Beer has been among the most beloved beverages on the planet for thousands of years. Like many things we take for granted, beer is often little understood and is much more complex than we realize. So, if you’re looking to refine your beer knowledge, sit back with some chilled suds and read on to discover some interesting and random beer facts.
Facts about Beer
1. The study of beer is known as zythology.
Stemming from the Greek words “zythos” (beer) and “logos” (study), zythology is the study of beer and beer-making, including the analysis of ingredients and the effect they have on the brewing process. It is to beer what ‘enology’ is to wine.
Furthermore, zythology encompasses the knowledge of beer styles and history and the application of beer pairings. So, a zythologist is a true beer maven. How’s that for hardcore beer facts?
2. Beer is the third most popular drink in the world.
That’s right! Beer is the most popular drink overall after water and tea. Next time, tell that to someone if they try to convince you that wine is better than beer.
3. Water is the main ingredient of beer, accounting for 90-95% of its weight.
Ah, no wonder beer is so thirst-quenchingly refreshing! Like our bodies, beer is mostly water and it is actually the most crucial ingredient of beer.
Indeed, water is so vital to beer because its quality and mineral content directly impacts the quality and taste of beer. Natural water contains six main component salts: sodium, bicarbonate, chloride, sulfate, calcium, and magnesium.
The proportion of these salts greatly affects everything from color to the flavor of the beer. That’s why some beers tend to be a little earthier, some danker, and some juicier.
4. Besides water, the three main components of beer are hops, malt, and yeast.
Malt is the body and soul of a beer. This partially germinated, roasted grain provides not only the alcohol but also much of the flavor and almost all the color in beer.
Depending on how it is kilned, the malt comes in a variety of styles. The higher the temperature, the darker the color of the beer and the more profound the color.
Hops are the green cone-shaped flowers of a plant called Humulus lupulus—a tall, climbing vine that is a member of the hemp family. Hops help to keep beer fresher, longer and help beer retain its head of foam.
If malt provides the beer with its body and color, hops add immeasurably to the flavor by bringing a characteristic bitter tang and heady aroma to the drink. Hops also balance out some of the sweet flavors of the malt. There are well over a hundred hop varieties, ensuring there is a lot of potential to play around and discover tons of flavor combinations.
Yeast is arguably the most vital aspect of the beer. Without yeast, hops, malt, and water will never produce beer. It is the catalyst that creates the alcohol by a process called fermentation, essentially metabolizing the sugars from the malt, and also creating some CO₂ in the process.
5. The Czechs are the world’s biggest beer drinkers.
One of the beer facts that everyone who loves beer should know is that the Czechs have the world’s largest consumption of beer per head of population. The Czech Republic (Czechia) has remained the world’s top per-capita beer consumption country since 1993.
Based on the annual report by Japanese brewery Kirin, the average Czech drank 188.6 liters or about 531 12oz bottles of beer per person in 2019! This is nearly double the amount of the next highest nation, Austria at 107.8 liters per capita.
The US only comes in 20th place with 72.7 liters while the UK is in 23rd place with 70.7 liters.
6. China is the largest beer-consuming country in the world.
According to the annual report by Japanese brewery Kirin, China is the largest beer-consuming country in the world.
Not only does it boast the world’s largest population, but China’s annual consumption of beer averages at 40 billion liters, which is almost twice the amount of the US.
7. The oldest continuously operating brewery in the world is the Weihenstephan Brewery in Bavaria, Germany.
While subject to some debate, the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world is most widely believed to be the brewery of Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany. It was established in 1040 AD on the site of the now-defunct Weihenstephan Abbey, and the Bavarian brewers have been continually brewing ever since.
Interestingly, the world’s second-oldest operating brewery is just a short car journey away. The Weltenburg Abbey brewery lies 60 km north, near Kelheim, also in Bavaria. It began brewing beer just after Weihenstephan Brewery, in 1050 AD.
8. The earliest evidence of beer making was found in Raqefet Cave in Israel, dating back to 11,000 BC.
If you thought that beer was invented in Germany in the Middle Ages, you are not alone with that belief since people associate the well-documented German drinking culture with the birthplace of beer. However, as much as the Germans love their beer, it was not actually first created there.
Through research, we now know that beer was first enjoyed in ancient Israel. Writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Stanford University researchers found three 13,000-year-old stone mortars which offer the earliest known physical evidence of beer making—and indeed the oldest record of man-made alcohol.
The evidence was uncovered in Raqefet Cave near Haifa in Israel, which was once a gravesite for the Natufians—a group of nomadic and semi-nomadic people who lived in the eastern Mediterranean region.
