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More articles from March 2006 newsletter
St. Patrick's Day brings out the Irish in everyone. From shamrocks and leprechauns to green rivers and parades, March 17th is a day of celebration. For many revelers, a St. Patty's Day party would not be complete without one important provision: beer! Have you ever wondered what inventions paved the way for beer's journey from the brewery to the bar?
Beer's rich, diverse history dates back thousands of years. Historians speculate that prehistoric nomads may have made beer from grain and water even before learning how to make bread. The ancient Babylonians are credited with inventing the first recorded recipe of beer, which at the time was so valued that it was sometimes used to pay workers as part of their daily wages. Later, the Egyptians brewed beer for medical purposes, and as a necessity to be included in the burial provision for the journey to the afterlife. In an effort to ensure quality, the Egyptians decreed that any brewer who sold an unfit product was to be drowned in his or her own invention!
For centuries, beer and bread were mainstays in an ordinary person's diet. Life in close quarters and with poor sanitation made clean water difficult to find. The alcohol in beer made it safer to drink than water. During the Renaissance in Europe, beer-making gradually changed from a family-oriented activity to a commercial industry.
Today, there are more than 25 different styles of beer, each bearing its own unique properties. Irish beer, the featured star of St. Patrick's Day celebrations, is dominated by one brewer in particular. Arthur Guinness Son & Co., founded in 1756, produces stout, a dark beer made from roasted malts or roast barley. This beer has been brewed in Dublin since 1756, when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the facility. In the early 20th century, Guinness® became the largest brewery in the world.
While a pint of stout is the beverage of choice on St. Patrick's Day, the most popular type of beer in the United States is lager. Lager is a bottom-fermenting beer, and the invention of a good brew requires cool temperatures. For this reason, prior to 1877, beer brewing was seasonally dependent. German inventor Carl von Linde revolutionized the industry with the advent of refrigeration.
In the mid-1800s, French chemist Louis Pasteur unraveled the mystery of fermentation through his studies of beer- and wine-making, and patented a process that resulted in a better beer. His new invention, the process of pasteurization, was used on beer 22 years before the process was applied to milk.
The problem of transporting the beer to the general population spawned other new innovations. When James Watt invented the steam engine in 1765, mass marketing of beer became a reality. In the 1870s, Adolphus Busch, the German-born co-founder of the Anhueser-Busch companies, pioneered the use of double-walled railcars. In 1873, Busch invented a means of pasteurizing beer so that it could withstand temperature fluctuations, enabling the brewery to distribute its beer on a nationwide basis. By 1901, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association surpassed its rivals to become the biggest brewery in the United States.
Although beer continued to gain popularity throughout the 1800s and into the turn of the century, there was a constant problem in bottling. The "stoppers" did not seal the beverage effectively, and the drink often would lose its carbonation. In 1891, American inventor William Painter created the Crown Cap, which he patented the following year. Although hundreds of other bottle caps have been invented since then, Painter's Crown Cap, slightly modified, is still the most widely used.
Up until the mid-1930s, only 25 percent of beer was offered in bottles, and the rest was kegged or casked. In 1935, the G. Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, N.J., became the first brewer to market beer in cans. Today, about 90 percent of American beer is consumed from bottles or cans.
While the availability of beer steadily increased, the process of brewing it was still an arduous one. This changed in 1953, when New Zealander Morton W. Coutts invented the technique of continuous fermentation. Coutts' patented invention reduced the brewing process from a four-month-long ordeal to a swift 24-hour operation. His process is still used by many major breweries today, including Guinness®.
During this time of celebration, InventHelp® salutes inventors James Watt, Carl von Linde, Louis Pasteur, William Painter, Morton W. Coutts and the countless brewers who transformed beer-making into an artisan craft.