Beer is one of civilisation’s most ancient products.
Its origins take us back 9,000 years to the Blue Nile (Sudan) where remains of a type of cereal called sorghum were identified, with evidence of fermentation. Centuries later, in 4000 BC, Sumerian tablets mention ‘sikaru’, a beverage made with fermented grains. Over 4,000 years ago, the Chinese also drank fermented wheat, barley, spelt, millet and rice, which they called ‘kiu’. In Mesopotamia, in the year 3000 BC, beer played an important ritual, commercial and medicinal role. The Egyptians called it ‘zythos’ and it became the national drink. This enabled its quick expansion through adjacent countries and the Mediterranean basin.
The most ancient beer discoveries in Europe have been found in the Can Sadurní Cave in Begues (Barcelona): a ceramic container with remains of the drinkand mills with evidence of malted cereal that date back to 3000 BC. Up until this discovery, the remains that were thought to be the oldest were those found in the Valley of Ambrona (Soria), 4,400 years old, followed by those found at the archaeological site of Genó (Lleida), dating back to the Bronze Age (1200 BC). The first beer guild appeared in the 12th century, a period in which beer was used as a food supplement for pilgrims and the sick who were housed in inns and hospitals. These were controlled by monastic orders which gave way to the so-called ‘abbey beers’. In the Middle Ages, hops were added to their production, an ingredient that gives beer its characteristic bitterness.
But it was Emperor Charles V who introduced beer more forcefully in Spain, bringing with him a court of master brewers, experts in the artisan creation of this natural product. At the end of the 16th century, the first factories were established in Madrid, although breweries didn’t flourish until the end of the 19th. Beer, once considered a sacred drink reserved for the dominant classes for celebration of certain rites, has now become a product for everyone’s consumption, tied to social interaction.
Beer is a natural beverage that contains no fat and provides vitamins, minerals and other substances. It possesses functional properties thanks to the essential ingredients with which it is made: water, yeast, malt and hops. For more information: Beer and Health Information Centre
Pure, of optimal composition, lightly mineralised. A beer’s identity and quality are dependent on the characteristics of the water.
Malt lends the beer essential nutritional elements that make up its body, foam and colour. It is obtained from the germination of barley grains, which are moistened until they reach an optimal point; the process is then stopped, reducing their moisture until they dry.
This flower, of Asian origin, is the beer’s soul. A large part of beer’s aroma, bitterness and fresh sensation comes from hops. It is a plant that began to be used for its production in the 9th century for the purposes of sterilising and preserving the beer.
This microscopic element is responsible for transforming the wort’s sugar into alcohol during fermentation.
Over the years, the process of brewing beer has been informed by the different eras in human history. The changes in the way of beer is brewed have depended, in general, on factors like climate and the availability of the different ingredients. Today, it continues to be produced with vestiges of all the earlier centuries, but using the latest technologies.
Grinding the malt is one of the first steps in brewing beer. First, the malt to be used is selected according to the desired beer style, and then it is ground. Following this step, it is mashed; this is the moment at which the grain is mixed with water to prepare the beer wort.
After mashing, the solids, known as bagasse, are filtered to separate them from the liquid wort, which is then boiled. At this point, the hops are added, either in an early stage to add bitterness, or in a later stage to develop aromas. Boiling lasts about an hour, depending on the style of the beer being produced.
For fermentation to take place, the wort must first be cooled. Air is also injected to generate the necessary conditions for the yeast to do its work. These microorganisms convert the fermentable sugars to alcohol and CO2.
Depending on the style, beers may or may not be filtered. If it is done, the final result is a clear and brilliant beer. After filtering, the beer is ready to be packaged. This is generally done in a keg, can or bottle, and, later, the beer is typically pasteurized to avoid the risk of contamination.
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There are two fundamental ways of classifying beer:
(Source: Cerveceros de España)
The Dry Malt Extract (DME) is the set of organic ingredients that make up the wort prior to fermentation, not including the water. Its amount is expressed in grams of DME per each 100 grams of wort.
The activity of the Spanish beer sector represents a contribution of 7 billion euros to the national economy in terms of valued added. In fact, the value of beer in the market surpasses 15.5 billion euros, accounting for 1.3% of GDP.
Beer is the number one beverage in creating jobs in our country: over 344,000 jobs, directly or indirectly.
Beer consumption has continued to grow, today amounting to 40 million hectolitres, after an increase of 3.7%.
In 2017, 2.9 million hectolitres of beer were exported, representing an increase of more than 240% in the last 10 years.