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The birth of modern beer

Modern beer dawns with the slavic tribes penetration into central Europe 600 ad. Bringing with them the very important cultural plant - The hops. This being furthered even more when the arabs a century later invaded Spain and added their version of hops. At that time Arabia was highly developed in science - and they appreciated the hop for its medical use as having a calming and soothing effect.

The hop is in the same plantfamily as mariuana, its latin family name is Cannabinaceae compare "cannabis".

A century later, in the 800-s during the reign of Charles the great, Europe saw the first hopgardens, gardens for growing hops, in Hallertau started by chechs. They took the original arabian idea of medicinal gardens for growing medical plants, but they made their gardens with the purpose of making hops for beer instead of medicine.

This area Bohemia and Bavaria, being the border between the germanic and the slavic, was to become a very important center in the development of modern beer.

Beer in the Middle ages

During the high-middle ages, 1000-1200 ad, changes in agricultural methods forced the growth of bigger cities. This due to the fact that many former farmers had to give up their former lives and seek to the towns for a living.

In the southern parts of Germany due to a mix of legislation, the rulers prohibiting the old way where each farm produced its own beer, and competition, the more industrial-like producing of beer in the towns giving a better product than the farmbeer, led to a more tasty and stronger drink.

Also the ever evolving cultivation of hops and its effect on the beer, making it a longer lasting product, made beer a product that could travel greater distances and so the growing Hansa could trade beer nortward through Germany, Scandinavia and around the baltic sea.

As hops was used in vast quantities to ensure longeveity this very hop-influenced beer, tastewise, gave the effect that consumers taste turned to beers with much more hops than before.


A very important year in the beer history is the year 1516, when the duke of Bayern, Wilhelm IV, issued a law "Reinheitsgebot". This law stated that beer in Bavaria only should be made from barley, malt and hops.

This was an reaction to productdeteriation that many beer producers tried to get away with, replacing the malt with beans or peas.

A fivehundred year old legislation that focused on the consumer benefits!

This law also had the effect that the beer from Bayern kept its good taste and repute during the bloody seventeenth century when the thirty-year war in Germany and Bohemia destroyed much of the society.

England takes the lead - The dawn of the industrian era

From the seventeenth century the development of beer shifted to England. During this century the use of hops finally won over other ingredients in England.

In Burton a beer was made with extraordinary big amounts of hops, once again to ensure longevity, and this was the birth of the british Ale.

London water was different than Burtons, so when they tried to copy the succes they failed. This forced them to experiment and the result was Porter - a beer that had to be stored on wooden casks for a while before the taste had softened enough to please the drinkers tastbuds.

To store beer demands capital and thus Porter was to be the first example of a modern brewery industry of the kind we still have today. An industry that produce with low-cost ingredients in plants that require a lot of capital.

During the latter half of the eighteenth century Porter won popularity outside England. The Guiness brewery was founded i Dublin. Due to the water the taste of this porter was stronger, drier and harsher. The brew was therefore named Stout.

Katarina the Great of Russia had a great influence on the spreading of porter. Born in Germany she had an natural interest for beer and she imported the english porter. The long distance called for longer longivety and this was solved by making the porter for export stronger - increasing the alcohol in the beer.

In the harbours that the ships called in on their way to St Petersburg a interest for the brew developed. And around 1800 the first breweries with modern massproduction was founded in Copenhagen, Danzig, Helsinki and Dorpat.

The latter eigtheenth century and the beginning of the following century was the beginning of the industriual era and this of course also affected the breweries which moved from local small producers towards massproduction of beer for a bigger market.

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Publicerad: 21 jan 2003 17:07


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