The Chinese brewed beer called 'Kui' some 5,000 years ago. In Mesopotamia, a 4,000 year-old clay tablet indicates that brewing was a highly respected profession - and the master brewers were women.
In ancient Babylon, the women brewers were also priestesses. The goddesses Siris and Nimkasi were patronesses of beer, and certain types of beer were reserved exclusively for temple ceremonies
In 2,100 BC Hammuabi, the 6th King of Babylonia, included provisions regulating the business of tavern keepers in his great law code. These provisions covered the sale of beer and were designed to protect the consumer. The punishment of short measure by an innkeeper was drowning, which was an effective way to prevent any repetition of the offence!
An ancient tablet now in New York's Metropolitan Museum lists Babylonian beers as: dark beer, pale beer, red beer, three fold beer, beer with a head, without a head etc. It also records that beer was sipped through a straw - in the case of royalty a golden straw, long enough to reach from the throne to a large container of beer kept nearby.
3,000 year old beer mugs were uncovered in Israel in the 1960s. Archaeologists said that their find at Tel Isdar indicated that beer drinking in Israel went back to the days of King Saul and King David. An Assyrian tablet of 2,000 BC lists beer among the foods that Noah used to provision the ark.
Some 5,000 years ago in the Imperial Egypt of the Pharaohs, beer was already an important food item in the daily diet. It was made from lightly baked barley bread, and also was used as a sacrament.
People gathered in the evening to drink at a 'house of beer'. Beer was the natural drink of the country, a basic in the diet of the nobility and of the fellah (the peasant). As well as being a drink, beer was also used as medicine. A medical document which was written in about 1,600 BC lists about 700 prescriptions of which about 100 contained the word 'beer'.
The Egyptians also provided their dead with food and beer. An old Egyptian tomb bears the inscription: "....satisfy his spirit with beef and fowl, bread and beer". In the taverns or houses of beer in Egypt, the favourite toast was "Here's to your ghost".
Beer also had status - a keg of beer was considered the only proper gift to be offered to the Pharaoh by a suitor seeking the hand of a royal princess. 30,000 gallons a year was also offered as a fitting gift to the Gods by Pharaoh Rameses II (1,200 BC). It is recorded that a similar amount was also offered to appease the gods when they became angry.
Isis, the nature goddess, was Egypt's patroness of beer brewing and an important civic official was charged with the task of maintaining the quality of beer, an integral part of everyday life and religion.
Other references to beer from Egyptian times include mention of beer brewed from barley in the Egyptian's Book of the Dead, and many ancient Egyptian wall hangings also depict the brewing of beer.
It was the Egyptians who reputedly taught the Greeks how to brew beer.
In fact it has been suggested by historians that Dionysus, the wine-god of Greek mythology, was actually a superimposition of Dionysis, the beer-god from pre-historic times.
The famous Greek writer Sophocles (450 BC) stressed moderation, and suggested a diet of "bread, meat, green vegetables and zythos (beer)". Other early Greek writers, Xenophon and Herodotus, also mention beer.
The Greeks in turn taught the Romans to brew, and Julius Caesar, following the fateful crossing in 49 BC of the River Rubicon, toasted his officers with beer.
The Romans then showed the savage tribes in Britain the art of brewing.
Pliny and Tacitus are among the classical writers who record the development of the brewing art among the Celtic and Teutonic peoples of Britain and Central Europe.