According to the study, the beer that the Nafutians were brewing was quite unlike modern beer. It was probably weaker in alcohol content and more akin to a thick liquid like porridge or gruel.
9. The strongest beer in the world has a strength of 67.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
The strongest beer in the world is “Snake Venom,” brewed by Scottish brewery Brewmeister. It is a gut-wrenching 67.5% ABV! Packing a knockout punch, the potent brew is made using smoke peat malt with added ale and champagne yeast. Bottoms up!
Snake Venom is definitely not for chugging and even comes with a warning label on its neck to tell buyers not to drink too much at once. For comparison, most vodkas and whiskeys are 40% ABV, with beers typically between 3% and 10% abv.
10. The leading beer brand worldwide is Budweiser.
Based on a report by database company Statista, Budweiser (USA) was the most valued beer brand worldwide in 2021, with a worth of 16.1 billion USD. In second place is Heineken (Netherlands), and in third place is Stella Artois (USA). Bud Light (USA) and Corona (Mexico) round up the top five.
11. The world’s top beer-producing country is China.
According to a report by database company Statista, China is the top beer-producing country in the world. The US, Brazil, Mexico, and Germany are the next biggest beer-producing countries in the world.
12. All beer is either an ale or a lager.
Broadly speaking, like red and white wine, in the beer world there are just ales and lagers. All beers begin life either as an ale or a lager, and their specific styles and flavors continue to evolve from there.
The difference between the two is how each is created. The major difference between ales and lagers comes down to the type of yeast used to ferment it.
Ales are created through top fermentation, a process in which the yeast used ferments at warmer temperatures (15˚–21˚C/60˚–70˚F) and settles at the top of the beer. This helps create a foamy texture and a thick “head” on the beer when poured into a glass.
Lagers, on the other hand, are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast that needs the liquid they’re fermenting to be cold (1.5˚–10˚C/35˚–50˚F) and still for a longish time. That’s why lagers are called lagers — it comes from the German word “lagern,” which means “to store.”
Lagers are smooth, crisp beers with a refreshing palate and a hint of hop flavor. Classic lagers include Pilsner Urquell, Coors, Budweiser, and Heineken. Ales are more complex and robust beers with punchier profiles and a wider array of notes that include pale ales, porters, stouts, lambics, wheat beers, and IPAs.
13. Lager is the most popular beer style in the world.
Though craft beer aficionados might scoff, one of the most well-known beer facts is that lager is the most widely consumed type of beer on earth.
Think of every large mainstream beer brand whether in the US (Bud Light, Coors, etc), Germany (Beck’s, Krombacher, etc), Australia (Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter, etc), or worldwide (Heineken, Tsingtao, Corona, Asahi, Birra Moretti, Skol, Stella Artois, etc) to see why it’s no surprise that lagers dominate beer sales.
14. The best-selling beer in the world is a Chinese beer called “Snow.”
Yup. The best-selling beer in the world isn’t what you think. With a global market share of 5.5%, a Chinese beer called “Snow” is the world’s best-selling brew. This watery lager is sold only in China and its high sales benefit from that the fact that it is sold in the world’s largest beer market.
15. Beer was not officially classified as an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013.
One of the astonishing facts about beer is that until 2013 it wasn’t officially classified as an alcoholic beverage in Russia. In 2011, the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a bill that would officially classify beer as an alcoholic beverage from 2013.
Previously, any beverage that contained less than 10% alcohol by volume (ABV) was classified as a “foodstuff” and was therefore controlled as such. Only in Mother Russia!
16. Cenosillicaphobia is the phobia of an empty beer glass.
No, we’re not making this one up. Cenosillicaphobia (pronounced sen-no-sill-ick-uh-fobia) is a real thing and it affects many people. Don’t live in fear — go, grab a beer.
17. The word beer comes from the Latin word ‘bibere’, meaning “to drink”.
Beer takes its name from the Latin ‘bibere’ meaning “to drink”. In addition, the Spanish word for beer ‘cerveza’ originates from the Greek goddess of agriculture, Ceres.
18. The Code of Hammurabi, the ancient Babylonian set of laws, decreed a daily beer ration to citizens.
The Code of Hammurabi was a set of 282 laws inscribed in stone by the Babylonian king Hammurabi. These rules established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice.
While the Code of Hammurabi is well known, few know that one of the laws in the code established a daily beer ration. This daily beer ration was dependent on the social standing of the individual; for instance, the daily beer ration for priests and administrators was five liters (more than one gallon), and for laborers two liters (about half gallon).
