Beer and ales have been much loved throughout British history, with the beverage still enjoying widespread popularity today. Kent and East Sussex are at the centre of the UK hop and beer industry with most of the country’s hop farms still clustered within the area. There are numerous large and craft breweries in the area for any visitors to try in order to get a taste for the local brews.
That said, the history of beer and other fermented drinks is in many ways the history of human civilization, with many ancient empires and civilisations drinking early forms of beer daily. The fermentation of sugars is a natural process often seen in fruit; many foraging animals will show a strong preference for fruit that has begun fermenting. The fermentation process and the alcohol content of these fermented drinks prevented the water from spoiling or growing microbes, as well as having extra calories that for labourers and workers would be sorely needed throughout the day. The first known beer regularly drunk originated around 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, where the Goddess of Brewing was known as Ninkasi. The hymns to the goddess not only praised Ninkasi, but also included the recipes used for brewing.
What is Beer?
In its purest form beer is a fermented drink made using water, hops, malt and yeast. However, the term beer is an umbrella term that can actually be applied to a wide range of drinks. Most beers fall under the varieties of ale and lager, with each having a different flavour and appearance. Ales are made with top-fermenting yeast cultures that work in warm temperatures; ales are far easier to produce, store and then sell, making them popular with craft breweries. Popular ales include Guinness, stout and IPAs.
Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeasts that work in cold temperatures and which often take a long time to ferment. Lagers are by far the more dominant beer commercially, with many popular brands such as Peroni, Amstel, Moretti and Carling to name a few. Lagers tend to have a crisper taste compared to ales.
Here are some other types of beer, and what differentiates them from the rest:
- Stout – A very dark and rich ale that is popular in Britain and Ireland. The most iconic stout is Guinness. This dark ale is a heavier version of the lighter British ales.
- Indian Pale Ale (IPA) – A new style of beer was created when British sailors heading to India hung hops around the beer barrels to preserve them. In the process. the hops lost their fruity flavour, leading to a rather bitter and hoppy beer.
- Wheat Beers – A wheat beer is made up of at least 50% wheat. Most beers are made from barley or rye, and in comparison wheat beers tend to be light, citrusy and refreshing.
- Pale Ale – Known for a light golden colour and a rich flavour that is not too overwhelming, pale ales originated in the UK, but are now most popular as the ale of choice in the American craft beer scene.
- English Bitter – English bitter beers are named for the slightly bitter taste and aroma that the hops used in the process of brewing lend the brew. One of the most popular beer drinks in the UK, most pubs or bars will have at least one bitter on tap.
As far as the evidence we have available to us today, brewing as a deliberate process emerged when human beings began to develop grain agriculture 12,000 years ago. How brewing was initially discovered we don’t know. However, fermentation of sugars is a natural process, and that human beings were able to figure out how to use this natural process to create the calorie rich and delicious beverage that we still drink today is no surprise. Some historians have argued that early hunter-gatherers’ taste for fermented beverages like beer directly led to new agricultural methods and technologies being developed.
Barley beer was first recorded in Babylonia, where archaeologists found evidence of beer brewing dating prior to 6000 BCE. The brewing methods for beer were taken through to Europe via the Middle East where it took root rather quickly. Most of the terms used for beer and related products (such as the word ale) are Anglo-Saxon in origin, indicating that it was the Anglo-Saxons that brought beer brewing methods to the British Isles. Later these brewing methods would be preserved and practised by monastic orders throughout the dark ages, forming a vital part of the products created by different monasteries.
The original beer of England ale was a drink made with malt without hops, it was only later that hops made their way to the UK and became part of the local beer brewing process. Hops were first seen used in the production of beer in in Germany and Holland. The hops, used to help ensure that beer could last longer periods, were introduced into Britain later, around the 15th century. The area where hops were first cultivated in the UK is assumed to be around the Maidstone area in Kent, near our wonderful hotel. To this day Kent has many hop farms, earning the county the nickname ‘the garden of England’.
Originally, hopped beers were not as popular as the local ale, as the hops included in the brewing could have a bitter taste. Eventually, though, the original ale fell from popularity and beer as we know it gained prominence.
Branded Beer Products
The first branded beer in the UK was ‘Porter’, named as such because it was exceedingly popular with London labourers and porters. Since then the range and taste of beers have grown massively, with thousands of local brands, lagers and ales now sold commercially.
Here at One Warwick Park Hotel we are situated in the centre of Kent, a county famed for the hop farms and breweries that have popped up around the county. With many beautiful pubs and breweries to visit in the area, if you come and stay you should investigate the local offerings. If you are considering a stay at One Warwick Park Hotel or a visit to our lovely bar, then please contact us here. Our professional staff will be able to give you more information about what we have on offer.