It is Oktoberfest time and it is all about the beer. The Germans certainly know about beer.
The German state of Bavaria, where Oktoberfest is annually held, is considered to produce some of the best beer in the world. After all, quality and purity have been regulated for almost 500 years. It all started with the first regulation ever on food purity – the Bavarian Purity Requirements of 1516. The requirement states that “only water, hops and barley should be used to brew Bavarian beer”.
It is all about the beer, but not all about Germany. It is true that the word originates from old Germanic and that there is historical evidence of German people brewing beer back in 3000 BC. The Germanic tribes were also the main beer exporter to the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, their beer had the status of a low quality drink, fit only for barbarians like Germans! The Romans preferred wine.
The same was true for the English. The Old English form of the word occurred in the 8th century while the Anglo-Saxons were enjoying their brewed alcoholic beverage – ale. Written sources from the period distinguish between “ale” and “beer,” but do not define what was meant by “beer” and the word disappeared shortly after the Norman Conquest, to reappear in the English language in 16th century as the name of hopped malt liquor. The 1503 Chronicals by Richard Arnold contain a description of the beer beverage production ingredients and proportions and uses the word with its current spelling, Arnold writes: “make sixty barrels of single beer”. One hundred years later the term finds its place in Shakespeare’s Henry IV: “Doth it not shew vildly in me, to desire small beer?” Obviously this was not a high class drink.
Today, however, beer is enjoyed by people from all walks of life, especially at the Oktoberfest. Prost, skoll, cheers.