Beer’s Greatest Supporters Through History

Four men and one woman who helped to champion the evolution of beer or otherwise threw their historic weight behind the brew

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Image source: wiki/Paul Nadar

Louis Pasteur – Beer preserver

French 1822-1895 

Pasteur’s place in this hall of fame was cemented thanks to his understanding of the fermentation process and the discovery that the growth of micro-organisms spoiled beverages, including beer. In 1876, Pasteur published his book Études Sur La Bière, which discussed the diseases of beer and that fermenting yeast was often contaminated with bacteria. This led to him developing the pasteurisation method, a heat-treatment process that kills the pathogenic bacteria and extends the shelf life of certain food and drink. While Pasteur did not enjoy drinking beer himself, his discovery greatly improved the quality of French-made beers.

Image source: wiki/ Metropolitan Museum of Art

George Washington – Presidential Brewer

American 1732-1799

Better known as a Founding Father and the First President of the United States, George Washington also had an affinity for beer and he regularly promoted the benefits of the alcoholic beverage. Beer was often brewed on his Mount Vernon estate and he even wrote his recipe To Make Small Beer during the 1750s. Washington frequently visited taverns and established his temporary headquarters at the Bull’s Head Tavern in New York City during the American War of Independence. He even gave his famous farewell speech to his officers at the Fraunces Tavern following the end of the war.

Image source: wiki/ Morrison1917

Arthur Guinness – Stout Legend

Irish 1725-1803

After inheriting £100 from his godfather, Archbishop Dr Arthur Price, Arthur Guinness began his first ale brewery in Leixlip in 1755. Four years later, he moved to Dublin and founded the legendary Guinness brewery at St James’s Gate – which he famously leased for 9,000 years – and started producing a dark red dry stout. By the time he died in 1803, Guinness’s brewery was producing 20,000 barrels of beer a year. Today, the company is one of the most iconic beer brands in the world and is still producing Guinness at the original site, with Guinness’s signature still appearing in red on every bottle.

Image source: wiki/Wellcome Collection

Hildegard von Bingen  – Hops Champion

German 1098-1179

Hildegard was a German Benedictine abbess who wrote extensively about natural history and healing. In Physica, one of her two major medical treatises, she was the first person known to write about the importance of adding hops to beverages like beer to prevent them from spoiling, thereby increasing its shelf life. Hildegard also recommended beer over water when the latter had not been purified, and she believed that beer made from barley or wheat could help treat lameness and promote recovery from a cold or stomach flu. However, Hildegard also warned that hops increased melancholy in humans. 

Image source: wiki/Google Cultural Institute

Alexander Nowell – Bottling Innovator

English c. 1517-1602 

Nowell was the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and he’s often credited as the accidental inventor of bottled beer. According to the 17th-century preacher and scholar Thomas Fuller, Nowell left behind a corked bottle of ale after going fishing and returned for it a few days later, discovering that it was still drinkable. While it’s unlikely that Nowell actually invented bottled beer, this myth continues to persist to this day.

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Read the full list of 10 Champions of Beer in All About History 86, available now.