Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Love Affair With Beer

That hot dog at the ball park always tastes better with a beer.  Having a backyard BBQ without beer is considered by many to border on mortal sin.  On Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day here in the States we do drink a lot of beer.  I cannot imagine my German cousins enjoying Bratwurst and Kraut, or my British friends eating Bangers and Mash without washing it all down with a pint or two of that golden liquid that we call beer.  And, when Christmas/winter solstice/and the Yule season rolls around, we really go crazy!  (What diet....forget it!  We immerse our palates in food and drink that is the custom of the season).  We do love our beer; over 36 billion gallons plus a year worldwide of love.

Historical data tells us that the folks in Egypt, Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq and Iran), and China were brewing and quaffing beer well over 7000 years ago.  And, the Egyptians schooled the Greeks in the arts of making a good brew.  Even the best known ruler of Babylon, King Hammurabi, seemed to enjoy beer.  Within his famous code of laws, (the Code of Hammurabi) he dedicated a section governing pub owners.  Maybe this king understood that a thieving bar-keep could make more money by watering down the beer that he was serving (ancient Lite Beer?).

Here is a quick note:  cereal grains, then as is now, contain sugar.  When the grains are added to water, wild yeasts that are in the air ( then and now) combine and the result is something called spontaneous fermentation.  This is a natural process and is similar to how bread was made in those ancient times.  Sorry guys.  For most of these 7000 years of making beer, the ladies did the deed.  In some ancient cultures where beer was a part of a sacrificial offering to that culture's various deities, priestesses were the brew masters.

Everybody drank beer during the middle ages with every meal, probably because it was safer to drink than the water.  Christian monks brewed beer in their monasteries for profit.  And some of that profit was used to provide food, drink, ans shelter for travelers (think Chaucer's Canterbury Tales).

The use of hops in brewing beer started sometime in the 9th century, CE as a preservative; this was a slow process of adaptation.  Before our ancestors added hops, they added various herbs (for Yule, these herbs were 'special') for flavor.  Gradually, brewers caught on to hops not just as a preservative but as a product that added considerable flavor.  It took a few centuries, but the Germans perfected the use of hops in brewing.  By the 15th century CE., the planting and harvesting of hops and cereal grains for the purpose of brewing beer had become big business.

Now, hold on to your pants.  Here are two tidbits that should make you think.  First, beer has similar health benefits as red wine, plus it comes with a healthy dose of vitamin B6.  Secondly, there are many in academia that credit the discovery/invention of beer as a major impetus that pushed forward civilization and technical advancement.  Hey!  Shame on you people in Congress many years ago who pushed through the Volstead Act - Prohibition.  Without that blight, maybe today mankind would have been to Mars, drinking a cold beer.

As Ben Franklin said, "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria." 

Author's Note:  Drink Responsibly, Act Responsibly, Always.  Don't Be Stupid.

                                                 Copyright @ 2012 Terry Unger



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