The origin and development of beer through time

BeerLager is the most well known beer in the world. People drink it everywhere and virtually every area knows its own, locally brewed Lager. The biggest beer brands are worth billions. Why is it so popular? Why do people drink it so often? And where does beer actually come from?

The origin of Lagers and Ales

Lager is the name given to specially brewed beer. All Lagers are beers, but the other way round is not true. The beers that are not classified as Lagers are called 'Ales'. Ales are often brewed in a more traditional way.
Ales know a fermenting process at the top of the barrel and this process used to be possible when the temperatures are somewhat warm. Often the process would work well between 15° C and 24° C. This means that brewing beer used to be a seasonal activity in the past: only when the temperatures were right could people brew beer.
Lagers know a fermentation process that happens at the bottom of the barrel and this process could happen with somewhat lower temperatures compared to Ales. The difference is caused by the type of yeast that is used during the brewing process. The yeast that is used in the production of Lagers was better resistant against the cold. These were first used by German brewers, that kept their beers cold to counter the product going off. To keep the beer cold, people used to use ice caves. The name of this method of brewing is owed to the German word for storage: Lagerung.
This all led to the more widespread use of types of yeast that were resistant against the cold; of which all the fermenting happened at the bottom of the barrel. This kind of yeast causes the beer to be lighter, with a somewhat 'dryer' taste. This beer was less sweet that most of the -then traditional- beers, because the transforming of the sugars was different because of the yeast.

Colours of beer

Beers made with the new kinds of yeast were called Lagers, but the Lagers of the past still differ a lot from the beers that we know nowadays. From the styles of beer brewing of those times, no light beer could be brewed without it the taste going off. The barley of then was simply darker. The Lagers used to be a lot darker than now.
Developments in the production techniques made it possible to use lighter barley without losing quality, and so the first lighter beers were brewed. First still a copper like colour, later the real light beers were brewed that we know nowadays: brewing techniques for lighter beers were become more widespread. The lighter lagers that we know now we call Pilsner, named after the city Pilsener where such light beers were brewed for the first time.


These lighter Lagers, the Pilsner, was not only revolutionary because of its colour, but also looking at the yeasting. This beer could be brewed the whole year round, brewing beer was no longer a seasonal activity.
All these changes and developments of beer and breweries happened during the peak of the industrial revolution. This also meant that the beer could be transported more easily because of the developments in the transport of goods, for instance because of the steam trains. Moreover there were also developments in the area of cooling, people understood the yeasting processes better from a biological perspective and there was also the coming into being of pasteurisation. This all caused that the export of beers became possible, on a worldy scale.
It were the Danish that could first isolate the yeast that was necessary in the process of making Lager. The Danish company Carlsberg, which still exists today, was a pioneer on the level of export. It certainly helped that Denmark has a certain location, looking at the trade opportunities by sea. In 1868 they exported their first beer. The Dutch were also big exporters of beer, with for instance Heineken in 1873 and Grolsch in 1879. The industrial city of Dortmund also became well known through their export beer. A new world wide market came into being for beer.


It was not only the beer which was exported. Also the knowledge and the craftsmanships was spread world wide. A lot of German brewers that immigrated to the United States took their knowledge with them regarding the brewing of beer. In the 19th century man American breweries were founded. All these breweries naturally had European influences. Yuengling is the oldest operational brewer in America and was started by David Yuengling, after he emigrated from Germany. Also the breweries of Miller, Coors and Schlitz were all American breweries started by German immigrants. Even Budweiser, the most well known brand of the United States knows its origins in Germany.

Lesser times for beer

In the running of the 19th century the American beer industry bloomed. There was a lot of variation in the origins of German Pilsner and the new kinds that were coming into being. In the beginning of the 20th century it was actually not going so well for the beer industry, in America and in Europe. World War I destroyed Europe and there was not much left of the wealthy Germany. Around the end of the 1920's laws were accepted to ban alcoholic drinks in the United States. This prohibition of alcohol forbid the selling, transportation and production of alcoholic drinks. This destroyed the whole American industry of brewing. A single brewery could still exist because it started the production of alcohol free beers; but the 13 years of banning alcohol had remaining effect on the diversity of all drinks in the United States. World War II started in 1939; but even after this conflict the economic effects would stay noticeable till the late 20th century.
The market for beer in Europe would stay reasonably stable -the demand of beer kept to be the same, even after two world wars. The market for beer in the United States needed some time to recover after the banning of alcohol.


After all the chaos and the ending of the prohibition of alcohol the remaining breweries in the United States were not in big numbers on a market where the demand for beer went up rapidly. These conditions were ideal for taking up a large share of the market and these companies could then grow to be giants of the industry.
Of course there are economies of scale when the production goes up a lot, but this could not happen without obstacles. It is difficult produce the clear Pilsner consistently: not only looking at the necessary machines in a brewery, but also because every deviation is easily seen in the clear liquid. Moreover all the beers from the same brand need to be the same; even if the beer is demanded world wide.
The technical obstacles were soon overcome by giants such as Budweiser and in the 60's, 70's and 80's there was barely any room for smaller breweries. ABInBev in now the biggest on the market. This consists of the American Anheuser-Bush, Belgian Interbrew and the Brazilian AmBev. This company owns more than 200 beer brands. In 2015 ABInBev made an offer on SAB Miller; the number 2 on the market. This fusion finally happened and making the new giant selling 4 times as much as the before number 3, Heineken was doing.


Article written by: roybor
Times read: 1638x
Added: 23-12-2016 07:01
Last modified: 19-01-2017 22:31

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