Home brewing, that is, making your own beer at home, is an increasingly popular activity for many people. There is an absolute wealth of information, supplies, and equipment to be found on nearly every high street, and of course the internet.
Hardly surprising in this age of advertisement driven sales, where often the manufacturing costs of a particular beer are dwarfed by the advertising budget of many of the large breweries. Giving rise to a common complaint of bland, overpriced beers with little, or no taste.
So lots of people are turning to home brewing to regain the quality and taste of old. You have control over every stage of the process, and of course these days it certainly doesn’t hurt that your finished product, as well as being tasty, is considerably cheaper than the mass produced varieties.
Beer has been with us for thousands of years. It can be traced back at least 6,000 years when the Mesopotamians were known to have drunk a fermented bread mash. Via various routes it eventually arrived in Northern Europe. From where it rapidly spread all over the civilised world.
Early fermented drinks, made with grain, the early forerunner of our modern beers, made use of honey as a source of sugar. These drinks were always referred to as “ale”. The term “beer” did not come into common use until much later.
Most early ales were brewed from malted grains such as barley, oats, and wheat. They were simple beers. The addition of such ingredients as hops, which we now think are pretty much indispensable were only introduced in the early 1500’s when Flemish settlers broght over their recipes, which rapidly proved popular.
Until then many early recipes would contain such ingredients as saltpetre, tree bark, and all manner of root vegatables. The main purpose of many of these ingredients would be to offset the often “rank” taste of the brew. Obviously were it not for the alcoholic content nobody in their right mind would drink it!
Every large household in those days would brew their own beer. It generally being safer than a lot of the untreated water, was drunk by all. They would have a brewing day once a week, producing much stronger beers than are currently made commercially and were made in quite large quantities, stored in casks.
From the late 1700’s onwards small breweries started producing beer in commercial quantities, brewing excellent, good drinking beers, which were deivered to ale houses within a fairly small radius. Over a period of time, with the increase in population and improvements in transport links, many of these small breweries either amalgamated or were taken over. To be replaced by fewer, larger breweries, making a lot less types of beer.
And so we now see a swing back, consumer driven, to a lot more “micro breweries” producing a much smaller quantity of beer, but providing the variety and taste that people want. The ultimate micro brewery being of course the home brewer.