Who Invented Beer? The Entire History of Beer

As a beer enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated by the rich and deep-rooted history of beer. Like many, I found myself asking “who invented beer?” and “when was beer invented?”.

The origins of this beloved beverage date back thousands of years, to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. Let’s embark on a historical journey, exploring when beer was invented, how beer has evolved over thousands of years, and what the future of beer holds for us all.

Origins of Beer: When Was Beer Invented and Who Invented Beer?

For those wondering who invented beer and when beer was invented, the first recorded instances of beer brewing originated with the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. This was a historical region located in the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily present-day Iraq.

This ancient civilization, which flourished around 4,000 to 3,500 B.C., holds the distinction of being one of the earliest cradles of civilization. Cuneiform tablets dating back to this period depict scenes of people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. Historians and archaeologists believe that this beverage was beer, and it was a fundamental part of Sumerian society.

The Sumerians revered the beverage to such an extent that they had a goddess of beer, Ninkasi. A hymn to Ninkasi, inscribed on a clay tablet, not only sings her praises but also remarkably details the beer brewing process. From these ancient inscriptions, we learn that the Sumerian beer was probably a concoction of fermented bread, barley, and honey, with a consistency closer to porridge than the beer we know today.

Interestingly, the Sumerians passed their brewing techniques to the Babylonians, who further carried this precious knowledge to other parts of the world, including Egypt. The Egyptians also played a significant role in the history of beer. Hieroglyphics, their pictorial writing system, show scenes of beer brewing and its consumption, especially during religious ceremonies. Beer was a daily dietary staple, consumed by adults and children alike, and it was also used as a form of currency.

Meanwhile, in the Far East, the Chinese were independently crafting their own version of beer. Archaeologists have discovered ancient earthenware pots with a residue of a beer-like substance. Radiocarbon dating indicates these vessels are from the late Stone Age, around 7,000 B.C. The residue analysis revealed traces of fermented grains such as barley, wheat, millet, and Job’s tears. This shows that beer brewing in China could possibly predate the Sumerian practices.

These early origins of beer are not just the beginning of a beloved beverage. They mark the inception of an enduring tradition, connecting us to our ancient ancestors through the shared enjoyment of this fermented elixir. From the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Chinese to today’s craft brewers, the story of beer is the story of civilization itself.

The Middle Ages: Introduction of “Hops”

The Middle Ages, a period from the 5th to the 15th centuries, was a transformative time for beer. The monastic orders, especially the Benedictines, had a significant influence on beer’s development during this era.

Monastic Brewing became prevalent in Europe, with monasteries establishing their own breweries to sustain themselves financially and provide sustenance for pilgrims and travelers. Monks advanced the brewing process by cultivating high-quality grains and hops, creating more consistent and palatable brews. The famous Trappist beers we know today have their roots in these monastic breweries.

Introduction of Hops

The Middle Ages also marked a milestone in brewing with the introduction of hops. Before this, a mix of herbs known as gruit was used to add flavor and preserve the beer.

However, the beneficial properties of hops, including their preservative qualities and unique taste, started to gain recognition. In the 9th century, records from Carolingian monasteries show the use of hops in beer. By the 13th century, hopped beer became more widespread, leading to the more familiar taste we associate with modern beer.

In addition to improving the beer’s taste and longevity, hops also had an economic impact. The rise of hopped beer sparked disputes between those who made gruit beer and those who brewed with hops. These conflicts, known as “Beer Wars,” led to regulations around the brewing and selling of beer. It gave rise to the brewing industry as we know it today.

During the Middle Ages, the brewing industry also started to become more professionalized. Brewers began to organize themselves into guilds, such as the London Brewers Guild established in 1342. These guilds set quality standards, provided mutual support among members, and protected their trade interests. They laid the foundation for the modern brewing industry, ensuring the art of brewing beer was passed down through generations.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, occurring between the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, brought about monumental changes in the brewing industry. Prior to this period, brewing was primarily a home-based or monastery-based craft. However, the Industrial Revolution introduced new technologies and techniques that dramatically transformed the brewing process, leading to the birth of commercial brewing.

Steam Engine Invention

A pivotal invention that greatly impacted brewing was the steam engine, introduced by James Watt in 1775. This invention reduced the dependency on manual labor and animal power in the production of beer, thus increasing efficiency and production capacities. The steam engine allowed brewers to construct larger breweries, churning out beer on a scale previously unimaginable.


The introduction of refrigeration in the 19th century, attributed to Carl von Linde, was another turning point for beer production. Prior to refrigeration, brewing was primarily a seasonal activity, constrained to cooler months due to the need for lower temperatures during fermentation. With refrigeration, brewers gained the ability to control the brewing environment, allowing for year-round production and improved beer quality and consistency.

