beer

A pointy-headed professor. A hand-painted heron. A steel fist rising in the air. These are all works of American art, of a sort — but you can't go to a museum to see them. You go to your local bar or craft brewery.

They're examples of beer tap handles, a business that's expanded in tandem with the explosion of growth in the craft beer industry. As craft brewers try to make their brews stand out in an increasingly crowded field, they're driving the expansion of a singular business: custom-made snazzy beer taps.

Top supporters of an audacious Belgian pipeline will get a bottle of beer every day for the rest of their lives. That's in return for putting more than $8,000 toward bringing a pipe dream to life, and helping a brewery remain in the historic town of Bruges.

Lorenzo Mendoza greets and kisses worker at his shuttered brewery in Caracas, Venezuela. He's trying to boost morale.

Mendoza is the chief executive of Venezuelan food giant Empresas Polar, which was founded in 1941 and is now the largest private company in this socialist country.

But Polar has come upon tough times. Many of its processing plants are running at half-speed, and thousands of employees have been furloughed since April, when all four of the company's breweries were shut down by a barley shortage.

A 5,000-year-old brewery has been unearthed in China.

Archaeologists uncovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Discovered at a dig site in the Central Plain of China, the kits included funnels, pots and specialized jugs. The shapes of the objects suggest they could be used for brewing, filtration and storage.

It's the oldest beer-making facility ever discovered in China — and the evidence indicates that these early brewers were already using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques.

With more than 1,300 breweries producing some five-and-a-half thousand different types of beer, Germany is serious about the amber nectar. There's even a word for it – bierernst – which means "deadly serious" and translates literally as "beer serious."

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