A Brief History Of Beer – Part 1 4300 BC – AD1502

4300 BC

Babylonian clay tablets detail recipes for beer.

3000 BC

Chinese brewed beer called “Kui.”


The imperial Egypt of the Pharaohs- beer was already an important food item in the daily diet and was made from lightly baked barley bread. Beer was also used as a sacrament.

2100 BC

Hammuabi, the 6th king of Babylonia specified provisions regulating the business of tavern keepers in his great law code covering the sale of beer. These laws were designed to protect the public. If an innkeeper gave a short measure their punishment was drowning.


Mesopotamia-A 4000 year old clay tablet suggest that brewing was a highly thought of profession, the maltsters being women.

2000 BC

Shards of drinking cups found on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands suggest that beverages were made with heather flowers.

2000 BC

An Assyrian tablet suggests that beer was among the first provisions that Noah took onto the ark.

1800 BC

A hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumarian goddess of brewing,is a song of praise and also the oldest recorded beer recipe.

1600 BC

A medical document list about 700 prescriptions, 100 of these contained the word ‘beer’.

1550-1100 BC

Archaeological excavations have found the presence of beer-making utensils in the kitchen of Queen Nefertiti’s temple at Tel el-Armana.

1200 BC

Pharaoh Rameses ll made a yearly offering of 30 000 gallons of beer to the Gods.

1000 BC

· 3000 year old beer mugs were unearthed in Israel in the 1960’s.

· Residue from a Norse ceremonial drinking pail gives evidence that the Danes were making beer from wheat, berries and bog myrtle.

450 BC

Famous Greek writer Sophocles stressed moderation and recommended a diet of “bread, meat, green vegetables and zythos (beer).”

55 BC

Roman Legions introduced beer to Northern Europe.

49 BC

Julius Caesar, following the fateful crossing in 49 BC of the River Rubicon, toasted his officers with beer. This was the beginning of the Roman Civil War.

AD 438-441

Senchus Mor, the book of the ancient laws of Ireland states that Saint Patrick had amongst his household a brewer, – a priest called Mescan.

AD 540

Saint Mungo, the patron saint of Scotland’s oldest city, Glasgow, established a religious brotherhood and one of the brothers started brewing to supply the others.

AD 580

Arnold who was ordained bishop of Metz, France in AD 612 was the patron saint of brewing.

AD 616

During the reign of King Ethelbert of Kent ale was made using spices instead of hops. This ale called Gruit was the chosen beverage for 500 years in England.

AD 742-814

Christian ruler and emperor Charlemagne, who thought beer was an important item for moderate living, trained the realm’s brewmasters himself.

AD 822

Hops began to be grown in England.

AD 1000

Hops began to be used in brewing processes.

AD 1040

‘Weihenstephan’ a Benedictine monastery in Germany was the first known brewery.

12th Century

Hofbraus in Freising, Germany was originally the household brewery of the Bishop.

AD 1158

When Saint Thomas A’Becket went to France in 1158 to seek the hand of a French princess for Prince Henry of England, he took several barrels of British ale as gifts.


Beer making is firmly established as a commercial enterprise in Germany, Austria and England.


Duke Jan Primus of Belgium was acclaimed as the ‘king of beer’ and could drink 144 mugs during a single feast. He also passed a law forbidding adulteration of beer.

AD 1260

Duke Ludwig of Bavaria maintained his own brewery.

AD 1295

King Wenceslas grants Pilsen of Bohemia brewing rights. (formerly Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia and Czech Republic).

AD 1300’s (late)

London had 2000 pubs to serve its 35000 citizens.

AD 1367-1404

William of Wykeham founded a Pilgrim’s Dole of ale and bread.

AD 1400’s

The original ‘lager’ beer was made in Germany by storing beer in caves at the foothills of the Alps, which promoted slow clean fermentation.

15th Century

· Dutch beer begins to be imported to England.

· Before the fifteenth century beer was always known as ale and made from malted barley (or other grains) and water.

· In the fifteenth century beer was introduced from Flanders in Belgium using Hops for bittering and preserving.

· By the end of the century beer had almost replaced the old English sweet ale and was being exported to Europe.

AD 1489

Germany’s first brewing Guild, ‘Brauerei Beck,’ was established.


Columbus found Indians making beer from corn and black birch sap.

AD 16th Century

· Flemish hop farmers migrate to Kent in England bringing their skills of growing hops and its uses in the making of beer.

· The Dean of St Pauls is credited with the invention of bottled ale.

· Beer first arrived in America on Christopher Columbus’s ships.

AD 1502

· Columbus found the natives of Central America making beer from “maize, resembling English beer”.

· The Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock, instead of further south as planned, partly because they were out of beer.

Alicia D. Walker

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