What is beer?
Beer, as Wikipedia clearly puts, “is the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic drink.” It is a brewed alcohol made from fermented sugar derived from cereal grains or malted barley, and usually flavoured with hops.
You have seen the frothing contents from, usually green, bottles poured into long glasses at bars and lounges. In other instances, you have seen the amazing adverts of some of the world’s most popular beer brands, and have wondered what exactly the drink is.
For so many, beer was their first taste of alcohol; and we can’t forget the little squeeze on the faces of our sons when we gave them their first sip of beer.
According to research, beer is the third overall most popular drink, coming behind water and tea. Now with such a statistic attached to the drink, it shows you how much love the world has for it.
History of Beer
As recorded on papyrus scrolls around 5,000 B.C. by ancient Egyptians, the first brews of beer were made from dates, pomegranates, and other indigenous herbs. They were mostly used for religious ceremonies which were presided over by the Pharoahs, little wonder the royal heads of ancient Egypt are considered as the first brew masters.
According to Wikipedia, “in 1868 James Death put forward a theory in The Beer of the Bible that the manna from heaven that God gave the Israelites was a bread-based, porridge-like beer called wusa.” This was due to the popularity o
Before the Egyptians, there are records that say beer was brewed in the ancient city of Mesopotamia. Malted barley scraps and bowls with beer like residue have been dug up by archeologists. There are also mentions of beer in ancient poems and literature from different world cultures that have confirmed the presence of the brewed alcohol for years. Further findings revealed that Chinese villagers were brewing fermented alcoholic drinks as far back as 7000 BC.
The culture of brewing beer was eventually imported to Europe where it became an integral part of the people’s culture. It was valued both for its nutritional value as well as its role as a substitute to water.
Brewed mainly in monasteries and convents (hospitality for traveling pilgrims), beer was used for tithing, trading, payment and taxing during Medieval times in Europe.
The adoption of beer in Europe led to a new practice of brewing, which many refer to as the dawn of the modern beer – as we know it.
Besides the use of malted barley as the main source of fermentable sugar, hops was also introduced as a bittering and flavouring agent around1150. The recipe was introduced by German monks. Before that time, many different herbs and spices were used to balance the sweet malt flavors in beer; everything from spruce boughs to dried flowers to bitter roots had found their way into brew kettles. The idea was bought by brewers as they found that hops added a very pleasing, thirst quenching bitterness and, as an added benefit, the hops acted as a natural preservative extending the life of their beers.
Germany, along with Belgium and the British Isles soon became a major brewing centre across Europe – mainly for the new inventions they added to brewing beer. The Germans introduced the lager brew of beer, while pale ales, porters, and stouts have been brewed in England and Ireland for hundreds of years.
Through colonisation, beer spread to other parts of the world including West and Southern Africa and the Americas. It is reported that the European colonists had the need to brew beer after running out of the supply they brought with them.
How Beer is made
Barley, hops, water and yeast are the core ingredients needed to make your favourite alcohol beverage -beer. The basic procedure involves the extracting the sugars from grains (usually barley) so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2, creating beer.
After harvesting the grains (usually barley although sometimes rye, wheat or sorghum maybe used), it is malted through a process of heating, drying out and cracking. This allows for the separation of the enzymes needed for brewing.
The grains are now mashed in hot water (not boiling) for about an hour. The enzymes in the grain are activated at this point and release its sugars. The water now becomes a sticky, sweet liquid called wort. The wort is then boiled for an hour, while hops and other ingredients are added to it. Hops are small, green cone-like fruit of a vine plant provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort and provide flavor.
When the boiling is done, the wort is cooled, filtered and added to a fermenting vessel. Yeast is added to the liquid and the solution is allowed to ferment for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or many many weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers).
When fermentation, the beer is ready, but it is flat in taste as it is not carbonated. To carbonate it, the flat beer is bottled, at which time it is either artificially carbonated like a soda. In the case of bottle conditioning, it’s allowed to naturally carbonate using the CO2 produced by the yeast.
The beer is allowed to age for a period ranging from a few weeks to a few months before being sold out for consumption.
Health Benefits of Beer
Apparently beer is not just popular because of its great bitter-sweet taste, or its refreshing feel to the body. The beverage has a whole lot of health benefits for the body.
1. It can help reduce risk of heart disease
Beer contains phenol, a natural antioxidant that protects the heart. However, a high consumption of beer does more harm to the heart than good. So it is best to always take in a controlled amount.
2. Prevents type 2 diabetes
According to a study by Dutch researchers, men who drink moderate amount of beer are less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
3. Reduces the risk of having kidney stones
Researchers in Finland concluded that in take of beer reduces the risk of having kidney stones by 40%. This is as a result of the hops in the beer that slows the release of calcium from bone—which could get reabsorbed by the kidneys as painful stones. This plays out via the frequent visits to the rest room for drinkers of beer.
4. Protects against Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine concluded after several studies that beer drinkers were 23% less likely to develop different forms of dementia and cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s. The silicon in beer helps protects the brain from aluminum and other substances that may possibly cause Alzheimer’s.
5. Reduces the risk of cancer
Beer has been proven to contain an important antioxidant known as xanthohumol, which acts as a powerful anti-cancer properties, helping to fight off cancer-causing enzymes in the body. It has been reported that beer also leads to a reduced rate of breast cancer in women.
6.It can help strengthen bones
The moderate consumption of beer helps in building stronger bones as a result of the silicon contained in the beer which helps to develop a higher bone density.
7. Boosts self-confidence
You know that immediate confidence boost you get after a few glasses of beer? Well, scientists have proven that the drink itself causes you to feel more confident. British researchers found the more glasses of beer people consumed, the more attractive they found themselves, the more their cognitive performance.
8. Helps treat dandruff
Beer is considered one of the most natural treatments of dandruff. The high yeast and vitamin B contents in beer works against the dandruff in your hair if you rinse your hair with a bottle of beer two to three times a week. It also make the hair soft and shiny.
9. A balanced diet.
Beer can some times pass as food as it contains all the essential ingredients that makes up a balanced diet – carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and calories that build the body.
10. Reduces cholesterol levels in the body.
Beer is made from grain such as barley which makes it rich in fibre. The barley contains a soluble fibre known as beta-glucans that has been shown to help in lowering cholesterol levels.
Some of the popular beer brands in Nigeria
- Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
- Legend Stout
- 33 Lager
- Wilfort Ale
- Castle Stout