Beer has been around for about 10,000 years. Some anthropologists claim that the reason people settled down towns was to have enough barley to make beer. The Sumerians invented writing to keep track of commodities, especially beer. The language has 60 different words for beer, more than the Eskimos have for snow.
It was a major food stuff in ancient Egypt. Despite what watching certain movies would tell you, the Pyramids were not built by slaves, and in fact a pyramid builder would be paid 1 gallon of beer a day.
Beer in Europe went from a largely home-made product, brewed by the lady of the house or Alewife, to a major industry starting with the Church in the Middle ages, and expanding to the Nobility, whose legacy can still be found in the Hofbräuhaus.
In 1870, there were over 3,000 breweries in the US. Prohibition didn’t start the decline of the number breweries, but it certainly nailed down the coffin. After prohibition ended, ridiculous alcohol laws, and a generally poor attitude to food culture (think wonder bread and processed American Cheese) between WWII and the 1980s kept the number of breweries declining until in 1970, there were only 40 left. With the legalizing of homebrewing in 1978, and a generally change in the food culture, we now have over 2,000 breweries in the US, with 1,500 additional breweries being planned. Without a real unbroken beer tradition like Germany, were aren’t mired in a stagnant beer culture, and beer is going places it has never gone before.
With the rapid rise in the number of breweries, and new styles and brewing methods being tried out every day, the year 2012 is the most exciting time in the 10,000 year history of beer. The best part about that statement, is that I will probably be able to say that about 2013 as well.