The practice of brewing beer has been performed for thousands of years throughout the world. In some cultures brewing beer was a specialised trade, in a few instances even reserved for the chosen few or only for priests and other religious figures. Knowing how to brew beer in those societies was a closely guarded secret and now you can do it in the back garden!
Beer could be considered one of the worlds oldest prepared beverages and may date back as far as 9500 BCE when cereal crops such as barley were first farmed by neolithic man. Early Sumerian writings contain references to beer and the famous Ebla tablets note that the city of Ebla in Syria produced a range of beers, including one named after the city itself. The tablets include instructions on how to brew beer in the form of a hymn to the godess Ninkasi, the Mesopotamian godess of beer. The middle east was not the only known consumer of beer at this time, Europe was introduced to beer by Germanic and Celtic tribes as far back as 3000 BCE.
For much of its history brewing beer and its early equivelents was performed in the home at a domestic level and learning how to brew beer was passed down through the generations through word of mouth. By the seventh century beer was also being produced and sold by monastries. The beer produced by early Europeans might not be recognised as beer today, it contained a basic starch source and was flavoured by fruits, spices, honey and other plants. Hops were not used in beer until around 822 AD and the uptake of hopping beer was slow and not considered an essential component of beer until the late 1400’s. Adding hops to beer prevented it from spoiling and was a key factor in allowing it to be exported.
The industrial revolution brought about great changes in the way beer was produced and beer brewing became less of an art as it started to produced on an industrial scale. After this time in many countries homebrewing was made illegal and domestic brewing of beer virtually ceased, only being legalised again in the later half of the 20th century. In most countries homebrewing beer is once again quite legal with no limits to the strength or quantity of beer produced with the only limitation being that it must not be sold but consumed in the household in which it was produced. Other countries impose limits on how much beer the household can produce and some, Japan for example, limit the alcohol strength of the beer yet freely admit that there is no way to police the homebrewer effectively giving them a free hand in whatever they produce.
A wise first step for anyone considering homebrewing as a hobby would be to determine if brewing beer at home is legal in the part of the world they reside and what limitations and regulations are imposed on them before they start.
The objective of this web site is to teach the reader how to brew beer. In the last twenty five years there have been great advances in homebrewing that have increased the number of choices available to homebrewers. Early homebrewing followed traditional methods of mashing malted and cracked barley and adding hops at a boil off stage. This is referred to as all grain brewing and it closely follows the way beer has been produced for centuries but using modern equipment. A later advancement came in the form of prehopped malt extracts that take much of the work out of home brewing. Prehopped malt extracts are a concentrated wort that has been mashed and hopped then boiled to reduce it to around 1.5 litres in volume. It is then sealed in a can and all the homebrewer need do is mix it with water and add yeast, taking much of the work out of brewing beer and allowing for a more consistant end result.
These days the majority of homebrewers prefer to use prehopped malt extracts as they are easy to make and cheap to buy. The end product rivals a commercially made beer in quality and the results are generally more consistant. All grain brewing is in decline as it can be somewhat more expensive and definetely more time consuming to produce a beer from scratch. Having said that I know many all grain brewers that take significant pride in their finished beers and produce a unique product that can be considered the work of an artisan.
Whether you choose to use a prehopped malt extract or kit beer as they are sometimes called or make your beer using grains is a personal choice. I advise beginners to start with malt extracts until they get the hang of things and then progress to grains when they feel confident, if they feel the need to brew their beer the traditional way at all. If you like a beer and just want to save a few dollars then malt extracts are all you will likely need or want. If you take your beer a little more seriously or would like a hobby that will provide hours of enjoyment then all grain beer brewing might be just what you need. Both of these types of beer brewing are covered on this website and we certainly hope that it helps you learn how to brew beer.