The "beer belt" is the territory covered by countries in Europe where beer is historically the most popular alcoholic beverage. The beer belt is located to the southwest of the vodka belt and to the northeast of the wine belt.
The geography of the beer belt is closely tied to the historical growing range of its two main ingredients: barley, and more especially hops. Barley was first domesticated durign the late stone age in the ancient near east, has been brewed into beer-like beverages for thousands of years, and as been grown in most of Europe since ancient times. Hops are more narrowly distributed, preferring humid temperate climates, similar to potatoes. Originally, Euopean "ale" (not yet called beer) was produced without hops, which were introduced to Europe from the east (originating in China). The first evidence of hops in Europe dates from 736, in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany, although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing in that country was not until 1079. The westward spread of hops was slow, not reaching England until 1524. Ireland was still importing hops in the eighteenth century; more than 500 tons of English hops were imported through Dublin alone in 1752. In 1516, the Reinheitsgebot or "Bavarian Beer Purity Law" established that barley, hops, and yeast were the only allowable ingredients in beer. This became the template for beers across Europe. While non-barley beers (e.g. wheat beer), and non hopped-beers (e.g. flavoured with gruit) are still produced, across most of Europe "beer" is synonymous with barley and hops. Since the northern range of hops does not include most of Scandinavia or Russia (or much of Scotland), these areas, for the most part, are outside of the beer belt and lie in the vodka/whisky belt (see "vodka belt" above).
Beer has also be promoted by authorities in many spirit-loving countries as a means of social control. Beer is less intoxicating per volume than spirits. The "Gin Craze" in eighteenth century Britain led to a campaign to promote beer as an alternative. The famous prints Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) by William Hogarth, helped to lobby for what became the "Gin Act" of 1751 which taxed and regulated gin. During the 18th century the Irish parliament used taxation to encourage brewing at the expense of distilling, reasoning that beer was less harmful than whiskey.
As of 2012 the beer belt includes Belgium, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, some parts of Austria, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Slovenia, the northern and eastern cantons of Switzerland and the French regions of Alsace, Lorraine and Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the départment of Ardennes. There is quite a bit of overlap in these French regions, as well as in southwestern Germany and parts of Austria, due to the considerable consumption and/or cultivation of wine there, and Poland is also a part of the vodka belt.
Read more about this topic: Alcohol Belts Of Europe
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