Beer is a carbonated, foamy alcoholic drink made from malt, water, hops and yeast. It is one of the world’s most popular beverages. It is brewed in a variety of styles, ranging from ancient drinks fermented by wild yeast to the sparkling lagers of modern Germany and the hoppy New England IPAs of the US. Beer is also a versatile cooking ingredient: its carbonation acts as leavening for baking recipes, adding lightness to doughs and cakes. Its earthy flavor, and the barley and hops it contains, work to tenderize and add depth of flavor to meat dishes.
Brewing is a complex art, and the exact composition of any given beer can be vastly different from another due to countless variables. However, the basic ingredients remain the same throughout a brewery’s product lineup.
The technical definition of beer (brewed from malt and hops) is based on brewing technology as it existed at the dawn of the 20th century. It is the basis for national brewing laws and regulations, and it is used as a standard to measure a country’s breweries against each other. However, this rigid, legalized definition has no historical or scientific foundation.
The history of beer is rich and varied. It is likely that beer was invented at the same time as cereal agriculture. Reliefs on Egyptian tombs dating back to 6000 bce show that barley or partly germinated grains were crushed and mixed with water to make a drink, and early archaeological evidence suggests that a drink like beer was brewed around 5000 bce in Sumer and Babylonia.