Following significant improvements in the efficiency of the steam engine in 1765, industrialization of beer became a reality. Further innovations in the brewing process came about with the introduction of the thermometer in 1760 and hydrometer in 1770, which allowed brewers to increase efficiency and attenuation.
Prior to the late 18th century, malt was primarily dried over fires made from wood, charcoal, or straw, and after 1600, from coke.
In general, none of these early malts would have been well shielded from the smoke involved in the kilning process, and consequently, early beers would have had a smoky component to their flavours; evidence indicates that maltsters and brewers constantly tried to minimize the smokiness of the finished beer. .
Prior to Prohibition, there were thousands of breweries in the United States, mostly brewing heavier beers than modern US beer drinkers are used to. Beginning in 1920, most of these breweries went out of business, although some converted to soft drinks and other businesses. Bootlegged beer was often watered down to increase profits, beginning a trend, still on-going today, of the American palate preferring weaker beers. Consolidation of breweries and the application of industrial quality control standards have led to the mass-production and the mass-marketing of huge quantities of light lagers. .
Many European nations have unbroken brewing traditions dating back to the earliest historical records. Beer is an especially important drink in countries such as Belgium, Germany, Ireland , and the UK, with nations such as France, the Scandinavian countries, the Czech Republic, and others having strong and unique brewing traditions with their own history, characteristic brewing methods, and styles of beer. .
European breweries brew the full range of beers, from ancient styles such as the spontaneously-fermented iambics of Belgium; the lagers, dark beers, wheat beers and more of Germany; to the UK's stouts, mild’s, pale ales, bitters, and the recently created British traditional brewer's answer to light continental lagers, the golden ale. Traditional brewing techniques are still very widely used in Europe, for the sake of maintaining the quality of the final product which suffers if brewed using the more efficient industrial processes which have been developed in modern times. .
European breweries include the largest multinationals to the smallest microbreweries, and the continent probably has a wider range of brewing traditions, styles, and individual beers than any other region. .
In some parts of the world, breweries that had begun as a family business by Germans or other European émigrés grew into large companies, often passing into hands with more concern for profits than traditions of quality, resulting in a degradation of the product. .
In 1953, New Zealander Morton W. Coutts developed the technique of continuous fermentation. Coutts patented his process which involves beer flowing through sealed tanks, fermenting under pressure, and never coming into contact with the atmosphere, even when bottled. His process is used by Guinness. Marston's Brewery in Burton on Trent, on the other hand, still uses open wooden Burton Union sets for fermentation in order to maintain the quality and flavour of its beers, while Belgium's lambic brewers go so far as to expose their brews to outside air in order to pick up the natural wild yeasts which ferment the wort. Traditional brewing techniques protect the beer from oxidation by maintaining a carbon dioxide blanket over the wort as it ferments into beer. .
Today, the brewing industry is a huge global business, consisting of several multinational companies, and regional breweries. Advances in refrigeration, international and transcontinental shipping, marketing and commerce have resulted in an international marketplace, where the consumer has literally hundreds of choices between various styles of local, regional, national and foreign beers.