Each territory is distinguished from an agri-food point of view by the production of specific products derived from the indigenous and typical raw materials of the area. The same applies to the beverage sector, and reflecting on renowned beverages one can conclude that while Italy, France and even Portugal can in a sense be considered wine lands, the United Kingdom, without a doubt, has distinguished itself for the production of craft beers that have made history.
And it is precisely the history of beer that we want to talk about, referring above all to the fact that, in these very lands, its production could probably go back as far as 5,000 years.
Clearly, the production processes and recipes were different from those used today, as was the end result, which is certainly far removed from the taste we are used to recognising beer with. We only have to think that, in the beginning, it was appreciated as a highly sugary nectar, precisely because it was flavoured with berries, wild herbs and honey.
The production of hops, the one that gives beer that distinctive bitter aftertaste, was banned in the UK until the 1700s.
Today, things are much different. The technology of production processes, both in terms of instrumentation and the substances used to improve recipes and the end product have reached a high level.
The brewing industry has also grown, although we are still talking about craft beers, companies have sprung up that produce brewing machinery, thermometers, filters, ovens for drying grains, but also stabilisers for clarification processes or enzymes to optimise mashing, a bit like AEB-Group UK for example.
Beer, in other words, is no longer just an isolated, home-based activity, carried out mainly by women to supplement their household income. Today it is a market, which has little to envy that of wine, even if, many times and improperly, it is considered decently inferior.
But how has the craft beer business evolved over time?
A brief historical overview of craft beer
Some of its origins have already been mentioned, but what is important to know is that it was precisely during the Middle Ages that beer began to expand, even outside the British context, to the point where it became a business and no longer just a domestic product.
It was precisely in England and in this period that the first technologies were employed to increase and ‘standardise’ production, from steam engines to coolers, not forgetting thermometers.
In the 1700s, just when hops were introduced into production, for which the United Kingdom can boast one of the best terroirs for its production, England became the main exporter of beer.
Among the most popular was the Porter, which even reached Russia and Australia, characterised by roasted, almost coffee-like notes, a dark colour and very light bitterness.
However, in the course of time, many others emerged, classified by the British as everyone knows, such as the Bitter, sweet, almost caramelised and even citrusy, but also the Pale Ale, bitter, alcoholic and decidedly lighter in colour, with a marked mineral note. But also distinguished, in time, were the Mild, dark, with a very light body, just 3% vol., and an almost creamy texture.
Over time, many others were born (and evolved), according to ancient recipes and ingenious innovations, but the fact remains that beer, for the British, remains an identifying and very old staple, at least as old as porridge, to go in the culinary sphere.