Beer History - Facts & Trivia

  • It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the "honey month", or what we know today as the "honeymoon".
  • According to a diary entry from a passenger on the Mayflower, the pilgrims made their landing at Plymouth Rock, rather than continue to their destination in Virginia, due to lack of beer.
  • Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the mix to find the right temperature for adding yeast. Too cold, and the yeast wouldn't grow. Too hot, and the yeast would die. This thumb in the beer is where "rule of thumb" comes from.
  • In 1788, Ale was proclaimed "the proper drink for Americans" at a parade in New York City.
  • In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's".
  • The original text of the Reinheitsgebot only had three ingredients: Barley, hops, and water. Yeast wasn't mentioned for another 35 years.
  • George Washington had his own Brewhouse on the grounds of Mount Vernon.
  • After consuming a bucket or two of vibrant brew they called aul, or ale, the Vikings would head fearlessly into battle, often without armor or even shirts. In fact, "berserk" means "bare shirt" in Norse, and eventually took on the meaning of their wild battles.
  • In 1963, Jim Whitaker became the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A can of Seattle's own Rainier Beer made the ascent with him.
  • The word "bridal" comes from 19th century Englishmen, who took out their mates for a final "Bride Ale" the day before their wedding.
  • After writing and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the founding fathers toasted the signing of the document with Madeira wine.
  • According to legend, the very first beer came from an ancient Sumerian (Iraqi), who left a loaf of bread out until the yeast fermented, giving him quite a buzz.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Scotch and soda enthusiast, would stick his empty glass out the window of his Presidential limo, signaling to the rest of the motorcade that it was time for a refill.
  • On his voyage to the New World in the 15th century, Christopher Columbus brought with him a bottle of Sherry.
  • The United States Marine Corps opened their first recruiting station in a bar, a tradition unseen in the 21st century.
  • Attila the Hun was suspected of suffocating from a bloody nose after passing out from alcohol at his 'bachelor party'.
  • The term 'toddlers' originated in England. There were impurities in the drinking water that disallowed the water to be used for drinking. A common alternative drink was beer (it was cheap, plentiful and the water used to make it was treated during the initial boiling during brewing). Toddlers, just weaning off of mothers milk were unaccustomed to the effects of beer. This coupled with the fact that they were just learning how to walk really made them toddle.
  • The first consumer protection law ever written was enacted over beer by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516. It was a purity law limiting the ingredients of beer to barley, hops and water.
  • Pabst Beer is now called Pabst Blue Ribbon beer because it was the first beer to win a blue ribbon at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
  • Monks brewing beer in the Middle Ages were allowed to drink five quarts of beer a day.
  • The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because of beer. They had planned to sail further south to a warm climate, but had run out of beer on the journey.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was elected in 1932 because of his promise to end Prohibition.
  • The first United States Marine Recruiting Station was in a bar.
  • In 1935 the canned beer industry was revolutionized by a vinyl plastic liner developed for cans made out of tin.
  • The movie The Shawshank Redemption got their period beer containers wrong. The prisoners on the roof drank beer out of bottles in 1949, when beer was canned until many years later.
