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If America had an official alcoholic beverage, it would probably be beer. According to the Brewers Association, the overall U.S. beer market was worth $101 billion in 2009. Over 205 million barrels of beer were sold (1 barrel equals 31 gallons of beer). In the same year, there were 1,595 breweries in the U.S. fermenting everything from light lagers to chocolaty stouts.
In that spirit, LiveScience proposes a toast to beer, that sudsy beverage that humans have brewed for millennia.
What's in a glass?Slide 2 of 21
What's in a glass?
Water, mostly. But also flowers, fungus and grains.
Beer gets much of its flavor from hops, which are vine-grown flowers that look more like mini-pinecones than daisies. The alcohol in beer comes from grain, usually barley, which is malted (or allowed to germinate) and then steeped in water to extract its sugars. Those sugars become a feast for yeast, the tiny, unicellular fungi that thrive on sugars and excrete alcohol.
Yeasts usually get filtered out of commercial beers before they're bottled, but they leave traces (and flavors) behind. A study published in August 2010 in the Journal of Proteome Research found that beers contain a surprising variety of proteins: at least 62, 40 of which come from yeast. These proteins are key in supporting beer's foamy head, the researchers noted.Slide 3 of 21
Top to it!Slide 4 of 21
Top to it!
The hops that give beer both its bitter taste and fruity aroma are also powerful cancer-fighters. Hops are a better source of cell-damage-fighting antioxidants than red wine, green tea and soy products, according to a 2000 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The source is xanthohumol, a tongue twister of a compound found only in hops.
The bad news is that you'd have to drink about 118 gallons (450 liters) of beer a day to see a health benefit from the antioxidants in hops. Eventually, researchers hope to distill that hoppy, anti-cancer goodness down to a pill to help prevent cancer.Slide 5 of 21
Who drank it then ...Slide 6 of 21
Who drank it then ...
Humans and yeast have been working together for millennia to create tasty brews. As early as the 6th millennium B.C., ancient Sumerians had discovered the art of fermentation. By the 19th century B.C., they were inscribing beer recipes into tablets in the form of a Hymn to Ninkasi, their female deity of beer.
Other cultures around the world developed beer independently, but the job of brewing often went to women. Tenenit, the Egyptian deity of beer, was female, as was the Zulu beer goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa. A 2005 study found that among the Wari people of ancient Peru, elite women brewed the beer. Centuries later, women dominated the European brewing scene, according to a 1993 article in Yankee Brew News by late beer anthropologist Alan Eames. According to Eames, it wasn't until the late 1700s that beer became a male-dominated drink.Slide 7 of 21
And who drinks it nowSlide 8 of 21