History of Craft Beer from a Beer and Refrigeration Geek
I would like to start this article off by first saying I’m a beer geek and on top of that a refrigeration geek as well. I have written a couple of articles, which pertain to refrigeration and the craft brew process. The inspiration for this article comes partially from information learned from previous articles and partially from a recent conversation had with Jeff at Toolshed Brewery, one of our fine city’s up-and-coming craft brewers.
While it has little to do with the process of brewing, it is more about the very interesting history of beer brewing in general.
The beer story begins as far back as the fifth millennium BC.
Actually recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt. Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced. The word itself comes from the German language and has since been adopted worldwide.
The light beer we enjoy today was birthed in European countries such as Germany and most of today’s beer is known as lager. The name lager comes from the process of laagering or chilling the beer down once the fermentation and filtration process has been complete. Early brewmasters stored their beer deep inside caves where it could be effectively chilled down, in essence performing the laagering process.
In the early 17th century this process made its way to the Americas with the influx of settlers from European peoples. In the early days, the laagering process was made possible by using large blocks of ice to chill the beer down, this posed a problem, no brewing in the warm months as there was no availability of ice.
As a refrigeration geek, one of the most interesting facts which many people in the refrigeration industry don’t even know is that modern-day refrigeration was developed to overcome the issue of running out of ice. With the development of refrigeration came the ability to produce consistent batches of lager year-round.
Most people would think that refrigeration was developed to cool food such as meat or dairy products although it was not. While many people were ill from consuming tainted meat and dairy products, they still had cold beer! Sometime later, refrigeration found its way into the meat and dairy area.
Another interesting process born from brewing was the pasteurization process, allowing to create cleaner/crisper products. The dairy processors quickly adopted this process.
After all these technological advancements the brewing process has been virtually unchanged. Most breweries started out as family run operations but as globalization increased over the past 20+ years, most of the small breweries were bought out by larger corporations in a move to each the small brewery customers and distribution areas. Due to this, the number of authentic small craft breweries had greatly diminished.
And then the current craft beer movement began… happy to see in this day there has been a resurgence, and an influx of smaller craft breweries who are greatly improving access to a wide variety of beer again, giving us lucky customers hundreds of choices, types and flavours of delicious beers.
Hope you enjoyed a little brew history! Cheers!!