  • Bourbon is the official alcohol of the United States, by an act of Congress. Many people have attempted to have that overturned in favor of beer instead throughout the years.
  • Michelob was invented during a brewer's strike in the 1930s from a recipe tossed together by the untrained workers left behind to run the brewery. It was so bad local taverns tossed their delivered barrels in the gutter until the streets ran with beer. When the strike was over, the brewery didn't want to lose all that beer, no matter how bad, so they repackaged it and sold it as Michelob.
  • Hop was used as flavorings as early as 400 BC by captive Jews in Babylon, but historians think that the real reason it was used as additive was for its antiseptic properties. By adding hops, brewers didn't have to have high alcohol content to prevent spoilage. This meant less grains and therefore more profit.
  • In the 11th century, Arnold of Soissons, a bishop in the Benedictine St. Medard's Abbey in Soissons, France, began to brew beer. He encouraged the locals to drink beer instead of water for its health benefits (beer was healthier than water mainly because it was boiled and thus sterilized from pathogens). No wonder they made him a saint!
  • The first references to beer dates to as early as 6,000 BC. The very first recipe for beer is found on a 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet containing the Hymn to Ninkasi, a prayer to the goddess of brewing.
  • In 1962, Iron City beer was the brand used to test-market the concept of tab opening aluminum cans. By 1970, over 90% of all beer cans were self-opening.
  • Prohibition, beginning on January 16, 1920, lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, and 32-1/2 minutes, and was rescinded on December 5, 1933, at 3:32 p.m.
  • Centuries ago in England, pub visitors used a novel innovation that enabled them to get their beer served quickly. They used mugs with a whistle baked into the rim, the whistle being used to summon the barmaid. It has been suggested this practice gave birth to the phrase "wet your whistle."
  • During the European Middle Ages and the Renaissance, beer was often a nutritional necessity and was sometimes used in a medicinal setting. It could be flavored with almost anything, from the bark of fir trees to fresh eggs and thyme. Everyone drank beer, including children.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt took more than 500 gallons of beer with him on an African safari. Must have been thirsty work.
  • Most saloons were owned by the breweries by the 1900s. The bartenders earned $10 to $15 per week, with Sunday bringing in the most business.
  • There is an Egyptian beer, called bousa, that is brewed from millet and has been a favorite drink of many for over 3,000 years. Modern Ethiopia has a version made from wheat. It has been hypothesized that this might have been the origin for the word "booze." Other spellings used are boza, bouza, and booza. Take your pick.
  • In 1116 BC, Chinese imperial edict stated that heaven required people to drink beer.
  • The music for "The Star Spangled Banner" was derived from a British drinking song called "Anacreon".
  • According to The Code of Hammurabi of ancient Babylonia (c. 1750 B.C.) a merchant could be put to death for diluting beer.
  • In Medieval Europe, brewing and baking went together. Thus women were the first European brewers and were often called ale wives.
  • The first US lager was brewed in 1840 by John Wagner, who had a small brewery in the back of his house on St. John Street in Philadelphia. Wagner brought the first lager yeast to the United States from a brewery in Bavaria.
  • Beer wasn't sold in bottles until 1850. Beer lovers would visit their local tavern with a special bucket, have it filled and then begin the merry journey home.

