Nowadays, the beer brewing industry is all about sleek stainless steel, convenient automated equipment, and minimal physical effort on the brewer’s part. The brewing process has evolved magnificently ever since the first beer drinks came into the world, and brewing companies aim for even more innovation and streamlining in the future.
According to Statista, the world’s beer market revenue reached a staggering $522.299 million in 2020, and it is expected to grow by 9.4% each year. With the average beer consumption per person sitting at 22.6 L (5.9 gallons) in 2020, the United States is currently the most significant contributor to the global beer revenue. Doubtlessly, this is a vast market that is still rapidly expanding.
However, these numbers shouldn’t be too surprising. Beer has evolved alongside human civilization, influencing it more than any other alcoholic beverage. It isn’t only a nice drink to brighten your day – in the past, beer was a powerful, driving force that influenced our ancestors in ways you can’t even imagine. If we look back at how it all started and how beer has evolved through the centuries, the impressive size of the global beer market is actually a logical conclusion of the history of beer.
Beer is one of the oldest drinks humans have ever produced. The history of beer is first recorded on pottery jars containing beer that dates back to 3500 BC in modern day Iran. It was the drink of choice for Chinese villagers, as well as the population of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is also one of the first known products of biological engineering – the biological process being fermenting sugar using wild yeasts.
Anthropologists believe that cultivating barley for bread and beer was one of the main reasons humans evolved from hunter-gatherers to agricultural societies.
In Mesopotamia, beer brewers were mainly women, and the occupation was well-respected at the time. It was closely related to spirituality and religion; no less than three deities were in charge of protecting and overseeing beer production in these ancient civilizations. Egyptian pharaohs also consumed beer that was produced from baked barley bread.
Beer was a staple drink for African and Sumerian tribes and ancient Romans, whose legionnaires were more than happy to partake in drinking.
Beer, as we know it today, was first conceived in medieval Europe, especially Northern (in today’s Germany and Belgium) and Eastern Europe. The turning point happened around the 12th century, when brewers started using hops as a preservative to prevent their beer from spoiling. Wild hops also brought that bitter, pleasing taste that we all love in beer.
The Middle Ages were abundant in beer crafting (and beer drinkers), as almost every monastery had its very own beer recipe and an on-site brewery. The monks in these monasteries were responsible for many innovations that changed the beer brewing process. These innovations included the introduction of hops and lagering, which improved the flavor and brought about lager beers. Pale lager is one of the most popular styles of beer.
The British Isles were also a significant beer production center at the time. They are credited with inventing many different styles of beer, such as pale ale, stouts, Irish red ale, and porters. India pale ales, one of the most popular styles of beer today, were produced as a way for the British soldiers in remote areas of the world to enjoy beer.
The first permanent structure the Pilgrims built in the New World was a beer brewery. American beers first resembled their British counterparts – dark, heavy ales. However, as more and more immigrants piled in from Germany and the Czech Republic, pale, clean-tasting beers with a distinct hop flavor slowly took over the market.
The beer business was on the rise in 19th century America, with over 2,000 breweries in operation across the country.
Unfortunately, when the Prohibition era hit in 1920, beer breweries, both large and small, were forced to either pivot or shut down. Most closed their businesses, while some limped through by producing cereal pale malts, ice cream, and soda.
The beer brewing industry in the US didn’t start recovering from Prohibition until the early 80s. The Tied House Law that banned breweries from selling their drinks on premise made it difficult for microbreweries and brewpubs of today to thrive. This law was revoked in the late 70s, and only then could smaller breweries crop up and offer something different than the standard commercially brewed beer from large beer conglomerates.
Modern Beer Brewing
Microbreweries, or craft breweries, emerged in 1980 in the US with the Sierra Nevada brewery. Its co-founders were forced to weld their equipment or order parts from Germany, which was quite advanced in brewing technology at the time.
Similar stories followed, with American craft brewery founders resorting to Frankensteining their systems as best they could to fulfill their dreams of owning a beer business. Mark Stutrud, the CEO of Summit Brewing Company, says, “We used to haul buckets of grain, dump, then have to reset the mill.” Crafting beer was hard, labor-intensive work that not everyone was cut out for.
It all changed with the advent of automation. Like for any other industry before and after beer brewing, automation was a breath of fresh air that redefined beer and brewing as it was known up until then. Craft brewers didn’t have to worry so much about the technicalities of brewing anymore because their finely designed automated systems were doing the hard work for them.
In the modern age, during milling, the crush of the grain can be changed remotely. Mashing is more precise, and its temperatures can easily be changed at each step of the process. Laboratory science offers new ways of adding hop and packaging processes that save both time and money for breweries of any size.
The real game-changers in the beer industry are conveyor systems. An automated system for moving grain and other brewing materials increases productivity and profit, but it also provides workplace safety. Conveyors reduce the amount of physical labor and heavy machinery operating the workers have to carry out each day. At the same time, worker morale and general well-being don’t suffer.
Cablevey’s conveyor systems are perfect for any type of brewery, large or small. If you feel like you’re lacking space for a good grain transport system, turn to Cablevey’s customized solutions. Unlike other conveyor types that require quite a bit of space to operate, Cablevey’s tubes are ideal for tight sweeps. Everything is custom engineered to suit the needs of your brewery and how far, how high, or how fast you want your materials to be moved. The reliability of Cablevey’s systems is also unparalleled, given that your brewery will be able to operate almost non-stop without any kinks in the transport process.
This automation of the process allows brewers to focus on growing their business and improving their beer recipes, while machines and robots handle all the labor. A humble brewer from the past would be amazed at how it all looks today.
In 1516, Germany laid down the ‘beer purity law’ – a regulation that stated that beer could only be made from four ingredients: malted barley, malted wheat, hops, and water. Yeast wasn’t on this list but was accepted as a crucial ingredient in brewing beer. This law ensured that all German beers were high in quality and free of ‘lesser ingredients’ such as corn, sugars, rice, and other grains.
Of course, it’s nothing like it is today. As the general beer-consuming public drifts away from the standard and highly-commercialized beer tastes, it turns to craft beers and their unique flavors. Each beer company has its signature brew – or several – and they’re continually coming up with new ones.
Modern beers can contain a wide range of grains, spices, vanilla, ginger, coffee, fruit flavorings, and even sweet additives. The basic recipe of beer is still the same as it was thousands of years ago; it’s just that the equipment and technology have finally reached that point where brewers can play around with additional aromas as much as they want.
Beer is almost as old as human civilization and, alongside bread, is one of the single most defining foods in history. Without beer, humans would have taken longer to settle into agriculture, and perhaps even the discovery of the American continent would look entirely different. Beer is an irreplaceable part of the human journey, and it would be difficult to imagine history without it.
While the beer recipes and beer brewing equipment of today look nothing like their predecessors, it’s clear that this advancement benefits everyone – brewery owners, workers, and beer consumers alike. The beer industry is only going to continue expanding in the upcoming years, without any signs of stopping.
The future of beer brewing lies in even more automation, sophisticated tools that allow brewers to fine-tune their brewing processes to perfection, and hopefully even more experimentation and boldness in coming up with a craft brew that will blow everyone away.