The History of Home
The process of brewing beer has been around as an art for a millennium. It's only been recently, however, that
practitioners have tried to turn it into an applied science.
The oldest American brewery is D.G. Yuengling & Son in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which has been brewing beer
since 1829. Although we think of home brewing and brewing of beer in general as starting in the 1800s, beer has
actually been around for much longer than that. Home brewing and beer have always played a large and important part
in our lives. In fact, it is believed that Noah provided for beer to be part of the provisions on the Ark!
What we know today as beer was originally known as ale. Ale was made by fermenting the extract from grains and
cereals. Certain herbs such as ground ivy and stinging nettle were used for flavoring and bittering. At the start
of the 15th Century, people began to notice a difference between beer and ale, as beer was the hopped beverage that
was made in Belgium. Beer and ale were the drink of the common people throughout the country before coffee, tea and
cocoa were introduced. Monasteries were the location of some of the first commercial breweries in England.
Many families, specifically farmers, brewed their own ale (or beer), although there were professional brewers in
town that made it as well. In fact, home brewing was a household industry in those days. Most of these professional
brewers consisted of widows, because this was one of the few career choices open to widows. Workers at estates
often received ale as wages. When taverns came into existence, they would each brew their own ale. They'd put a
fresh bush outside of the place so those passing by would know there was fresh brew available.
In 1683, William Penn started a business of brewing beer in Pennsburg, to earn money as well as encourage people
to drink beer instead of hard liquor, which seemed to cause bad tempers for many.
The early methods of brewing beer consisted of heating and soaking barley to encourage germination. The result
of this mixture, called malt, was then mixed with water and brought to a boil until it formed the wort , which
meant it was fermented. Hops were then added to the boiling substance, to give it a distinctive aroma and
pleasant yet bitter taste. Hops are used as a stability agent and for flavoring in beer. The liquid was then
strained, at which time yeast was added. It was then allowed to ferment for a couple days.
ENGLISH VS. OTHER BEER
One major difference between brewing methods then and today is the timing process. Prior to the twentieth
century, a rule of thumb or old time recipe determined the timing, as opposed to the modern equipment and
technology used today. There was a difference between English beer and the early American beer.
When the English beer was made, they fermented it with yeast that floated on the top, whereas Germans used yeast
that would stay on the bottom of the wort. When the Germans removed the yeast, they allowed the beer to age at low
temperatures for weeks. This resulted in milder beer with a better aroma, making it a more popular style of beer.
This beer took over the beer industry, so the floating yeast style of beer making was left for the making of ale.
This was when the real distinction between beer and ale was made.
The late 1800's brought about many changes in the home brewing of beer. It became more difficult for the small
businessperson or individual to compete with the larger breweries using up-to-date equipment. The addition of
the railroad helped breweries distribute their beer around the nation. However, this made it a requirement that
beer be able to withstand sitting for days, changes in temperature and getting shook up a lot of the time in
transit. Chemical additives had to be removed, and pasteurization was necessary to prevent bacterial growth.
THE 1900'S AND PROHIBITION
Laws came into effect to make sure these requirements were followed. The early 1900s brought about the great
Prohibition, a time when it was forbidden to sell any alcoholic beverages. This hurt the beer and liquor business
drastically, but it did survive. After Prohibition was done, it took many years to get the people back in the habit
of drinking beer rather than hard liquor, however.
Home brewing was made legal in 1976 and many small town craft brewers began making and marketing their own
brands of beer, for sale to other businesses and areas. The sales of craft beer grew so high that they became
competitive to some of the large brewers, who then began developing and marketing their own brands of beer.
Home brew is not near as popular as it once was, with the many different laws that have enacted through the
years. Many have switched from the home brewing of beer to try their hands at wine and other liquors. The
interesting thing about home brewing, however, is that with each beverage you make, you'll want to make more of
some other variety just to experiment.
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