Random Beer Facts & Trivia

  • There are 19 different versions of Guinness.
  • A barrel contains 31 gallons of beer. What Americans commonly refer to as a keg is actually 15.5 gallons, or a half-barrel.
  • The Budweiser Clydesdales weight up to 2,300 pounds and stand nearly 6 feet at the shoulder.
  • 12 oz of a typical American pale lager actually has fewer calories than 2 percent milk or apple juice.
  • One of the few short sentences in the English language to include every letter of the English alphabet is: "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs."
  • Beer, as all alcoholic drinks, is made by fermentation caused by bacteria feeding on the yeast cells, and then defecating. This bacterial excrement is called alcohol.
  • The world's strongest beer is 'Samuel Adams' Triple Bock, which has reached 17% alcohol by volume. To obtain this level, however, they had to use champagne yeast.
  • Modern breathalyzers work on a clever electrochemical principle. The subject's breath is passed over a platinum electrode, which causes the alcohol to bind with oxygen, forming acetic acid. In the process it loses two electrons, a process that sets up a current in a wire connected to the electrode. The higher the concentration of alcohol in the breath, the greater the electrical current, which can be read by a simple meter to indicate intoxication levels.
  • Reno, Nevada has the highest rate of alcoholism in the U.S., Provo, Utah, the lowest. Now there's a big surprise all round!
  • It is always helpful to have a law that clearly defines when a person is legally intoxicated. In Kentucky, anyone who has been drinking is considered sober until he or she cannot hold onto the ground.
  • In the mid 70's, Australians were the 3rd biggest beer drinker in the world. (behind Germany and Belgium). In the late 90's, they don't even get into the top ten!
  • Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world, coming in behind tea.
  • To get rid of the foam at the top of beer (the head), stick your fingers in it.
  • Bavariastill defines beer as a staple food.
  • To keep your beer glass or mug from sticking to your bar napkin, sprinkle a little salt on the napkin before you set your glass down.
  • The oldest known written recipe is for beer.
  • Anheuser-Busch is the largest brewery in the US.
  • Molson, Inc. is the oldest brewery in North America.
  • The longest bar in the world is the 684 foot long New Bulldog in Rock Island, IL.
  • The powers that be at Guinness say that a pint of beer is lifted about ten times, and each time about 0.56 ml is lost in a beer drinker's facial hair. That's a lot of wasted beer!
  • As of 2001, 62% of Americans reported using a designated driver at least once.
  • Tossing salted peanuts in a glass of beer makes the peanuts dance.
  • In Japan, beer is sold in vending machines, by street vendors and in the train stations.
  • If you collect beer bottles you're a labeorphilist.
  • A beer lover or enthusiast is called a cerevisaphile.
  • The '33' on a bottle of Rolling Rock was originally a printer's error. It refers to the 33 words in the original slogan. It has generated enough mystery over the years that the company left it in the label.
  • Pilsner Urquell was the number one import beer in the U.S. before Prohibition.
  • In a Czech beer house, the bartender will refill your glass every time you empty it until you place your coaster on top of your glass, signaling that you have had enough.
  • In 1900 there were over 1,800 breweries in the U.S. In 1980 there were 44. According to The Brewers Association, there were 1,449 breweries in the U.S. in 2007. This included 1,406 small, independent and traditional craft brewers.
  • The Egyptians believed that the god of agriculture, Osiris, taught humans how to make beer.
  • The first brewery in America was built in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1642.
  • According to the Beer Institute, beer represents about 1.4% of the U.S. gross national product.(2008)
  • Germanyserves beer ice cream in popsicle form. Its alcoholic content is less than that found in "classic" beer.

Beer Trivia Questions & Answers

  • Q.What is the Most Expensive Beer in the World?

    A.It's called "Tutankhamen" and is prepared according to the recipe recovered by a group of University of Cambridge archaeologists in Queen Nefertiti's Temple of the Sun in Egypt. It costs US $52 a bottle, and is produced in limited and numbered edition.

  • Q.What country has the most individual beer brands?

    A.That would be Belgium, with 400.

  • Q.From what part of brewing did the term "rule of thumb" originate?

    A.Before the advent of thermometers, brewers tested the temperature of their maturing brews with their thumbs: too cold, and the yeast wouldn't grow, too hot, and it would die.

  • Q.Who was the first American to brew lager type beer?

    A.The first US lager was brewed in 1840 by John Wagner, who had a small brewery in the back of his house on St. John Street in Philadelphia. Wagner brought the first lager yeast to the United States from a brewery in Bavaria.

  • Q.What is Cenosillicaphobia the fear of?

    A.Fear of an empty glass

  • Q.What is brew master in Latin?


  • Q.Explain the roots of the Scandinavian toast, sköl.

    A.The familiar Scandinavian toast sköl derives from scole, the drinking bowl shaped like the upper half of a human skull. Originally, these bowls were fashioned from the actual skulls of enemy killed in battle.

  • Q.What king is known as the "patron saint of beer?"

    A.King Gambrinus (not to be confused with St. Arnold, the patron saint of brewing).

  • Q.What was the length of Prohibition?

    A.Prohibition lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, 32 1/2 minutes

  • Q.What is the best selling brand in the Western Hemisphere outside of the United States? What country is it brewed in?

    A.Brahma Beer. It is brewed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

  • Q.True or False: In 1965, a Belgian royal decree mandated that lambics must contain a minimum of 35% wheat.


  • Q.What beer accounts for 85% of all German beer exports to the U.S.? Hint: It is Germany's top export beer.


  • Q.What state has had more breweries in its history than any other state?