19. The Duff Beer logo is censored in French broadcasts of The Simpsons.
Duff Beer, the preferred beverage of Homer Simpson, has its logo blurred on screen every time The Simpsons is broadcast in France due to the country’s strict laws regarding alcohol product placement.
20. Beer was illegal in Iceland from 1915 to 1989.
Interestingly, Iceland went through a period of prohibition which began in 1915 after a majority of 60% voted for a total ban on wine, beer, and other spirits. But, the ban on wine was lifted in 1922, and on spirits in 1935, poor old beer remained banned until 1 March 1989.
From 1935 until 1989, the prohibition only applied to “strong” beer (more than 2,25% ABV). Strong beer was out of favor and strongly frowned upon at the time in Iceland for political reasons.
The country was engaged in a struggle for independence from Denmark at the time, and Icelanders strongly associated beer with Danish lifestyles. Thus, drinking beer was thought of as unpatriotic.
The prohibition on strong beer in Iceland only ended in 1989 after a referendum vote by the population. Now, every March 1st, the country celebrates “Bjórdagurinn” or “Beer Day” commemorating the end of a 74-year beer ban.
21. In Japan, beer cans have braille etchings imprinted on the top of the can so blind people don’t confuse beer with soft drinks and juices.
In order to ensure that life is a little easier for the visually impaired, beer cans have braille imprinted on the top. The braille usually simply says “alcohol,” but occasionally it spells out the manufacture’s name.
22. The world’s very first drinking straws were used by the Sumerians for drinking beer.
One of the most fascinating beer facts is that the earliest known straws in the world were used for drinking beer.
The oldest drinking straw known to be in existence was found in a Sumerian tomb dated 3,000 BC. In the same tomb, archeologists also found a seal showing two men using straws taking beer from a jar.
The Sumerians of Mesopotamia were one of the first societies known to brew beer. 5,000 years ago they used long, thin tubes made from precious metals to drink primitively fermented beer since it was pretty thick (like porridge) and hard to drink.
23. Beer is known to clean your teeth.
One of the beer health facts is that it is known to clean your teeth. A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that beer can keep bacteria from forming — and growing — on your teeth.
Researchers tested the effects of beer extracts on the bacteria that form biofilm and promote tooth decay and gum disease and found that even the weakest extract of beer tested blocked the activity of bacteria.
24. Drinking beer may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
A 2013 study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology has found that drinking one beer per day reduced the risk of developing kidney stones by 41%. It should, however, be noted that extreme intake of alcohol could put anyone at a greater risk for kidney stones.
25. The saying “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” is falsely attributed to Benjamin Franklin.
One of the most popular sayings about beer is commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the United States. However, this is one of the biggest beer myths.
Franklin did say something similar in a letter to his friend André Morellet, but the subject was wine, not beer since Franklin was first and foremost a wine connoisseur.
26. The first athlete to get disqualified at the Olympics for drug use was a Swedish modern pentathlete named Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, who drank “two beers” to calm his nerves before the pistol shooting event.
The 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City were the first to introduce drug testing for medallists, with urine taken and analyzed for narcotics and stimulants. Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall tested positive for excessive alcohol thus becoming the first Olympian ever disqualified for doping.
Apparently, in an effort to steady his nerves, Liljenwall drank two beers to calm his nerves before going out to the pistol course. When tested after the competition, his official Blood Alcohol Concentration exceeded 0.04, the limit the IOC had imposed for the games.
Liljenwall’s disqualification caused the entire Swedish pentathlon team to be disqualified and the team had to forfeit their bronze medals.
27. The fastest time for drinking 1 liter (33 oz) of beer is a paltry 1.3 seconds.
According to Guinness World Records, American Steven Petrosino managed to guzzle a liter (33 oz) of beer in just 1.3 seconds on June 22, 1977. Truly astonishing!
Petrosino’s feat will probably live forever because the Guinness has since stopped recording food- and drink-related stunts (owing to their potential health and litigation risks).
28. International Beer Day is celebrated on the first Friday of August.
International Beer Day is a global celebration that takes place in pubs, breweries, and backyards across the globe to honor mankind’s love of the world’s favorite alcoholic tipple.
International Beer Day was founded in 2007 by Jesse Avshalomov in Santa Cruz, California. Initially, it was celebrated on 5 August and later shifted to the first Friday of August.
29. The first aircraft hijacking in Norway was resolved after the hijacker surrendered his weapon in exchange for more beer.
