The oldest proven records of brewing are about 6,000 years old and refer to the Sumerians. The Sumerians, living in Mesopotamia, used barley and wheat to produce beer. This prehistoric brewing process though differed from the current brewing process. Bread was baked and afterwards crumbled into water to form a mash. Adding spices and honey to this mash a drink was produced that could be referred to as beer. Thanks to our chemical knowledge the current brewing process is a much more advanced form of the first Sumerian brewing process.
Beer was one of the most common drinks during the Middle Ages since there was a lack of pure water. Beer, having been boiled during the brewing process, didn’t contain contaminating bacterium so it didn’t cause diseases. Tea, coffee, lemonade and wine were only drunk by the wealthiest amongst medieval population.
Beer at that time was also consumed by children (thin beer), made of the malt of a previous brewage. Because beer had a remarkably lower level of alcohol which fluctuated between 1 and 2%, it was clearly a low alcohol popular beverage. Adults also drank double hopped thick beer, which contained approximately 5% alcohol.
Percentages not only differed from one region to another, but also depended on the season and on the brewage. Besides measuring of the alcohol percentage wasn’t possible yet. During medieval times taxes were levied depending on the content of the beer barrel.
Because canals and rivers were used as public sewers, beer consumption, during the 17th century, decreased due to the deteriorated quality of water. Consequently people had no other option than importing water from other countries and areas around the world, causing an increased beer price. Besides drinks like Dutch gin, coffee and tea became more popular. To provide a sketch of the situation: Utrecht counted 22 breweries in 1610, all alongside the Oudegracht, only 14 of them were left in 1674 and at the end of the 18th century the number was even decreased to two. When Stadskasteel Oudaen becomes part of the catering industry in 1987 a brewery is founded, hidden in the castle’s vaults, making Utrecht and its castle after 93 years finally following again in imitation of the medieval tradition when the building was surrounded by dozens of breweries.