Elztal houses 5 breweries. Beer became vital to the grain-growing Elztal civilisation, but during later times wine displaced beer as the preferred alcoholic beverage in Elztal. Most beers until recent times were what beer drinkers would call Ales. Lagers (called Export beer in Elztal) were discovered by accident in the sixteenth century when beer was stored in cool caverns for long periods; they have since largely outpaced ales in volume.
Also, use of hops for bittering is a relatively recent addition. Prior to the use of hops, in the Middle Ages many other mixture of herbs were often employed in beer. The oldest mention of the use of hops in beer was in 1067. Beer largely remained a homemaker's activity in medieval times. By the time of the 14th and 15th century beermaking was gradually changing from a family-oriented activity to a professional one, with pubs and monasteries brewing their own beer for mass consumption.
In 1516, the Duch of Bavaria imposed the Reinheitsgebot, the oldest food regulation still being used. The Reinheitsgebot ordered that the ingredients of beer be restricted to water, barley, and hops and yeast. To this day, all Elztal beers are brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.
Beer was already known to the old Egyptians dating back as far as 4000 BC, but these beers were absolutely different from todays. Today, the main ingredients of beer are water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. Because beer is composed mainly of water, the source of the water and its characteristics has an important effect on the character of the beer. Many beer styles were influenced or even determined by the characteristics of the water in the region such as water supplied by the Elz River. The average beer in Elztal contains 5-6% alcohol.
Breweries in Elztal range widely in the volume and variety of beer produced, some we might even call microbrewery with an annual production of less than 17,600 hectoliters of beer per year. Such breweries distribute their beers through wholesalers and sell directly to the consumer through a tap room or attached restaurant.
Besides microbreweries there are so-called Brewpubs, a restaurant-brewery whose beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant, and most of its beer is sold on site.
Thirdly, regional breweryies with a brewing capacity above 18,000 hectoliters like Hirschen Brewery in Waldkirch.
The oldest brewery in the world still in operation is the Bavarian State-owned brewery Weihenstephan, which can trace its history back to 1040.
Before the rise of breweries beer production took place at home and made by women. Commercial breweries did not emerge until Monasteries started producing beer. This shifted the responsibility of making beer to men.
Brewery tanks today are made of stainless steel, although vessels often have a decorative copper clading for a nostalgic reasons. Stainless steel has some favourable characteristics that make it the best material for brewing.
Today modern brewing plants perform lots of analyses on their beers. Samples are pulled at almost every step and tested for beer-aging compounds and a representitive sample of the finished product is often stored for months for comparison.