An overview of the history of beer:
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People discovered beer thousands of years ago. The Sumerians went down in the annals of history not only as the developers of cuneiform script and founders of monumental architecture. The first beer was also brewed in Mesopotamia, on the lower reaches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The first depiction of beer brewing dates from the year 4,000 BC (the "Monument bleu", which can be viewed in the Louvre in Paris). Using images, this work from the Sumerians depicts grain husking for the preparation of beer, using grain malt to make bread, soaking it in water and the fermentation process. However, beer was already being "brewed" several thousands of years before cuneiform script was even invented!
In Babylon, beer was already being brewed 7,000 years before Christ. The Babylonians used malted grain to make bread. They put the grain in water, where it slowly dissolved and gave rise to fermentation. In connection with this, it is interesting that King "Hammurabi", who went down in history as the founder of "positive law", also passed a law for the hospitality and catering trade with 320 paragraphs in total. This law included among other things regulations on brewing, visits to public houses and setting beer prices. For those making watery beer, Hammurabi provided for death by drowning in their own brew!
The Greeks as well as the Romans came into contact with brewing. However, they were not really enthusiastic about it. The Romans preferred wine - they considered beer to be the drink of foreigners and uncultured people. It appealed to the Teutons, i.e. our forefathers. They used malted and unmalted grain to make beer, e.g. millet, barley, wheat, oats and rye. Honey, mushrooms and tree bark were also added, although strangely enough no hops were used. Hops were grown for the first time in the year 736 in an area that is part of present-day Germany - where else - in Bavaria. Hopped and unhopped beer was a feature of the Middle Ages. Proof exists that the Teutons even used the refined beer for religious ceremonies.
It was different with the Gauls: the forefathers of the French went all out to prevent conqueror Caesar from banning their beer.
Monasteries were also producing beer from the ninth century onwards. In Germania, Gallia, Britannia and among related peoples, monastery breweries improved the quality of beer so much that the science of brewing has got to thank them for important discoveries. This includes adding hops as a herb. The Plan of St. Gall from the year 820, which depicts three breweries, is famous. There was a brewery for the monks, a second one for pilgrims and a third for guests!
In monasteries, beer constituted an important supplement to mealtimes. Over Lent, the rule was that everything that was liquid could also be enjoyed whilst fasting. The monasteries brewed beer initially for their own personal use and to look after the many visitors that knocked on the gates in order to still hunger and quench thirst. It was only later that monasteries began to sell beer for commercial purposes; monastery taverns (these could be compared to today´s pubs) started to spring up like mushrooms. The quality of abbey beers was outstanding and reasonably priced.
Regarding this, the private breweries and pubs were unable to keep up and viewed monastery beer production as a threat to their livelihood. At the beginning of the 15th century, many princes therefore started to prohibit monasteries from selling their exquisite drink to the public.
Most of us still remember from our schooldays the story of how the Irish missionary Gallus broke a keg in the year 610, which was to be sacrificed to the pagan God Wotan, by breathing on it. The people from Bregenz later drove away the saint.
Nevertheless, the first brewery in our region no doubt originated in St. Gallen. Gallus established himself along the Steinach River in around the year 613. Other hermits followed. In 720, Othmar converted the hermitage into a Benedictine monastery and, as mentioned, the famous monastery plan emerged under Abbot Gozbert (816-837). You can still admire it in St. Gallen´s Abbey Library. In accordance with Chapter 40 of St. Benedict´s Rule, each monk was allowed to drink a hemina (quarter of a litre of wine). However, no wine or very little was grown in our region. The monks therefore switched to beer.