Hydrometers and Thermometers

The Industrial Revolution also witnessed the development of hydrometers and thermometers, crucial tools for brewers. The hydrometer, a device that measures the density of liquids, allowed brewers to determine the alcohol content in their beers, leading to more consistent brews. The thermometer gave brewers the ability to monitor and control the temperature during brewing, further enhancing the quality of beer. (Speaking of alcohol content, click here to learn about how many beers results in a .08 on a breathalyzer.)


The advent of railroads and better road networks during this period also greatly affected the distribution and availability of beer. Beer could now be transported further and faster, leading to the expansion of market reach for breweries.

Advertising and Marketing

Finally, the industrial era led to the rise of advertising and marketing in the beer industry. Brands like Pabst, Anheuser-Busch, and Schlitz began using new advertising methods to promote their beers, a tradition that continues to this day.

Modern Beer

In the modern age, beer has taken on a whole new identity. The explosion of craft breweries around the globe and the creativity with which brewers approach their craft has revolutionized the industry.

Impact of Craft Breweries

The modern beer landscape is characterized by an unprecedented diversity of styles and flavors. Craft breweries, defined as independent breweries that produce small amounts of beer compared to large-scale corporate breweries, have become immensely popular. As of 2021, there were more than 8,000 craft breweries in the United States alone. Craft breweries typically focus on quality, flavor, and traditional brewing methods.

A crucial trend in modern beer culture is the resurgence of ancient and traditional beer styles. Be it Belgian Trappist brews, German Weizens, British Ales, or the Russian Imperial Stout, there is an ever-increasing interest in the traditional brewing styles of various cultures. Craft brewers often experiment by adding unique ingredients or changing the brewing process to put a new spin on these old classics.

New Beer Styles

Moreover, the modern beer era has seen the rise of new beer styles. For example, India Pale Ale (IPA) has witnessed a dramatic rise in popularity, particularly in the United States. Initially brewed in the 18th century for export to India, the IPA has been embraced and adapted by craft brewers who have pushed the boundaries of the style’s signature hoppiness and high alcohol content.

In addition to new and traditional styles, there is also a rising trend in brewing non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers. These beers cater to a growing market of consumers who wish to enjoy the flavor of beer without the effects of alcohol.

Modern beer has also been greatly influenced by the sustainability movement. Many breweries are working towards reducing their environmental impact through practices such as water conservation, energy efficiency, and sourcing local ingredients.

Lastly, the internet and social media have brought beer enthusiasts closer together, fostering a global beer community. Beer ratings apps, craft beer blogs, and online homebrewing forums have given beer lovers new ways to share their passion, knowledge, and experiences.

The Cultural Significance

Beer’s cultural significance extends far beyond its role as a simple beverage. For thousands of years, beer has played a vital role in human societies, acting as a social lubricant, a means of trade, and a symbol of prosperity and goodwill.

In many cultures, beer is often associated with social gatherings and celebrations. From casual hangouts at the local pub to major life events like weddings and birthdays, beer is often present, symbolizing friendship, unity, and shared joy. The ‘cheers’ or ‘toast’ ritual seen worldwide signifies this bond, a communal acknowledgement of good health and happiness.

Impact on Economics

Beer also plays a crucial role in economic activities. Breweries create jobs, generate tax revenue, and contribute to local economies. The craft beer revolution has led to the establishment of countless small businesses, revitalizing communities and often becoming points of local pride.

National Identities

Furthermore, beer is deeply embedded in national identities. Belgium, for example, is internationally renowned for its wide array of unique beers, and its beer culture has even been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Germany is famous for its Reinheitsgebot, a beer purity law dating back to the 1500s, and its annual Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival. There are also many other special beer days and events, such as National Beer Day that is observed in the United States and the annual Hawaii Bacon and Beer Fest.

The brewing process itself is a revered tradition in many cultures, often passed down through generations. Homebrewing, once a household necessity, is now a popular hobby for those wanting to experiment and connect with this age-old practice.

Arts and Sciences

Lastly, beer has also influenced the arts and sciences. It has been the subject of countless songs, paintings, and literary works, reflecting its central role in the human experience. In science, the study of fermentation has contributed to important advancements in microbiology.

The Future of Beer

As we look towards the future of beer, it’s clear that the beverage continues to evolve. Driven by technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and a strong focus on sustainability, the future of beer is shaping up to be as diverse and innovative as its past.

Sustainable Brewing

Sustainability is becoming a major focus in the brewing industry. As environmental consciousness grows among consumers, breweries are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and utilize resources more efficiently. This involves several aspects, from sourcing local ingredients to minimize transportation emissions, to improving water efficiency in the brewing process, as brewing traditionally uses a significant amount of water.

