Beer is the third most popular beverage on earth, after water and tea, and for many it’s a thing of cultish devotion. We seek out the newest releases from our favorite craft breweries, we spend our weekends in our favorite beer bar, we go to massive beer festivals, we talk about it with our friends, and some of us even brew it ourselves. Even if you’re not a complete beer nerd, we bet you’re thinking about cracking open a cold one right now.
Beer is actually one of the oldest beverages on earth, dating back to at least 5000 B.C. Nearly every ancient culture drank beer, thanks to the fact that grains ferment pretty easily. Of course, the beer drunk by the ancient Mesopotamians was far different than what we drink today; ancient beer was much heavier and was brewed with a wide variety of grains, fruits, and spices. Modern beer was by and large developed by the Germans, who introduced hops to beer in the 1200s; adopted the Reinheitsgebot (the beer purity law that states that beer should only contain water, barley, hops, and later yeast) in 1516 (in Bavaria); and invented lagering (the process that led to the development of light, golden beer) in the early 1800s.
Today, we’re living in a golden age of beer. You can head to your corner pub and find stouts from Ireland, brown ales from England, dubbels from Belgium, pilsners from Germany, double IPAs from Northern California, and a cream ale from upstate new York. Our friends are brewing their own beers in their basements, small-batch breweries are opening at the fastest rate since before Prohibition, and more and more people are taking the time to educate themselves on the differences between a kriek and a gueuze (both are lambics; krieks have cherries added, and gueuzes are made by blending young and old lambics).
Just like, say, astronomy, the more you learn about beer the more you realize there is to learn, and going down that particular rabbit hole is fun, rewarding, and delicious. But even if the extent of your beer education stops and starts with Miller Lite, you might still enjoy learning these 10 little-known facts about the world's favorite alcoholic beverage. Bottoms up!