What can beer teach us about the great wide world? In The World of Beer: Tastes of History, Science, and Culture, beer educator and expert J Jackson-Beckham has crafted an engaging, highly interactive series that looks at—and invites you to taste—beer through the lens of history, mythology, botany, marketing, and more.
The World of Beer: Tastes of History, Science, and Culture
J Jackson-Beckham is the Equity & Inclusion Partner for the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association for American craft brewers, and is the founder of Crafted for All, a consultancy and professional development platform. She earned her PhD in Communication and Cultural Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has published extensively on various aspects of beer history and the modern beer industry. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA TODAY, and VICE and by the James Beard Foundation. In 2020, she was named the Beer Person of the Year by Imbibe magazine.
01: Beer Tasting: From Helles to Lambics
Start your adventures in the world of beer with a step-by-step look at the best way to taste beer. You’ll explore how to choose the right glassware (or adapt to what you have on hand), how to pour a beer correctly, and the four sensory markers you want to evaluate every time you take a sip of a new beer.
02: Beer Archaeology: Civilization and Ancient Ale
What if a beer could take you back in time? What would it tell you about the people and places of the past? Find out with a dive into ancient history and archaeology as seen through the lens of beer. Topics include the brewing cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and the Indus River Valley—plus a guided tasting of an Ethiopian mead.
03: Beer Biology: Yeast, Fermenting, and Saisons
Plunge into the fascinating science of yeast and the microbiology that drives brewing. Along the way, taste a couple of beer styles that illustrate some of the biochemical processes involved in the art of brewing: a saison (fermented with a specialized yeast strain) and an Oud Bruin, or Flanders Brown (which has roots dating back to the 1600s).
04: Beer Botany: Barley, Hops, and IPAs
Beer is a thoroughly agricultural product which emerged as humans began to congregate in urban civilizations. Here, get a crash course on the two agricultural products that are used in nearly all modern beer: malted barley and hops. Finish with a guided tasting of a beer style known for highlighting hops: the India Pale Ale, or IPA.
05: Beer Geography: Terroir, Caves, and Guinness
While terroir isn’t a big deal for beer, there’s no doubt that physical and human geographies have deeply shaped beer culture and global beer styles. Explore how some beer styles—like Rauchbiers (smoked beers) and Burton Ale (from a town in the United Kingdom)—powerfully evoke a sense of place with every sip.
06: Beer and Religion: Monks, Bocks, and Trappists
Learn about the critical roles religion and ritual have played in shaping our beer tastes, and how beer, in turn, has influenced the way we practice our faiths. You’ll explore the relationship between beer and the divine (or sinful), the rise of brewing culture in medieval monasteries, and a sampling of some Trappist beer.
07: Beer Legends: Myths, Witches, and Vikings
Here, investigate some ancient and modern legends surrounding beer. Among them are folk songs welcoming guests for a drink, specific ales brewed for women in labor, the role of alewives in witch symbols and imagery, the custom of pouring a beer out for the dead, and even the (patently false) idea of sucking on a penny to pass a breathalyzer test.
08: Beer and Society: Taverns, Darts, and Witbier
Poke your head inside taverns, pubs, inns, and other places where beer has brought people together for thousands of years, and the role they’ve played in cementing beer as the drink of the common folk. Also, explore the role of pub games like darts, and the style of beer that co-evolved with English pub culture: the traditional “pint of bitter.”
09: Beer Industry: Porters, Steam, and Bottling
By the late 19th century, industrialization was in full swing and opening up the next big era in the history of beer. Follow the rise of the first truly international beer style, the London Porter; Anheuser-Busch and America’s first national beer brand; and more. Also, sample steam beer: a cheap, low-quality lager brewed to serve America’s thirsty masses.
10: Beer Politics: Purity Laws and Prohibition
Since as far back as the Code of Hammurabi, legal and political pressures have profoundly shaped beer culture, composition, and even styles. In addition to learning about the rise of temperance movements and America’s Prohibition Era, sample two beer styles that emerged in response to laws: the Märzen (or March Beer) and an American Cream Ale.
11: Beer Marketing: Advertising and Light Lager
Brewers have marketed their beer for a long time, but only in the 20th century did marketing practices reach bold new heights. Explore the rise of Budweiser as the first mass-marketed beer brand (with a tasting of the American classic), as well as other successful entrants into the global beer market, and the price competition that followed.
12: Beer’s Future: Craft Brews and New Styles
Turn now to the explosive craft beer revolution that continues to sweep through the United States. First, get a solid definition of a craft beer (and a craft brewer). Then, take a closer look at how today’s brewers push the boundaries of brewing with unexpected ingredients (including marshmallows), and even low- and zero-alcohol beers.