Most likely the first individuals to brew a beer like substance were lazy farmers who invented this marvelous beverage completely by accident. These slothful farmers left grains outside and the grains were allowed to sit in water for an extended period of time. This caused natural enzymes in the grain to convert the starches into sugars and then over a period of many weeks airborne yeast converted the sugars into alcohol. It didn’t taste very good but it gave the drinkers a cool buzzy feeling if they drank enough. This took place in various regions of the world approximately 9000 years ago when grain cultivation was becoming common.
Over time individuals in different regions of the world began experimenting with this intoxicating elixir. These intrepid brewers discovered that if they collected the sugary liquid that is left over from steeping grains in hot water and then boiled it with bitter herbs or spices they ended up with a much tastier brew. What they did not realize was that by boiling this mixture to brew the beer they were killing off the harmful organisms that were living in the water,
Before the advent of proper sanitary practices, water quality limited the number of people that could live in close proximity. With all of the grains used, beer is also very nourishing. The health benefits of drinking beer rather than contaminated water quickly became evident. Beer became the beverage of choice. This allowed more people to live in close proximity to each other which allowed larger cities. More grain was needed to brew beer which led to advances in agriculture.
Without bitterness beer would be cloyingly sweet. Many herbs and spices were used in different regions to add the necessary bitterness. One particular herb, the flowers of a fast growing vine called hops, proved far superior to all of the rest. Not only do hops provide the right amount of bitterness and wonderful flavor combinations, they are also a preservative. No harmful organisms can grow in beer when hops are used. The first recorded use of hops happened in the Hallertau region of Germany around 1000 AD. By the 1400s hops replaced all other brewing herbs in Europe.
Beer played a major role in the founding of this nation. In 1620 the Mayflower was heading for the Virginia Colony. Due to a navigation error the ship ended up off the coast of what would become Boston. The ship was running low on beer so rather than sail to the intended destination the captain left the colonists off at Plymouth. The brew house was one of the first buildings built.
Even though the water in North America was pristine, new colonists did not trust the water. Beer was believed to be essential for survival in the new world. Most village taverns brewed their own beer along with farmers. Large commercial breweries opened in cities.
Beer was one of the primary fuels for the American Revolution. Colonists would congregate in taverns, drink beer, and plot ways to answer England’s outrageous taxes and policies. On December 16, 1773 a group of colonists gathered in Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern. Among them were Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Barrels of beer were donated by John Hancock. Fortified by those barrels of beer the colonists, who called themselves Sons of Liberty, climbed aboard ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped copious amounts of tea in the harbor.
After the revolution beer played a major role in maintaining liberty. Rather than rely on a standing army the framers of the Constitution relied on militia units made up of the body of the people. Members of the militia had to train in order to be effective. At first getting the militia members to attend training proved difficult. To encourage greater attendance towns provided barrels of beer, making sure the beer was consumed after training. Free beer greatly increased attendance.
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