The Ultimate Guide to Beer

To celebrate ‘Beer Day Britain’ we explore the world's third best-selling drink. Yes, beer is one of the world's top sellers, behind tea and water. Who knew?!

The History of Beer

Our love for beer started roughly 7000 years ago, no, we didn't add an extra zero by accident. The first documented brewing process was captured on a papyrus scroll around 5000 B.C, where ancient Egyptians brewed beer using dates, pomegranate and other herbs, unrecognizable in modern beer standards.

While this may have been the oldest written evidence of brewing beer, it is believed that cultures in Mesopotamia (Western Asia) were the first brewers, an astonishing 12,000 years ago! This is believed to have happened by grain porridge naturally fermenting and causing an intoxicating effect on the person consuming it. 

Let’s move forward to somewhere slightly more recent in history - the Middle Ages.

Beer became an integral part of life during the Middle Ages for a few reasons. It wasn’t just valued for its nutritious value, but because it was a safer alternative to drinking water, since many sources had become contaminated by human waste. 

Due to this, Europeans started building breweries on a mass scale like never seen before. By the early 800s, monks in Switzerland had built the first full-scale brewery. 300 years later, German monks began utilising hops to add flavour and bitterness, as well as using them as a natural preservative for beer. This quickly caught on and becoming a popular addition. However, this was not the only way monks influenced the way in which beer is brewed. Monks also introduced the ideas of lagering, and cold storing to experiment and improve flavours. In fact, Belgian monasteries are still ranked as some of the top breweries in the world. 

England had their say in beer brewing too, with many beer styles rooted in Britain. It was such an important part of life that the British army provided beer rations for each soldier. This love for beer spread around the world as the British Empire grew. This is how the ever so popular Indian Pale Ale (IPA) came to be, being developed due to the need of sending beer to outposts in India and Burma without them going off. 

When it came to exploring the New World (USA), according to the journals of explorers, the reason they landed at Plymouth Rock was due to the lack of beer. Thus, the first structure ever built was a brewery. From that period onwards, American beers have had an English background, but this changed with the new waves of immigrants coming from all around the world, all bringing new recipes and techniques with them.

In recent years, craft beers and microbreweries have become even more popular, experimenting with tastes, ingredients and more!

What are hops?
Brewers have been known for adding something extra to give beer balance and depth. These are known as hops. These are a vital part of beer creation, alongside, water, barley and yeast.
Hops are the delicate, pale green flowers, used to add bitterness and aromas to the beer.

Do they matter?
Yes. Hops are essential when it comes to adding flavour and smells to each beer. Get it right and you’ll create a beer that’s delicious with incredible aroma, get it wrong and you'll end up with something bitter and unpleasant.

What are malts?
Malts are cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as “malting”. Soaking grains and drying them with hot air germinates the grain. 


Different types of beer

There are two types of beer, Ales and Lagers. This is determined by the type of yeast used during the fermentation together. 

Lagers are made with yeasts that sit on the bottom of the beer mixture when fermenting.
Ales are made with yeasts that sit on the top of the beer mixture when fermenting.

But what are the other types of beer?

Pale Lagers and Pilsners
Golden-coloured beers are light flavoured and low in alcoholic content. 

Dark Lagers
Smooth and malty with an extra hint of toasted caramel flavours allowing for lower bitterness.

German Bocks
Sweet and nutty, with a rich malty overtone. These have lower alcohol content too.

Brown Ales
Similar to Dark Lagers, this beer has a toasted caramel flavour with a malty overtone.

Pale Ales
Typically light in colour, these beers are hoppy in flavour but have a lower alcohol content than IPA’s.

India Pale Ales (IPAs)
Bitter, hoppy and full of floral flavours these beers tend to have a higher alcohol content. 

Dark in colour, these beers have flavours similar to chocolate, coffee and caramel. They are more chocolatey than brown ales, and less coffee-like than stouts.

Dark beers similar to Porters, but with a stronger roasted flavour.

Belgian Styles
High in alcohol content, these beers are spicy, sweet and contain a fruity flavour.

Wild & Sour Ales
Low in alcohol, these beers contain sour flavours that come from bacteria in brew mash.

Wheat Beers
Using wheat as their malt, these beers are lighter in colour and lower in alcohol content. They go great alongside fruit!

history of beer

What is a craft beer?
Craft beers are made in smaller batches and are usually independently owned, i.e not a massive international corporation. These brands pride themselves on flavours and brewing techniques.


Which one is the beer for me?
That’s really up to you, do you want something a little sweet and easier to drink if you’re a beginner? A wheat beer or a pale lager might be the one for you.

If you like the chocolaty or a coffee-like flavour, a stout or a porter might be the one for you. It really does depend on you and your palate, we recommend you try them all, find out what you like, explore different brands that utilise different hops and techniques until you find the perfect one for you.

What food should I have with beer?
There are thousands of food combinations out there, we know all about beer and barbecues as a classic summer combo. Others love the combination of a curry and a beer.
We have two recommendations:

1. Try different types of beers and slowly implement them with your favourite dishes. Once you discover what your favourite taste is, follow your instincts and try matching your favourite beer with something new.

2. Match the flavours -  if you have a nutty flavoured beer try matching it with something nutty, if you have a sweet flavour match it with something sweet, the sky's the limit!

Beer snacks

Where can I buy good beer?
It’s your lucky day! We have an incredible collection of great craft beers on our site.
As well as individual beers, with have gifts and collections with different types of beer, and different types of complimentary snacks too.

Fun Facts:

- There are only two drinks that are more widely consumed around the world apart from beer, they are tea, and you guessed it, water.

- In Medieval Britain beer was drunk more than water as the alcohol made it the safer drink to choose.

- The fear of an empty beer glass is officially known as Zymocenosilicaphobia.

Beer cheers