Beer is the worlds oldest alcoholic beverage and comes in at third after water and tea in beverages consumed overall. Beer is made from the brewing and fermentation of starches, particularly barley. Beer gets flavoring from hops that create a level of bitterness to the beer and also acts as a preservative. Because almost any substance containing sugar or starch can naturally undergo fermentation it is believed that beer-like beverages were independently invented by a number of civilizations across the Earth.
Beer possibly dates all the way back to 9000 BC in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Beer was part of a Pharaohs daily diet in ancient Egypt and was used in religious practices. The earliest chemical evidence of beer dates back to 3100 BC in the mountains of western Iran. Some early Sumerian writings show references to a certain type of beer. The writings served as both a prayer as well as a method of remembering the recipe for the beer. Other writings discovered in Elba, Syria dating back to 2500 BC reveal that the city produced a number of different beers.
Based on historical evidence, it seems that the Egyptians taught the beer brewing process to the Greeks, the Greeks taught the Romans, and the Romans in turn taught the British and Anglo-Saxons. Beer spread through Europe by non other than the Irish and the Germans as far back as 3000 BC. However, people may not recognize the product the early Europeans drank as beer today because, although it contained starch, herbs, and narcotics, it did not contain hops. Beers perfect accessory, the beer mug, is believed to have originated in Israel almost as far back as 2000 BC.
During the rise of Christianity the brewing of beer grew remarkably due to the fact that monks had major roles in the production of beer. Monasteries were some of the first groups to brew beer to provide comfort to travelers. Many Christian saints are patrons of brewing beer, even the one and only Saint Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus.
Beer has come a long way both geographically and culturally since its birth thousands and thousands years ago. The brewing process has passed through the hands of artisanal manufacturers to industrial manufacturers in almost every culture. In 2006 the total global revenues from beer reached over 294 billion dollars. Anheuser-Buschs Budweiser and Bud Lite are number one and number two atop the list of global beer producers with Coors and Miller ranking at six and eight placing America in four spots in the top ten, more than any other country. It seems good ole Saint Nick keeps bringing America its favorite beverage, beer.