Advisor at Japan Food Research Laboratories
It was 1993 when I first visited Germany. A restaurant’s menu written in swash letters was incomprehensible to me. In the menu, I found a word which seemed “MALTS” and thought it might be an ancestor of Japanese beer. I ordered the drink, and a waiter served me a glass of blackish beverage with a smirk on his face. As I sipped at it, the waiter burst out laughing and said, “We have a kid’s wine, too!” The beverage I ordered was mash, a beer for kids. The waiter taught me that Germany people let their kids drink it when they seem sluggish out of illness or something. It was a nutrient-rich sweet drink which would be beer upon addition of yeast. The “kid’s wine” was grape juice. If yeast ferments sugar in the juice, it turns to be wine.
In my column #14, I have dealt with a subject of bread and its yeast. It is commonly believed that bread was born first and then beer was created. There is a written record saying Sumerian brewed something like beer by naturally fermenting bread in the 4200s BC. They ground barley to powder and kneaded it with water to bake bread. Then they dissolved the bread in hot water and poured it in a pot to ferment and drink.
In 1300 BC, ancient Egyptians used sugar in bread to produce beer. They soaked it in water and set off fermentation by adding malt. This method was transferred to Germanic people via Babylonia, Central Asia and Caucasus. Great Barbarian Invasion contributed to spreading the method across Europe. During the 13th century, churches and convents played an active part in brewing beer and improving the method, and hops began to be used in beer making in some countries such as Germany and Switzerland. Various ingredients had been added to improve the quality of beer by trial and error, which reached to a conclusion that female flowers of hops were most suitable (Figure1)
In the 14th century, the basis of present beer brewing --- making mash out of malted barley, hops, and water and adding yeast --- was formed. In 1480, a convent in Bavaria, Germany, produced a new type of beer which utilized bottom fermentation (yeast sinks to the bottom after frementation) and low-temperature storage. This type of beer gained popularity and got to be called “lagar beer”. In 1516, Bavaria promulgated “Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot)” specifying that a beer should be a drink made from barley, hop and water. Germany inherits this law.
Beers utilizing top fermentation are mainly produced in England and brewing styles such as ale and stout are popular.
I have roughly classified beers in Table1. There is another classification according to the roasting degree of malt; (1) light-colored beer, and (2) dark-colored beer. Beer was introduced to Japan by Dutch people along with other Western cultures. One of the characteristics of Japanese beers is acceptance of such ingredients as rice or corn. Japanese Liquor Tax Act defines beers as follows in Item 12, Article 3:
(2) Fermentation product of malt, hop and water
(2) Fermentation product of malt, hop, water, and barley and other articles designated by a separate ordinance (barley, rice, corn, sorghum, potato, starch, sugar, etc,). Sum of the weight of articles designated by the ordinance should not exceed 50% of the weight of malt.
The kind of yeast used for beer production is named Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It belongs to the same species as bread yeast. Beer breweries are cultivating their picked-out beer yeasts to use in their beer making. Production of lambic in Table1 utilizes yeast that spontaneously comes to be mixed in beer material without adding them artificially. There are various kinds of lambic beers. Lactic acid bacteria work in some of them, and yeast remains alive even after bottling of others. Lambic is a beer-manufacturing method developed in Belgium. Probably because of its geographical condition of halfway between Germany and England, wide variety of beers are produced and consumed in Belgium. Some are simply made of barley, hop, and water, and others are added with herb seeds or orange peel. There is a kind called “devil’s beer” for some reason unknown to me. Which of the beers shown in Figure2 do you think is it? Maybe you cannot tell until you actualy try them.
1) Okada, T. ed., Sekai Tabemono Kigen Jiten (Dictionary of Origins of World Cuisine), Tokyodo Shuppan (2005)
2) Oda, R., Zerokara Hajimeru Biiru Nyuumon (Introduction to Beer Starting from Scratch), Kadokawa (2014).