Beer crafting was a booming industry in the Middle Ages. Brewing techniques were refined by monks, who introduced lagering to improve the flavor of their ales. In fact, almost every monastery had a brewery on site.
While there are no hard statistics on how long beer has been brewed, historians have suggested that it could be as old as human civilization. A 170-year-old bottle of beer found in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea offers some insight into the beer-crafting process of old.
The crafty ancient Celts likely used heated stones to liquefy their malt and perhaps added carrot seeds or honey to their ale. There is also evidence of henbane, a natural sweetener, in medieval beer.
Modern brewing uses finely-designed, automated systems and precise mashing. It also incorporates a wide variety of different ingredients, including malt extract, oak, and hops.
Some community colleges have established programs in beer crafting. Rockingham Community College has begun a beer-brewing course in its continuing education program. And Blue Ridge Community College plans to offer a degree in the craft in the coming school year.
Although the brewing process is relatively straightforward, there are many variables to get right. You’ll want to choose a brew day that includes mash grains, boiling wort, and cooling wort. Be sure to keep notes on what you’re doing during the batch process.
You can find a free guide on extract brewing from the American Homebrewer’s Association. Likewise, there are many websites on the topic.