That’s a sound lots of people make after taking their first sip of ice-cold beer after a long week.
A liquid quite possibly as old as the history of the human race itself, the often golden drink has had many names over the years: ale, draft/draught, brew, lager and even the modern, often hilarious nicknames such as liquid bread and elbow bender.
The ubiquitous liquid exists in many shades, from the pale yellow that is popular among many countries, to the slightly darker golden hues of and the rich blackness of dark stouts.
With the most innovative ingredients, humans have been able to brew beer.
The oldest recorded evidence of brewing beer dates back to the ancient Egyptians circa 6,000 BC, whose scribes wrote down their recipes on papyrus scrolls with ingredients like indigenous herbs and dates.
Beer made its way from the African continent, across the Mediterranean and into Europe, where it became especially popular with the people there. Early Europeans used barley crops that grew wildly around Northern Europe. Many people preferred drinking beer over water because water tended to be very-easily contaminated, leading to a slew of sicknesses.
In the middle ages, brewers began what would later be known as the modern beer, using malted barley as the main source of fermentable sugar to produce alcohol. Hops was later included into the brewing process, an ingredient that caught on because it added a unique bitterness to the liquid. In addition, hops extended the life of beer, preventing it from going bad quickly.
In Africa, numerous communities had ways of brewing their own variations of beer. Kenya’s Luhya community brews a thick, traditional beer known as Busaa. Originally consumed in important events such as marriages, funeral gatherings and for celebrating successful harvests, Busaa is made from ground maize and millet flour that is prepared and mixed in before it is left to ferment.
In parts of South America, a peculiar brewing process is used for a popular traditional beer known as Chicha. The early Andean people discovered that they could activate the fermentation process and make the beer. While that may turn some stomachs, this method grew popular in areas around Cusco (in the Peruvian Andes) and even spread to other parts of the continent.
Traditionally, a select group of women who were deemed pure and worthy would chew maize kernels, mixing it with their saliva before spitting them out and storing them for fermentation. Although the modern-day versionof chicha is not made with saliva, the often cloudy liquid may still be hard to swallow for some.
This usage of saliva in the fermentation process is used in several other places in the globe, such as Botswana’s Motsema (a type of palm wine) and Japan’s Kuchikamizake (a type of rice wine).
Over the ages, humans have learned to refine various recipes, coming up with unique types of beer to suite a variety of discerning pallets. In recent times, a new profession has emerged that is tied to the beer industry. A beer sommelier or cicerone is a professional who specializes in the service and knowledge of beer. This includes a wide range of disciplines from creating different types of beer, knowing the history and science behind different beers, to beer tasting and even knowledge on food pairings.
Lots of recipes include beer as a main ingredient. Food like chicken, shrimp and even bread, can be altered using beer. Foodies have reported that, depending on the kind of beer used, a meal can be made richer, with a host of new flavors that are sure to make for an interesting culinary experience.
Even sweets and confections can be made using beer! Chocolate cake can be made using dark stouts, as the bitterness brings out the delicious chocolatey-ness of the desert.
Apparently, beer can even be used as a beauty ingredient. A number of beauty gurus have experimented with using beer for both skin and hair care. According to one of them, mixing strawberries with a splash of beer can make for an excellent facial scrub.
Some beauty blogger reported that using beer to wash hair can strengthen it and even help it shine. Just remember to follow up the ‘beer wash’ with a thorough conditioning and rinse to avoid smelling like beer all day.
To make a long story short, beer is one of the most popular drinks around, spanning human history and almost every place that people inhabit on the planet. Not only can you drink it, it has a tons of uses around the house!
So the next time you crack open a cold one, keep in mind that you hold a liquefied piece of human ingenuity in your hands.