The global regions of beer brewing on earth.


What is a brewery basin or global brewery zone ?

It is a large geographical area where beer and brewery had a similar early development remaining pore or less homogeneous throughout history. A brewery basin is characterised by :

a) endogenous brewing techniques, emerged and perfected around the 6 Pathways of beer brewing.

b) an economy of brewery products, with specific local starchy raw materials.

c) a socio-economic role of beer (Glossary), in relation to its place in the religious universes specific to each cultural area.

The native character of the brewery at a regional scale (raw material, processes) is the main criterion.

The planet is divided into 19 original brewery basins whose geographical limits have been evolving over time. A brewery basin can extend or merge with neighbouring basins. Some retract to the point they seems to have disappeared. The Near East basin, for example, has still nowadays indigenous beers, relics of very ancient beers (Muslim world and beer)[1]. Islam has not made beer disappear completely in the Middle East. Another example : after the Spanish ferocious colonisation of South America, the autochtonous brewery could have collapsed in the Andean Cordillera. It has only rechaped itself and focused on the ethnic communities needs. No brewing basin has totally disappeared in the course of history. The brewing basins are only evolving.

How to recognise a primitive brewery basin?

  • Identify the native starchy plants resulting from primary/secondary domestication or introduced early into a region.
  • Identify the ancient brewing techniques attested by chemical traces of beer, fossil yeast/bacteria, archaeological remains, written or figurative documents.
  • Characterise the socio-economic activities associated with beer:
    • economic activities: brewery, tavern, beer merchants, recycling of spent grains, storage of ingredients or finished beer.
    • social rules of production, supply and sharing: grains, brewing ingredients and by-products (leaven, ferment, spent grains), different kinds of beer, drinking manners, kinds or qualities of beer mapping the social hierachy.
    • beer-related cults, rituals and celebrations: agrarian rites, communal feasts, beer offerings (birth, rite of passage, wedding, death), sacrifices, etc.


Needless to hide the inherent hindrances to this task : draw a world map of beer and brewing in ancient times. Among some :

1) The detection and analysis of food and beverages is a recent and promising issue in archaeology. However, under this scientific angle, the majority of the planet remains unexplored. Many archaeological excavations do not seek to identify the nature of the beverages contained in the ceramics and various containers excavated.

2) A large geographical area is seldom culturally homogeneous.

3) A region, a continent can suffer invasion and colonisation whose violence destroys entire societies. Does the persistence of ancient cultures justify talking about a "brewing basin"? Example: the conquest of South America by the Spanish. The brewing of chicha did not disappear in the 16th century nor during the following centuries, but its economic and social role, its brewing methods and its trade were profoundly transformed. This can be said about Africa, India, South-Est Asia.

4) On the timescale of 10 to 11 thousand years of beer history, which unit of time will show whether a cultural area has changed or not from the standpoint of the beer brewing and its social issues ? A century, a millennium?



[1] We are talking about traditional barley or wheat beers which in a barely fermented form are tolerated or admitted by Islamic communities as refreshing drinks.

25/02/2013  Christian Berger