What’s the Oldest Brewery in the World?

Have you been wondering, “what’s the oldest brewery in the world?” You’re not alone. Brewing and the history of breweries are fascinating subjects, especially for beer buffs. So, let’s talk about it.

Earliest Breweries

We often think of breweries as the super cool, trendy places we now go to have a beer and maybe some delicious bites. Maybe a burger and fries with a local lager are the staples in our minds when it comes to breweries in our imaginations.

But the truth is that brewing has been around for almost 10,000 years, at least, and breweries in the earliest days were a domestic issue.

In fact, many archeologists believe it was beer that encouraged the settlement of humans and led to the civilized societies we have become today. “Beer before bread” is the common expression.

And you may think this reality is because humans just love our alcohol, which, of course, we do. It’s delicious and fun to have around!

But when you remember that beer in those early days only had an ABV of about 1%, you realize it has to be something more than just the urge to go on drunken benders every weekend. Archeologists tell us that almost every society that settled from the nomadic life would build shelter and establish a food system, and the very next step would be to make alcohol.

Now, contrary to what you might be thinking, the urgency to make beer was not due to a love of alcohol but to the need for hydration and nutrition.

People have always had to find safe drinking water and finding it has always been a problem. Toxins in water have led to entire villages getting sick or even wiped out entirely. Dysentery, cholera, and polio have all been spread through water.

Beer is the solution to this problem. The grain in the water is boiled, which kills off most contaminants, and then the grain water is fermented, which will take care of the rest.

Beer was drunk at every meal, and when meals were scarce, beer was a replacement for nutrition, rich in vitamins and minerals from the grains and the yeast.

So, in those early days, every household would have had their own batch of beer, and over time, they would increase their batch to serve guests and passersby. As travel increased, more people developed inns from their homes that also served beer and food to weary travelers.

The Rise of Breweries as Business

From that point on, brewing became a business.

And, in a fascinating turn of events, monks began making wine and beer and selling it to raise funds for the purposes of their order.

As such, the brewery recognized as the oldest in the world was a monastery, Weihenstephan, in the town of the same name in Germany. As luck would have it, the brewery is still open today, from its first operating days in 1040. So, if you happen to be nearby, visit the functioning brewery for a taste of what beer must have been like over one thousand years ago.

Nearby, in Kelheim, Germany, the Weltenburg Abbey Brewery began brewing only ten years later, and has also been in business ever since. It is widely celebrated for its Dunkel Lager, which it claims is the oldest dark beer in the world.

Now, if you happen to be in the United States, the oldest functioning brewery that is also still in business is the Yeungling Brewery, opened in 1829 in Pottsville, PA, who were German immigrants.

So, it looks like Germany has a knack for producing not only great beer but also great brewers.


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