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The origin of beer

Beer was brewed by the ancient Egyptians and had almost certainly arrived in Britain by the Neolithic period - the builders of Stonehenge would undoubtedly have enjoyed a pint or two after a hard day's work.


Beer was brewed in the home, on farms, in wayside taverns and, later, in the great monasteries. There was no brewing in breweries that we would recognise today, and until refrigeration was introduced in the 1880s, beer was only brewed in the colder months from September to April or May.


Naturally, as brewing became more organised, it attracted the attention of the tax collectors. In fact, we have been taxed nationally on our enjoyment of ale or beer since 1188, when Henry II introduced the so called 'Saladin Tithe' to pay for the Crusades.


Ale was brewed for centuries without hops. Beer, which came from the Low Countries and was first imported into England in the 15th century, used hops as a flavouring and a preservative.


It took almost 150 years but hops eventually came to be accepted as a vital part of the taste of ale. Prior to the 1400s, ale had been flavoured with herbs such as rosemary and thyme, but the hop, with its mildly antiseptic quality, helped preserve ale from spoiling.


Beer and ale became synonymous, as did the beerhouse and alehouse, until new beer styles were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.