The origins of what we now know as beer, came about quite by accident. There are sources that claim that an overlooked clay container holding fruit, water, and fruit juices, left unattended, began to bubble and stir in a dark, cool room. This led to a surprising new kind of accidental magic, the first beers came to life, and homebrewing was born.
With an abundance and variety of regional fruits, wheat, hops, barley, and pure clean water, these accidental brewers started to experiment, and ferment their mixtures with purpose. They began to produce beers with distinct flavors for the solar seasons, holidays, births, deaths, weddings, and even vacations.
The practice of using locally grown ingredients to brew beer at home has been important to many cultures, giving brews a unique, regional flavor and personality. These unique identities were so important to local cultures, that within a few years (actually hundreds of years), beer became the third most commonly consumed drink in the world, right behind water and tea, and traded like spices and silks.
Because written languages were not common at the time, and seldom shared, ancient civilizations used songs and even prayers to preserve and share their favorite homebrewing recipes. The brewing of alcoholic beverages was a DIY project, and one that was much respected, especially once it was perfected.
During Medieval times, homebrewing was all the rage! Both a blessing and a curse, the popularity of beer led to the development of large breweries. The good new was that these breweries made beer readily available to the masses, the downside was it removed the unique qualities that made the homebrewed versions so unique to regions and cultures. What was once a personal brew, just became plain old beer.
However, English brewmasters didn't like being lumped in with the rest of Europe, and created a unique technique for brewing their beer. The Brits developed a method of fermenting water, grain, and yeast, and then skipped the boiling of the mix before fermentation, et voila! Ales were born!
The difference between boiling and not boiling the liquid mixture of ingredients proved to be a huge advance in brewing, leading to better preservation, consistency, and taste depending on the type of brew.
The industrial age saw a major leap forward in both large scale industrial brewing, and homebrewing, Early brewing was done over open fires, giving beers a noticeably smoky taste, however temperature control was difficult, making quality and alcohol contents tough to control. With the invention of steam engines and boilers, along with hydrometers, thermometers, brewers sudden had quality control with the ability to regulate the temperature throughout the brewing process, and they were also able to remove the sometimes bitter, smokey aftertaste.
Prohibition in 1920 was a brewers nightmare, so we're going to skip over that dark period of world history, and move on to when things got good again.
Even though Prohibition was repealed in 1933, making your own beer with anything over a 0.5% ABV remained illegal under federal law until 1978, that's when President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, a bill that “allows any adult to produce wine and beer for personal and family use.” The bill also gave states with ability to create their own laws surrounding homebrewing. Leave it to a home-still having Southern boy to set things right.
It's also the year that Jimmy Carter became a national hero to homebrewers across the nation.
So there you have it, a brief history of where we are now, and why you should be homebrewing your own beer. Think of yourself as one who is keeping an ancient tradition alive, while becoming a trailblazer, making unique brews in your own home, sharing them among your friends and family, creating traditions and legendary family brews, but most of all, enjoying a beer that is as unique as you are.