Some of humanity's earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer: the Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlours, and "The Hymn to Ninkasi", a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, served as both a prayer and as a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people.
Beer is distributed in bottles and cans and is also commonly available on draught, particularly in pubs and bars. The brewing industry is a global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries. The strength of modern beer is usually around 4% to 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), although it may vary between 0.5% and 20%, with some breweries creating examples of 40% ABV and above.
Beer forms part of the culture of many nations and is associated with social traditions such as beer festivals, as well as a rich pub culture involving activities like pub crawling and pub games.
Hops are a flavouring and stability agent in beer. The first documented use in beer is from the eleventh century. Hops comes from the flowers of Humulus lupulus, and contain several characteristics very favorable to beer:
hops contribute a bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt,
hops also contribute aromas which range from flowery to citrus to herbal and,
hops have an antibiotic effect that favours the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable microorganisms.
While hop plants are grown by farmers all around the world in many different varieties, there is no major commercial use for hops other than in beer. Today, the principal production centers for the UK are in Kent (which produces Kent Golding hops) and Worcestershire. Other important production areas include the state of Washington in the USA, Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic.
Interior view of the Toll Gate Saloon, Black Hawk, Colorado; shows arched entry windows, swinging front doors, stove in front left foreground, wooden floor with stains, and calendar from 1897 on entryway wall. Three men occupy the saloon. One bartender stands behind the bar; two others stand in front of the bar. The man in the foreground has his foot on the bar rail and holds a cigar. The man to the rear leans on the bar and holds a beer in his right hand. Three mounted animal heads are over the center mirror; liquor bottles line the shelves on either side of the mirror behind the bartender. Brass spittoon appears on floor. "Bayle's Salted Buttercorn, St. Louis" sign appears in the foreground.
WikiProject Beer is an association of Wikipedians with an interest in beer and beer-related subjects. They have come together to coordinate the development of beer and brewery articles here on Wikipedia. Additionally, other groups have formed other projects that entertain subjects that are directly related to beer, bartending and pubs. Additionally, the mixed drinks project covers topics that include beer cocktails. If any of these subjects pique your interest, please feel free to visit their projects. These groups would love to have you participate!