  • Q.What is the world's oldest trademark?

    A.The Bass symbol, a red triangle, registered in 1876.

  • Q.Bottle caps, also known as "crowns," were invented in 1892 by William Painter. To what country did he ship a few hundred cases of beer, round trip, to prove they would not leak?

    A.South America

  • Q.What 1983 arcade game challenges players to coordinate the movements of beer, bartenders, empty beer mugs, and customers?


  • Q.Who had established his own brewhouse on the grounds of Mount Vernon?

    A.George Washington

  • Q.What beer was the first beer to win a blue ribbon at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893?

    A.Pabst, thus earning the title, "Pabst Blue Ribbon.

  • Q.What is the oldest brewery in North America?

    A.Molson, established in 1786.

  • Q.What is the oldest brewery in the United States?

    A.Yuengling, established in 1829.

  • Q.What happens when you toss salted peanuts into a glass of beer?

    A.The peanuts dance.

  • Q.What are you called if you collect beer bottles?

    A.A labeorphilist. (Pronounced: lab-ee-or-fill-ist)

  • Q.What is the national drink of Belgium?


  • Q.King Gambrinus, referred to as the Patron Saint of Brewers, is really a corruption of what name?

    A.Jan Primus

  • Q.Choose A or B: Meadophily (pronounced Meed-o-fie-lee) is the study of:

    A.Beer Bottle labels OR

    B.Honey Beer, also known as Mead

    Answer: A.Beer Bottle Labels

  • Q.Which country has the most individual beer brands?

    A.Belgium - with 400

  • Q.Multiple Choice (choose one) Who was the first American to brew lager?

    A.John Wagner

    B.George Washington

    C.August Busch

    D.John Miller

    Answer:John Wagner - in 1840, in a small Philadelphia brewery in the rear of his house on St. John Street.

  • Q. Choose A or B:Cenosillicaphobia (pronounces Sen-oh-sill-ik- a-foh-bee-a)is:

    A.The fear of an empty glass OR

    B.The fear of brewing yeast

    Answer: A.The fear of an empty glass.

  • Q. Choose A or B:What is the best-selling brand outside the US in the Western Hemisphere?

    A.Corona OR

    B.Brahma Beer

    Answer: B- Brahma Beer

  • Q.What beer was called "The Champagne of Bottled Beers"?

    A.Miller High Life

  • Q.When Yuengling was established in 1829, it was not called Yuengling. What was it's first name?

    A.The Eagle Brewery

  • Q.What is the name of the bar at the Yuengling Brewery?

    A.The Rathskeller

  • Q.How did Yuengling remain open during prohibition?

    A.They sold near-beer at 0.5% ABV. They also established Yuengling Dairy and made ice cream and other dairy products.

  • Q.What is another name for smoked beer?

    A.Rauchbier or Bamberg Beer

  • Q.A Jim Morrison song is actually one of the most mis-quoted phrases since being published. The actual words are: Well I woke up this morning and I got myself _________________.

    A."a beard." According to the book, Light My Fire by Ray Manzarek, a colleague of Morrison's, the song refers to Morrison's waking after an alleged three weeks of drug-induced sleep.

  • Q.Ernest Hemingway did the only commercial endorsement of his life in 1951 for what beer?

    A.Ballantine Ale

  • Q.If you put a coaster on top of your glass in a Czech beer house, what would that tell the bartender?

    A.In a Czech beer house, the bartender will refill your glass every time you empty it until you place your coaster on top of your glass, signaling that you have had enough.

  • Q.How did Pabst Blue Ribbon earn its name?

    A.It won the blue ribbon in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

  • Q.According to "The Code of Hammurabi" of ancient Babylonia (c. 1750 B.C.) what could happen to a merchant for diluting beer?

    A.They were put to death.

  • Q.Crystal clear beer is an indication of what?

    A.It's water and somebody is trying to sober you up.

  • Q.What United States city goes by the nickname "Beervana" because of all the microbreweries in the area?

    A.Portland, Oregon