9 facts about beer you probably didn’t know (but should)

Ah, beer. It is our greatest friend, our closest confidante, and the mother and father of both our greatest mistakes and their solutions. So it makes sense that you should know as much about beer as possible.

Sure, you may think “open mouth, then pour” is all you need to know, but, frankly, you owe beer. Beer has feelings too, you know. But even if you’re not worried about your beer’s self-esteem, at least you’ll be able to astound other drunks with these nine facts about beer that you didn’t know.

9. It’s as Old as Civilization Itself – And Probably Even Older Than That

We know that beer was already sufficiently established to be mentioned all over the place in ancient writings (hieroglyphics, clay tablet etchings… whatever), most notably in the Code of Hammurabi, which contained regulations for beer and the ancient pubs that sold it. It also shows up in the Mesopotamian prayer “Hymn to Niskasi,” the goddess of beer, which just shows that the ancients had their priorities in order. Beyond that, we have hard evidence of beer being brewed in Godin Tepe, Iran around 3500 BC, the Chinese were fermenting their own rice beer even earlier than that in 7000 BC, and there is even some evidence that our Stone Age kin had that shit figured out as early as 9500 BC. What I’m saying is that next to making a decent fire, it seems like man’s first priority was to get hammered. It’s good to see we haven’t changed much.

8. It May Have Even Been the Key Factor in Civilization Forming in the First Place

The general theory goes like this: man was mostly a nomadic species, chasing game and picking berries as dictated by seasons, animal migratory patterns, etc., but then when man figured out how to domesticate wheat, he could settle down and that’s when towns started being built, laws passed, and societies formed. But a theory that has gained strength over the years amongst many scientists is that man didn’t start growing wheat so they could eat it. No, they started growing it once they discovered that fermenting it could get them hammered. Yes, the one and only thing that could get our ancient forefathers to settle down was the idea of getting blitzed. This explains so much.

7. Today it’s the Third Most Popular Drink in the World

Only third? Well, yes, but I can explain. The first two are water and tea. Now water is obvious and shouldn’t even count. We’re 75% water and without it we’d die. Of course it’s number one. Tea, on the other hand, is a byproduct of England’s empire building over the years. They got it from China and then spread it around the world. Essentially, it was forced on everyone. But beer? Beer has spread simply because beer is awesome. You could call it the people’s choice. Water to live, tea to placate the overlords, but beer to truly live and placate the soul. So, it may be the third most consumed drink, but let’s not play – beer is the real most popular drink in the world.

6. It’s So Important That There are Laws About How to Brew It

Man has long imposed various laws on that which is most important to him – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and all that jazz – so that it doesn’t all descend into anarchy. It makes sense, then, that man would also create laws to ensure that his beloved beer doesn’t become a victim of the madness of chance and shitty craftsmanship. Hops, which gives beer its flavor and keeps it from going bad, was first mentioned as an ingredient in 822 by a Carolingian monk, and by 1516, William IV, the Duke of Bavaria, decreed that all beer must contain water, hops and barley malt. I’m not sure what the punishment was for brewing beer with inferior ingredients, but given the times, I’m guessing it was probably a good stake burning. After all, heresy is heresy.

5. The Place With the Most Breweries Is…

Upper Franconia, a Bavarian region of Germany, which contains around 200 breweries. Look, there are two things that Germans are known world-wide for. One is brewing beer. The other… well, we won’t talk about the other. But really, it should make sense that the heart of Beerdonia is located somewhere in Germany, and more specifically in the Bavarian region, which is pretty much the beer capital of the world – think Oktoberfest, giant steins, gloriously bechested serving girls, etc. Beer lovers, this is your Garden of Eden.

4. The Oldest Brewery in the World Is…

Naturally, it’s a Bavarian brewery, the Benedictine Weihenstephan Brewery, which traces its history back to 768 AD even though it “only” received a license to brew beer in 1090 AD. It’s been in operation ever since, through two world wars, plagues and god only knows what else. Even the monks got in on that shit back in the day. That’s how hardcore Bavaria is – beer has always literally been a part of their religion.

3. The Biggest Beer Company in the World Is…

Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is a Belgian-Brazilian monstrosity composed of several different companies that have merged over the years. Anheuser-Busch is, of course, the most prominent, born in the heart of America – St. Louis – before being sold to the Belgians at InBev, previously known as Interbrew before they bought the Brazilian powerhouse AmBev. Got all that? The company produces Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and a whole shitload of other brand names, over 200 in all. It took the title from SABMiller, now number two, a London conglomerate which bought up Miller to go with brands like Fosters and Grolsch. Basically, most of the big label beers are run by one or two giant companies, which is no different than anything else these days, I guess. Oh well. Viva microbrews!

2. The Strongest Beer in the World Is…

Schorschbrau’s Schorschbock 57. Say that five times fast. Or hell, even one time. Anyway, it has an alcohol content of 57.5%, which means that, in purely technical terms, it will get you fucked up. That’s stronger than most hard liquors, which makes sense because they kinda cheat when they make it. What they do is something called fractional freezing, in which they freeze the beer and then remove the frozen water in the form of ice. They do this over and over and over again until finally they are left with a beer that is more alcohol than anything else. Some have complained that this actually changes the finished product from beer to a hard spirit, mostly because people are pedantic and like to complain about things, especially beer aficionados. But the Schorschbock 57 is officially classified as a beer, so who are we to argue, especially with Germans?

1. The Most Popular Beer Single Beer in the World Is…

Snow. Wait… Snow? What the hell is Snow? Well, the Beer Champion of the World is a Chinese beer, brewed in conjunction with SABMiller, which makes sense when you consider that China has over one billion people and is kind of, well, let’s say insular. Snow sold almost 75 million barrels worth of beer last year, which is double the amount sold by the number two beer, Bud Light. No surprise on that one, right? Snow itself is pretty mild – only 3.2% alcohol, with an empty watery taste. Basically, it’s the Chinese version of Bud Light, okay? By the way, the most popular import in America? Corona Extra, which sold $592.9 million worth of beer last year in the United States. Basically, World War 3 will be fought over beer. I’m sure of it. And after everything you’ve read here, can you really argue any differently? Beer created this world, and beer will one day bring it down. It’s poetic, really.

Beer wench image by Shutterstock
Upper Franconia image: Bernt Rostad, Flickr
Snow beer image: Dongdao