15 beer factoids that will make you look smart

Random — By on March 22, 2008 at 5:14 pm

While researching information for other articles, here are some interesting beer facts I’ve come across.  Many of these may surprise you!

Beer has fewer calories than many healthy drinks

Here’s a list of one ounce drinks and the number of calories in each.  We’re not claiming that 5 beers are healthier than 5 glasses of milk, but if you are counting calories, beer has fewer calories.

18 calories in one ounce milk
9 calories in one ounce bud light
21 calories in red wine
20 calories in white wine
15 calories in one ounce of Guinness
8 calories in one ounce of Amstel Light
15 calories in orange juice

yeast starter

You really need a yeast starter for most 5 gallon recipes

Homebrewers pitch too little yeast

Brewers usually pitch 10 million yeast cells for every milliliter of wort.  To match commercial pitching rates, homebrewers should pitch 200-400 billion yeast cells.  A dry yeast packet typically contains 50 billion cells.  A liquid vial contains 70 to 140 billion cells.  The smack packs contain around 100 billion cells.  This means if you do not create a starter, you are under pitching.  Smack packs are not starters.  They activate the yeast metabolism, but they do not increase cell counts.

History of Pilsner and Budweiser

Pilsner and Budweiser origins come from the Czech Republic.  The pilsner style originated in the city of Pilsen in 1840, and is now known as Pilsner Urquell.  “Urquell” is the German word for “original source”.  Budweiser’s history is more suspect.

The Budweiser pilsner comes from the city of Budejovice.  Budweiser describes where the beer comes from, much like Bordeaux describes where in France the wine originates.  The beer has been brewed in Budejovice since the 14th century.  So how does Budweiser have rights to the copyright?  Anheuser-Busch was founded by German immigrants in 1876.  The Czech company Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895.


You have to admit the logos look very similar

Both companies claim the name Budweiser, and there are legal disputes to this day.  The United States has ruled in favor of Anheuser-Busch, and Budvar is sold under a different name.  In Switzerland and Germany, Anheuser-Busch must use a different name.  The United Kingdom recognizes that both companies can use Budweiser.  I asked about this on a Budweiser brewery tour in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The response was “I’m not familiar with that microbrew”.  Pilsner Urquel is the original source of pilsner, but it is still up for debate to the original source of Budweiser.

Hathor is the goddess of destruction and drunkenness

The Egyptian goddess Hathor/ Sekhmet goes my many titles (and names).  One is the goddess of destruction and drunkenness.  Her story goes like this.  The Sun god Ra wasn’t getting the love he needed from his subjects, so he sent Hathor to set them straight.  She took the job to extremes, turned into a leopard and started killing all the humans (where is SG-1 when you need them).  Ra, realizing that dead subjects don’t worship well, decided to stop Hathor.  He threw barley and dates into the blood that flowed through the streets.  It turned to beer and Hathor drank it up.  Hathor got drunk and became a much more fun loving god – the god of beer.  She’s also known as the god of fertility.  This is most likely because, as many women have found out, consuming too much alcohol can lead to pregnancy.

Egypt created the first no alcohol beer

The first non-alcoholic beer came from ancient Egypt.  A priestess would create a strong ale, then heat it over a fire.  The alcohol would burn off, and rise to make the goddess (Hathor?) very drunk.  The remaining beer, now non-alcoholic, was sold to the public (probably in France to soccer fans from other countries).

Bass Ale got the very first trademark

The distinctive triangle is the oldest trademark in Britain.  After the 1875 Trademarks Registration Act was passed a Bass employee was instructed to wait outside the patent office on New Year’s Eve.  If my boss told me to stand in line on New Year’s Eve, I know what my reaction would be.  The employee camped out at the office over night.  The new law went into effect January 1st, 1876 and the first two patents were awarded to Bass.