Some breweries are also turning to renewable energy sources to power their operations. For example, many have installed solar panels or wind turbines to generate electricity. Others are exploring the use of bioenergy, particularly using spent grains, a by-product of the brewing process, as a source of fuel.

Packaging is another area where sustainability is playing a role. Many breweries are moving away from plastic packaging and using more environmentally friendly options. This includes recyclable cans and bottles, biodegradable six-pack rings, and even reusable growlers that customers can refill at the brewery.

Innovative Brewing Techniques

In addition to sustainable practices, breweries are also leveraging technological advancements to develop innovative brewing techniques. One of these is precision fermentation, a process that allows for the creation of alcohol without traditional brewing methods. By using engineered yeast that can produce alcohol from simple sugars, this technique opens up new possibilities for the types of beverages that can be produced.

Another trend is the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence in the brewing process. Brewers can collect and analyze data from different stages of brewing to fine-tune their recipes and processes. This results in more consistent and high-quality beers.

Space Beer

The future of beer may also extend beyond our planet. As space travel becomes more accessible, some breweries are exploring the possibility of brewing beer in space. Companies like Budweiser have already sent barley, one of the main ingredients in beer, to the International Space Station. They are going to study how it grows in a microgravity environment.

While the concept of space beer may sound like a marketing gimmick, it serves a practical purpose. If humans are to establish long-term colonies in space, they’ll need to produce food and beverages. Understanding how to brew beer in space could provide insights into how to produce other fermented foods and beverages. This will contribe to the sustainability of space colonies.

Non-Alcoholic and Low-Alcoholic Beers

Driven by a growing consumer focus on health and wellness, there is an increasing demand for non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beers. Brewers are stepping up to meet this demand by crafting beers that retain the flavor and complexity of their alcoholic counterparts, but with little to no alcohol content.

The market for these “sober” beers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, offering opportunities for breweries to innovate and expand their product offerings. Advanced brewing techniques and unique ingredients are being used to create flavorful and satisfying non-alcoholic beers.

The Future is Craft

As more people become interested in the stories behind their food and drinks, the trend of craft breweries is expected to continue. These smaller, independent breweries focus on quality, flavor, and traditional brewing methods, often experimenting with unique ingredients and brewing techniques. The future will likely see an even greater variety of beer styles and flavors, with a continued emphasis on local, artisanal products.


So, when was beer invented and who invented beer? The answer is layered and complex. Various civilizations throughout history have contributed to the development and refinement of this ancient beverage. Beer is more than just a beverage; it’s a testament to human ingenuity and the enduring quest for enjoyment.

Who Invented Beer and History of Beer FAQs

When was beer first invented?

The earliest evidence of beer dates back to around 4,000 to 3,500 B.C.. This was during the time of the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia.

Who were the first known brewers of beer?

The first known brewers of beer were the Sumerians, an ancient civilization in Mesopotamia. They even had a goddess of beer, Ninkasi.

How was beer made in ancient times?

Ancient Sumerian beer was likely a mix of fermented bread, barley, and honey. It probably had a consistency closer to porridge than the beer we know today.

What role did beer play in ancient societies?

Beer was a fundamental part of ancient societies. It was used in religious ceremonies, as a dietary staple, and even as a form of currency.

When were hops introduced into the brewing process?

The use of hops in beer started to become widespread in the 13th century, during the Middle Ages.

What impact did the Industrial Revolution have on beer production?

The Industrial Revolution introduced new technologies and techniques. These dramatically transformed the brewing process, leading to the birth of commercial brewing. It allowed for larger breweries, year-round production, improved beer quality, and expanded distribution of beer.

What is the current state of the beer industry?

The modern beer industry is characterized by an unprecedented diversity of styles and flavors. Craft breweries focusing on quality, flavor, and traditional brewing methods have become immensely popular.

What are some trends in the modern beer industry?

Current trends in the modern beer industry include a resurgence of ancient and traditional beer styles, the rise of new beer styles, an increased interest in non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers, and a focus on sustainable brewing practices.

What is the cultural significance of beer?

Beer’s cultural significance extends far beyond its role as a simple beverage. It has played a vital role in human societies for thousands of years. It has acting as a social lubricant, a means of trade, a symbol of prosperity and goodwill, and an integral part of national identities and cultural traditions.

What does the future hold for the beer industry?

The future of the beer industry is likely to be shaped by a continued focus on sustainability, innovative brewing techniques, a growing demand for non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic beers, and the ongoing popularity of craft breweries.

beer your way

Michael Wilson

With over 15 years of experience in the beer industry, I love sharing both my own and other beer experts knowledge on everything beer related. I've always loved the fact that beer has brought cultures and people together for thousands of years and the tradition only continues to grow.

More to Explore

error: Content is protected !!