A fermented liquor, which is most commonly prepared from malted barley, although it is sometimes made from other kinds of grain, either raw, or malted, as wheat, maize, millet; also from sugar and molasses; and, recently, from mangel wurzel; in fact, it may be obtained from most vegetable substances which contain saccharine matter, uncombined with any acid. Beer, or a fermented liquor prepared from grain, was known to the ancient Egyptians, with whom, indeed, the art of preparing it is supposed to have had its rise. Beer was also in use with the ancient Gauls, Saxons, Britons, and other nations of the north and west of Europe; and is, at the present, a common beverage in most countries where grain is plentiful, and where the grape does not flourish. Park and Lander both mention it as extensively used in various parts of the interior of Africa. It does not appear that either the Egyptians, or any of the nations of antiquity, used hops, or any similar substance, with their worts, on which account their beer would not be well adapted for keeping.

This improvement in the art of brewing was introduced in England about the beginning of the sixteenth century; at the outset the practice encountered some prejudice; and, in an old act of parliament, hops are denounced as a poisonous weed.

In England, two distinct sorts of beer are known, called ale, and porter, or beer, and of each sort there are numerous varieties. Although the difference in the flavour of ale and of porter is sufficiently marked, it is difficult to say in what way it is produced; that it is not altogether owing to pale malt being used for brewing ale, as some assert, is clear from the fact that, in many parts of the country, ale is brewed from brown malt; neither is it owing to a larger quantity of hops being used in making porter, for the pale ale, which is exported in large quantities from this country to India, contains a larger proportion of hops than the porter exported to the same place; neither will a difference in the proportions of the malt to the water account for it, since some ales are stronger, and others weaker, than porter. It is also singular that, although capital ale may be brewed in private families, few persons but the London brewers, who have very large establishments, can make good porter. Although the various causes we have just noticed may have some effect, we imagine that the difference is principally caused by the addition of certain ingredients to the worts during the process of fermentation.

This practice, although not openly avowed, is, nevertheless, well known to be pretty general; and it is also certain that some of these additional ingredients are of a very noxious and unwholesome description. For the process of making beer, see Brewing.