Breweries created the “pilgrims stopped for beer” myth

There is some debate to why the puritans settled in Plymouth .  While there is no debate that the puritans left England with plenty of beer, rumor had it that they stopped in Plymouth because they were out of beer and built a brewery.  There is no truth to this rumor, and the Mayflower probably had plenty of beer for the return trip to England.  The myth actually came from the American breweries shortly before and after prohibition.  Before prohibition, breweries (led by Budweiser) wanted to claim that beer was a part of American heritage.  They ran large ads in newspapers stating “Pilgrim fathers drank it”.  After prohibition, beer sales were down, so in an effort to increase sales the breweries ran ads creating the “pilgrims stopped for beer” myth.

The real prohibition repeal date in the United States is December 5


When was the 21st Amendment passed? (April 7, 1933 or December 5, 1933)

The Twenty First Amendment was passed by Congress February 20, 1933.  It was ratified December 5, 1933.  April 7, 1933 the federal government legalized 3.2% ABV beer.  Many confuse the two and celebrate the repeal of prohibition on April 7th.  While you could have purchased something that was technically beer, you could not get wine, full-strength beer, or spirits until December 5, 1933.

The real beer drinkers

The Czech Republic drinks more beer per capita than any other country.  For the past two years, China drinks more beer than any other country (350 million hectoliters).  China is the fastest growing beer market in the world.  The United States ranks number two by amount, but ranks 11 per capita.

The first beer cans

The first beer cans were produced in 1935.  Drinkers were no longer going to taverns, and breweries needed to get beer into the homes.  The smaller packages made it much easier to get beer home.  1939 ushered in a new era of beer on the go (and formaldehyde in beer).

Reinheitsgebot is missing an ingredient

The famous German Purity Law of 1516, “Reinheitsgebot”, is missing an essential ingredient for beer.  The original text decreed that beer can contain only water, barley and hops.  They did not understand the role of micro-organisms until the 1800s, so yeast was not a known ingredient.  Brewers knew to add a bit of the slurry from the previous batch, but did not know it contained yeast.  Yeast was added as an ingredient to the German law during the 20th century.  Reinheitsgebot remained in effect until the European Court of Justice repealed the law in May of 1987!

The first brewery in the United States

As I mentioned earlier, the pilgrims did not build a brewery when they landed in Plymouth in 1620.  Nicholas Varlett obtained from Peter Stuyvesant a patent for the first brewery in America on February 5, 1663 (it was a Monday for the incurably curious).  This brewery was on Castle Point in Hoboken, New Jersey.  The oldest active brewery is the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  The Yuengling brewery was founded in 1829.

Hops are a recent addition to beer

The first reported use of hops in beer was 736 AD, but brewers didn’t really use hops until the 1500s.  Before the 1500s, gruit beer used ingredients like wormwood or other herbs to balance the sweetness.  Medieval brewers did not like hops in beer because they thought it caused “melancholy and tormenting disease.”  They also thought tomatoes were poisonous.

Beer is not just beer

Most people know that there are ales and there are lagers.  Ales are top-fermented beers, while lagers are bottom fermented beers.  Ales and lagers have many beer styles that taste very unique.  In the 2007 Great American Beer Festival, there were 76 distinct beer categories.  Each category represented a unique beer style.

Beer isn’t made in a day

It takes a while to make beer.  The quickest time from grain to glass can usually be accomplished in a week.  This short fermentation is possible in low gravity beers (low alcohol).  Budweiser’s fermentation and lagering process takes about a month.  The fastest reported time from grain to glass was at the F.X. Matt Brewery in Utica, New York.  F.X. Matt was the first brewer to get a brewing license after the repeal of prohibition, one hour after the law went into effect.  Defying the known laws of fermentation science, F.X. Matt delivered kegs of “fresh” lager 24 hours later.  This feat has never been “repeated”.

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!


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  • Jimieb99

    if u pitch onto a good healthy yeast cake, i used 2 packets of nottingham yeast, in a 5 gallon 5.5% pale ale for the 1st batch. i fermented from 1.058 down to to 1.010 in 30hrs with an amber ale on the yeast cake at 65 degrees