The first Friday of every August is a time for merriment, as it is International Beer Day! Starting off in 2007 from humble beginnings – Californian Jesse Avshalomov’s local bar in Santa Cruz to be exact – the day is a global celebration of beer itself, those responsible for its brewing and serving, and a time to enjoy a pint/stein/tankard with friends. Whether you’re into a cold lager, a hoppy IPA, a full-bodied ale or a rich stout, there’s a beer out there for us all (provided you’re above the legal drinking age, of course), but where and when did it all begin?
Although there are suggestions of Mesopotamians brewing the first ‘beer’ around 10,000 BC, the first record of the brewing process was on papyrus scrolls and can be attributed to the ancient Egyptians in around 5,000 BC. In those days, beer was used for religious ceremonies, and was made up of local herbs and ingredients such as dates and pomegranates. Pyramid workers were essentially paid in it, and the richer folk were buried with it.
Spreading rapidly from the Middle East to Europe, beer fast became one of the most popular and safest beverages, partially due to the risk of contaminated water in settlements and on journeys. From the thick, grain-heavy beer drunk by Babylonians through a straw, to the watered-down beer of America’s 1920s Prohibition, beer has known a variety of consistencies and flavours. The common use of wild hops wasn’t really discovered until German monks started to pop it in their brew kettles around 1150, while India Pale Ale was born out of the need to ship beer long-distance from England to British Empire outposts, such as India and Burma without it turning stale, hence the higher alcohol content and extra hops which act as natural preservatives.
But whilst recipes and vessels developed and were localised by different beer-lovers across the world, one thing remained consistent; the simple enjoyment of sharing a beer or two with friends. So this Friday, I encourage you to sample some of the fine beers your local bar no doubt serves, and perhaps even venture into a different style than you’re used to – there are plenty to be getting on with!
Some fun facts to wow the pub with:
- Censillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass
- Beer was not considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013
- More Guinness is drunk in Nigeria than Ireland
- As a general rule, darker and bitter beers have a higher alcohol content
- Beer cans in Japan have braille on them, so blind people don’t confuse them with soft drinks
- Beer soup was a common breakfast in Medieval Europe
- Frosty glasses will cause beer to foam
- 162,719 pints of Guinness are wasted each year due to moustaches
- Belgium has the most individual brands of beer found in any country - around 400 different brands!
- Vikings believed that a giant goat with udders of unlimited beer awaited them in Valhalla when they died