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Beer - Brewing Started At Home

Updated on October 28, 2009

In early times it was both customary and necessary to produce most of the food and beverages required for a family's consumption in the home. There were no beer or liquor stores, so if a person had a thirst for beer they had to brew it. It was possible to barter for beer thus, for example, if a family had an abundance of meat or could offer a service of value, they could exchange it for beer. This system may have led to the development of some early taverns, as homes where good beer was brewed in abundance would have developed a reputation for it. As word spread, more people would seek the brewer out for a source of good beer. In fact, the very name of British Public Houses harkens back to the days when a house that brewed great beer served it to the public.

Early brewing scientists continued their study of brewing in monasteries, royal palaces, and breweries; however, it was not until the nineteenth century that the art of brewing was merged with modern science and technology. It was during this time that yeast was first recognized as an essential ingredient of beer. Scientists were for the first time able to isolate and select specific strains of yeast that produced desired qualities in beer. Bacteria and wild yeasts were recognized as contaminants that had negative effects on beer quality. The influence of temperature on yeast and fermentation was studied and its importance was recognized.

In addition, the industrial revolution and the technology it led to made it possible to produce beer on a much larger scale. Large industrial breweries began producing huge quantities of beer. Smaller, local breweries became even greater in number and it was no longer necessary to produce beer in the home, not until the prohibition era, that is.

During prohibition, the ancient art of home brewing again became a widespread phenomenon. However, the quality of much of the beer produced in the home was reportedly not one of its virtues. Nevertheless, those with a thirst for beer had few places to turn. Another effect of prohibition was that many smaller, local breweries were unable to survive and thus, the number of breweries in America fell dramatically. For the most part, only the largest and strongest breweries survived.

Today, there is a renewed interest in home brewing and brewing locally on a small scale. Small breweries called microbreweries and brewpubs are operating in cities and many smaller towns all over the country. The beer made by these small breweries and by many home brewers is of very good quality.

Much of what was gained in brewing science and technology over the last few centuries has now become standard practice. For example, wide assortments of pure yeast cultures that provide unique characteristics to specific beer styles are available to brewers. A wealth of brewing information exists in textbooks, journals, magazines, etc. Home brewers concerned with learning about a particular technique or ingredient can generally find pertinent information without resorting to experimentation as was done in the past.

Continued In: Beer - It All Starts With Quality Ingredients

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