In the last 40 years, anaerobic sludge bed reactor technology has evolved from localized laboratory-scale trials to worldwide successful implementations in a variety of industries. High-rate sludge bed reactors are characterized by a very small footprint and high applicable volumetric loading rates. Best performances are obtained when the sludge bed consists of highly active and well settleable granular sludge. Sludge granulation provides a rich microbial diversity, high biomass concentration, high solids retention time, good settling characteristics, reduction in both operation costs and reactor volume, and high tolerance to inhibitors and temperature changes. However, sludge granulation cannot be guaranteed on every type of industrial wastewater. Especially in the last two decades, various types of high-rate anaerobic reactor configurations have been developed that are less dependent on the presence of granular sludge, and many of them are currently successfully used for the treatment of various kinds of industrial wastewaters worldwide. This study discusses the evolution of anaerobic sludge bed technology for the treatment of industrial wastewaters in the last four decades, focusing on granular sludge bed systems.