On June 22, 1985, an armed 24-year-old former convict, who was apparently fed-up with society, hijacked a Norwegian jetliner in mid-air with 120 people aboard demanding to speak to the Norwegian Prime Minister about his grievances.
Shortly after landing at Oslo’s Fornebu Airport, all 115 passengers were permitted to leave the aircraft, but the 5 crew members remained on board as hostages. The hijacker reportedly imbibed the aircraft’s entire beer supply during the whole event and demanded more beer.
The Norwegian police refused to give the hijacker more beer unless he traded his pistol for it. Yielding to his dipsomania, the man finally surrendered his weapon and this bizarre hijacking came to an end!
30. In 1814, a 4.5 meter (15ft) high tidal wave of beer killed eight people in London.
The London Beer Flood occurred on 17 October 1814 at the Meux and Company Brewery in London’s Tottenham Court Road. A huge vat that contained over 600,000 liters (158,000 gallons) of beer ruptured, causing other vats in the building to explode in a domino effect.
Almost 1.5 million liters (388,000 gallons) of brown porter ale gushed into the streets, creating a 4.5 meter (15ft) high tidal wave of beer. The tidal wave destroyed two homes and the wall of the nearby Tavistock Arms pub. The stench of beer in the area persisted for months afterward.
At least eight people drowned but a judge and jury ruled the beer flood was an “Act of God.” Thankfully, there has never been another beer flood like it,
31. Beer was first sold in cans to the public in 1935.
The first canned beer debuted on 24 January 1935 in Richmond, Virginia. In partnership with the American Can Company, the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company delivered 2,000 cans of Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer—the first beers sold to the public in cans. The public loved the canned beer and it hasn’t looked back since.
32. Irish giant Guinness Brewery says that a pint of beer is lifted about ten times, and each time about 0.56 ml of Guinness is unknowingly lost in a beer drinker’s facial hair.
In 2000, research commissioned by the Guinness Brewery found that the average drinker takes 10 sips to sink a pint, of which 0.56 milliliters of Guinness is trapped in the average mustache at every sip. All added up, that’s a lot of wasted beer,
Experts say that the density, length, and shape of a person’s mustache all contribute to the volume of wastage.
33. A person who collects beer bottles or their labels is known as a ‘labeorphilist’.
Damn, that is a tough word to pronounce.
34. The collecting of beers coasters or mats is called ‘tegestology’.
Practitioners of tegestology are known as tegestologists.
35. Sticking fingers into the foam on top of beer (the head) will get rid of it.
The next time you don’t feel like waiting for the beer foam to go down before you could drink it, stick your finger in it. The natural oil on the fingers breaks the surface tension of the bubbles. This collapses them.
36. The oldest operating brewery in the United States is Yuengling.
It may come as a surprise that Yuengling is actually the oldest brewery in the United States. The famous brewery was established in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania by German immigrant David Gottlieb Jüngling.
37. The oldest operating brewery in North America is Molson.
Not only is Molson the oldest brewery in Canada, but it’s also the oldest operating brewery in North America. It was founded in 1786 on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Montreal.
38. Germany Has a ‘Beer Purity Law’.
Germans take their beer very seriously. They’ve had laws regulating what can and can not go into beer for hundreds of years.
The famous German Beer Purity Law is called ‘Reinheitsgebot’, and in 2016, it turned 500 years old. It was first proclaimed in 1516 by the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm IV in the town of Ingolstadt and banned the making of beer with anything except for hops, water, and barley.
The law was originally implemented to regulate prices, avoid price competition with bakers over wheat and prevent brewers from adding impurities such as soot, poisonous roots, and sawdust into their recipes. Eventually, yeast was added to this list after its discovery.
The Beer Purity Law has changed over the course of time to adapt to the standards of the modern age. The law has since allowed the use of rye and wheat, as well as many mineral additives, all the while protecting the purity of the German beer tradition.
To this day, a large portion of German breweries abide by the Reinheitsgebot.
39. Munich’s Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world.
The Oktoberfest in Munich is the biggest and most famous beer festival in the world. It was first held on 12 October 1810 to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Every year, Oktoberfest runs for 16 to 18 days from mid or late September to the first Sunday in October. The event is attended by more than 6 million people from around the world.
40. Abraham Lincoln taxed beer to help pay for the American Civil War.
Strapped for cash with which to raise more revenue for additional troops, munitions, and other wartime expenditures, President Abraham Lincoln and Congress agreed to impose the Revenue Act of 1862. This included a tax on “all beer and other similar fermented liquors, by whatever name such liquors may be called.”