Beer may have been enjoyed in 4,000 B.C. Mesopotamia, and beer and ale have become popular worldwide, in about 20 main styles, from wheat beer to stout, from Pilsner to bottle-fermented British ale. There are as many as 5,000 breweries in the world, with up to 15,000 brands, but a large proportion of these are derived from the old Czechoslovakian pilsner.
The basic raw material used in the production of beer is malt, produced by steeping, turning and kilning barley, though many other raw materials, including rice, can be used. As the world becomes more and more a global village, and beer drinkers are exposed to the myriad flavours, strengths and textures of the products of other nations, along with craft breweries - beer and ale have begun to be recognized for the complex, sophisticated products they are. Like wine, there is a beer or ale for every taste and occasion.
Cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from typically from the unfiltered juice of apples. Cider alcohol content varies from 1.2% to 8.5% alc./vol. or more in traditional English ciders, and 3.5% to 12% in continental ciders. In the U.S. and some parts of Canada, fermented cider is commonly known as "hard cider", while "cider" usually refers to a non-alcoholic unfiltered apple juice with a distinct sweet-tart taste. The addition of sugar or extra fruit before a second fermentation increases the alcoholic content of the resulting beverage. An alcoholic apple beverage with higher alcohol (more than 10% alc./vol.) is an "apple wine".
Under U.K. law, cider must contain at least 35% apple juice (fresh or from concentrate), although Britain’s CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) says that "real cider" must be at least 90% fresh apple juice; in the U.S., there is a 50% minimum. In France, cider must be made solely from apples. The juice of any variety of apple can be used in cider making, but particular cultivars grown for cider making are known as cider apples.
The U.K. has the highest per capita consumption, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world. The beverage is also popular and native to other European countries like Ireland, Northern France Northern Spain and the Basque Country. Central Europe also has it own particular types of cider. Germans drink it, as does Europe's largest producer of apples: Poland (high-quality Polish apple concentrate is commonly used for English, Swedish, and Irish cider making). Canada, Argentina and Australia are also cider-producing countries.
A similar product made from fermented pear juice is called perry, or sometimes pear cider (though purists object to the use of the term ‘cider’ to refer to anything other than the product made from apples). Some companies are also now expanding cider-type products using other fruits.