Historical perspective

The predilection of mankind for consuming alcohol is common to all civilisations and undoubtedly pre-dates recorded history. Examples of alcoholic beverages may be found on every continent. They may have been consumed simply as a part of everyday diet but because of the physiological affect of alcohol and the apparent magic of the fermentation process they have also often been associated with religious or ritual ceremony. Beverages which may be classified as beers, particularly those produced by primitive societies, are legion. Thus, Forget (1988) in his Dictionary of Beer and Brewing lists more than 60 of what may be described as native beers. These have in common being made from a source of fermentable sugar, usually a cereal, to provide the alcohol and with additional flavouring materials. The latter may be from a variety of sources, as shown in the examples in Table 1.1.

Presumably these early fermentations were unwitting and serendipitous. Thus, wherever any natural source of sugar is to be found it will be accompanied by yeast

Table 1.1

brewing yeast and fermentation Examples of native beers (from Forget, 1988).

brewing yeast and fermentation Examples of native beers (from Forget, 1988).

Table 1.1


Country of origin




Maize beer


Central & S. America

Beer flavoured with carob beans and mesquite



Fermented extract of sugar cane with herb flavouring


Ancient Egypt

Sorghum beer


Ancient Sumeria

Barley beer


Ancient Egypt & Babylon

Millet beer



Millet beer


Peru (Inca)

Maize beer flavoured with fruit juices


China (Han Dynasty)

Wheat beer



Millet beer flavoured with various bitter herbs including

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