Historical Myths Around Beer

Historical Myths Around Beer

As the third most popular and one of the oldest drinks in existence, Beer has had a headstart in the development of fanciful stories about how people used to drink, make and value it in the past.

Some of these stories are true, such as how pyramid workers were paid with beer, how one beer used by the ancient Nubians was used as an antibiotic and that in a world before people knew about water filtration, brewing beer was used to purify it.

Given all of this, is it really a shock that a delicious non-alcoholic, low-calorie beer range exists?

However, with so many fascinating true stories about beer, it is perhaps less surprising that there are some very commonly stated and restated stories about one of the world’s oldest drinks that are either exaggerated or simply untrue.

 

Medieval People Drank More Beer Than Water

Beer in the middle ages was wildly popular, particularly in Northern England and Northern Europe where wine-producing grapes were harder to grow, and some reports even claim daily consumption of the drink.

However, one particularly popular story claims that many Medieval people drank alcoholic drinks to avoid drinking dirty or unhealthy water, which despite its popularity in academic circles, is not true.

Part of the reason the rumour spread so much is simply that in the early Middle Ages far less history was written. It is called the Dark Ages for a reason, after all.

However, the written evidence we do have from the era shows a very casual approach to drinking water and knowledge at least on a basic level as to water purity. At least they knew to drink only clear, odourless cold water.

In fact, water was often used to dilute wine even back then.

 

IPA Is In Any Way Related To India

The Victorian era loved to play mythmaker, and in the early age of advertising and marketing for products, nearly everything sold in a shop had a finely weaved fictional yarn about how it could cure what ails (or is that “ales”?) you.

However, one of the biggest myths out there is the origin of “India” pale ale. IPAs are hugely popular to this day, and the most common story is that they received their name because they were sent out to troops in the furthest reaches of the British Empire based in India.

According to the same myth, the reason they are stronger and hoppier than other beers is out of necessity; they needed to be strong during the four-month trip around Africa (before the construction of the Suez Canal) to avoid souring and going off.

Neither part of this is true; pale ales have existed since the 17th century, if not earlier, and were being shipped to India by the latter part of the 18th century.

The funniest part of the myth is that troops based in India didn’t even like IPA that much; both the East India Company and the British Army soldiers stationed there preferred porter.

 

All Beer Was Sour Before Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur was a scientist whose work on germ theory is the reason we have effective vaccinations for diseases such as rabies, and how we know the reason why food and drink can spoil and make us ill.

His pioneering work in fermentation is his greatest gift to beer, as his work led to increased knowledge on the role of yeast in fermentation and proved it by souring a wine using a different microbe to ferment the grapes.

However, this has led to the myth that all beers pre-Pasteur were tart and difficult to drink, which by all accounts is untrue. Whilst there was less knowledge on why some beers turned out sourer than others, they were aware of keeping beers clean and controlling temperature.


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