I’m pretty sure that I could be a culinary blogger. The only problem is that I am way better at eating and drinking then I am about writing about it. Nonetheless, I think I found a way. As a beer connoisseur, I am always on the a look out for discovering local brews when I travel. I also love history, so it only made sense to write about the history of beer. What does beer have to do with travel? Well, lots really. Let’s take a look.
History of beer
It almost seems that beer has been around as long as humans have existed. It was produced as far as 7,000 years ago in what is modern-day Iran. This makes it one of the earliest beverages ever made. Egyptians and Mesopotamians were also proficient at making beer, and many other cultures followed suit.
Somehow this knowledge has been stored in my head for years. It wasn’t until I saw a documentary called How Beer Changed the World, that I realized it would be fun to share it with others. If you have 45 min or so, I highly recommend it.
So what caused this sudden spike in beer making? Well, when humans transitioned from being nomadic, they started to cultivate land. This included growing grains. Grain not only opened up a variety of foods, it also ensured a more reliable way of sustaining food supply. (Thank you medieval history class for this knowledge!)
Beer was most likely an accidental discovery. Weather, trial and error were most likely causes behind discovery of the brewing process. This was the beginning of a very fascinating way we have evolved as a society.
Beer for your health
Let’s be honest, before modern times, the world wasn’t the cleanest or the healthiest place. No proper refrigeration, storage and general lack of understanding how diseases spread, played a huge role in hight mortality rates. Beer and wine were a lot safer to drink than water.
The process alone helped eliminate some of the contaminates found in water, making it safer to drink. As beer was made from grains, it was also more nutritious, especially if you couldn’t afford food. In Bavarian constitution, beer is refered to as “liquid bread” proving just how important it was.
In history, many were even paid with beer. When I was at the Tower of London, I learned the Beefeaters, those who guarded the king, got their name that way. As payment, they were given access to the king’s table, which included meat (beef most likely) and beer. Hence the name, Beefeaters. I guess it sounds better than “beerdrinkers.”
The history of beer probably wouldn’t have much of a story if it wasn’t for those who brewed it. Quite often, those that brewed beer were monks and priestesses as brew was made for religious ceremonies. They refined the recipes and recorded them for future generations. We can see that in ancient times as well as through the rise of Christianity.
As a clever early marketing tactic, many monasteries added images of saints to their signature creations. This was probably one of the earliest examples of brand loyalty creation. This might also explain why so many beer brands have an image of a saint. Those monks knew what they were doing.
The supply chain
As beer making evolved so did the industry around it. Farmers were needed to grow and supply the grain. Barrel makers made the vessels for holding and processing it. Others were needed for transportation and delivery to merchants and barkeepers that sold it. Beer was a lucrative commodity and it fueled the economy. In reality, the history of beer is closely tied with that of commerce.
The rise of culinary travel
Beer also plays a crucial role in today’s world. Not only as a consumable product, but also as a tourism generator. There is a whole sector of travel devoted to food and drink. It is culinary tourism and it’s growing strong. Many have already tapped into this market and others are getting ready to do just that.
Geographical differences, like water and soil, have played a role in the different types of beer that are produced around the world. This gives beer lovers a reason to visit different locations and explore the flavours.
When we visited Amsterdam we had a blast at the Heineken brewery. The beer there tasted very different from the Heineken we have at home plus the tour was fun. The whole reason we went there was to see where Heineken originated and try it from the source. While in Halifax, we visited the Alexander Keith’s brewery, where tour guides were dressed in costume and acted out the history of the brewery.
As you can tell, we like to visit breweries at home and while we travel. More and more breweries are capitalizing on the fact that people love to visit them. They are becoming tourist attractions, generating economic benefits from visitor spending. From tours to on site restaurants and shops, breweries are a big business.
Craft beers rule
In recent years, craft breweries have popped up all over Canada and other parts of the world. While the definition of “craft” is a debatable subject for many, these tend to be smaller operations that also experiment with different flavours.
The uniqueness of these beers attract people in droves. Beer festivals, another addition to the tourist attractions arsenal, become a perfect marriage of breweries and beer enthusiasts. Even in Toronto it seems like there is a beer festival almost every weekend. And they are packed.
Beer in popular culture
There are those who make beer, those that drink it and there are others who pay homage to it. Beer blogs, shows and tours are all the rage. What started as an accidental concoction grew into a money-making industry. One that I am enthusiastically a part of.
My friend Angela and her husband Aaron love beer so much, they created a show about people across Canada that “pour their heart and soul into crafting tasty beer.” The show, Crafted in Canada, is about Angela visiting a different brewery in each episode. The history of beer, one brewery at a time. It makes me thirsty just watching it.
Bringing it all together
I am quite fascinated by the history of beer. Not only is it fascinating, it still influences our world. I don’t think those who created this yummy brew would have expected it to become such a major influence on the world.
Are you a beer enthusiast? Are you a culinary traveller? Let me know!