germany tend to have a good reputation for their quality.The Germans are slightly behind the Czechs in their per capita consumption of beer. There is a variety of different styles of German beer, such as Weizen (fermented yeast beer), Kölsch (obergäriges beer from the cologne region), Alt (a dark beer drunk around Düsseldorf and Dortmund), Pilsner, Export (a milder version of Pilsner) and Bockbier (a dark strong beer).

The alcohol content usually is between 4.7% and 5.4% for most traditional brews. Bockbier or Doppelbock (double Bockbier) however can have an alcohol content of up to 12%. Bockbier season is during June and July and a lot of local Bockbier festivals are typically held in the south of Germany.

The Munich Oktoberfest is very beer-oriented.


In various parts of north-eastern India, rice beer is quite popular. Several festivals feature this nutritious, quite intoxicating, drink as part of the celebrations. The rice is fermented in vats that are sometimes buried underground.

It is quite popular, and not only with humankind. Elephants are known to attack villages, with the primary agenda of raiding these vats and having a good time generally.


Ireland is best known for stout, of which Guinness is the largest selling and most widely distributed brand. Guinness also make the most widely distributed Irish lager - Harp. It is recommended that Guinness be served after being poured, waiting for three minutes and then topped-up. Along with Guinness there is also Murphy's, Caffrey's and Beamish.


Beer is the most favored alcoholic drink in Japan. It was introduced in early Meiji-era from Germany. Major makers are Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo while small local breweries supply distinct tasting beers. Lager beers are most common but beers made with lower grain contents called "Happoushu" (sparkling alcoholic drink) have captured a large part of the market as tax is lower on these products. Drinking beer with salted boiled beans, edamame, is known as a favorite summer pastime for adults.


Beer has always been extremely important for Poles. One Polish ruler, encouraged by the Pope to take part in a crusade, refused because, as he wrote to the Pope, the holy land has no beer. Traditional Polish beer is usually pilsener, lager or porter. The most popular Polish brands are Żywiec, EB, Lech, Lezajsk, and Tyskie.


The Romanian beer is known in Central and Eastern Europe for its taste and little price.
Ursus is the king of the romanian beer from 1879 (a brand of South African Breweries). Other traditional romanian beer brands are Timisoreana, Bucegi and Neumarkt.

Serbia and Montenegro

see Beer in Serbia and Montenegro

United States

The USA has always been a beer-drinking nation. The diary of William Bradford records that the Mayflower made landfall at Plymouth Rock under duress: "We could not now take much time for further search...our victuals being much spent, especially our beer." [1]

The brewing traditions of England and the Netherlands (as brought to New York) ensured that the colonies would be dominated by beer drinking and not the imbibing of wine. Up until the middle of the 19th century, ales dominated American brewing. This changed as the lager styles, brought by German immigrants, turned out to be more profitable for large-scale manufacturing and shipping. Names such as Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz became known through the breweries they founded or acquired, and many others followed.

The lager brewed by these companies was not the extremely weak and mild lager now associated with modern US megabreweries. This American pilsner was a significantly stronger beer, both in flavor and alcohol, that was designed to meet the appetites of both native Americans and central European immigrants.

All of this came to a halt when Prohibition was imposed. Only a few of the largest breweries were able to stay in business -- by manufacturing malt syrup or other non-alcohol grain products. Production and shipping of alcohol was largely confined to illegal operations, which could deliver potent liquors -- smuggled rum and domestic moonshine -- more efficiently and safely than bulkier products such as beer.

For more than fifty years after the end of Prohibition, the United States beer market was heavily dominated by large commercial breweries, producing beers more noted for their uniformity than for any particular flavor. Beers such as those made by Anheuser-Busch and Coors followed a restricted pilsner style, with large-scale industrial processes and the use of low-cost ingredients (such as rice and corn). The dominance of the so-called "macrobrew" led to an international stereotype of "American beer" as poor in quality and flavor; one famous British joke holds that American beer "is like making love in a canoe: it's fucking close to water."

However, since the resurgence of the commercial craft brewing industry in the 1980s, the United States now features many beers, offered by over 1500 brewpubs, microbreweries, and regional brewers such as Anchor (San Francisco) and Samuel Adams (Boston). While in volume, the macrobrews still dominate, smaller producers brew in a variety of styles influenced by local sources of hops and other ingredients as well as by various European traditions.

The Association of Brewers has identified the following styles of North American origin:

The success of the commercial craft brewing industry has led the large breweries to invest in smaller breweries such as Widmer, and to develop more complex beers of their own.

Related drinks

Beers, and similar beverages made from raw materials other than barley, include:

Brewing industry

Commercial brands of beer


See also

External links