Big Book o' Beer

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Today is my brother's birthday and so I temporarily suspended SUGGESTION SATURDAY so I could read a special book in honor of the occasion. I asked him for a suggestion but his response was, "You've already read the one book I've read in my life." So I decided to go to Plan B, reading a book on a subject that he's interested in. As far as I can tell his two main interests are sports (and I just can't go through that again) and beer. So I chose to go with beer.

Today's book, "Beer may have gone a bit upscale in recent years, what with all those micro brews and Belgian ales, but Swierczynski (The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion) is more interested in the history of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the trivia of hangovers, not to mention the physics of a flying bottle cap, the world's weirdest beer flavors (he's found banana and white chocolate mousse, among others) and beer label art. He divides this visually captivating compendium into a six-pack of chapters, covering history, geography, crafts, the sciences, the arts and even connoisseurship as they relate to readers' favorite hop-flavored brew."

Today's book was very interesting, although it did feel really weird to spend the whole day reading about something that I'm allergic to. First I find out I'm allergic to cake and now this, I never get to have any fun (just kidding, I never even tried beer before I found out I was allergic to it, in fact I've never had alcohol of any kind - I'm boring and square that way).

Fun facts about beer:

  • In 2600 B.C., the Sumerians drank their beer through a straw, because back then beer was often full of really unpleasant-tasting grain hulls that were left behind after the crude brewing process. (The lesson here dear readers: Be thankful for modern brewing techniques. You know some people are lucky enough to get to drink hull-free beer. Some people had to rough it.)

  • During the Middle Ages, in England, it was a standard practice to have what was known as "elevenses," a beer break at 11 a.m. to "nourish the body and spirit." (So if you ignore the plagues that kept wiping out their population, people in the Middle Ages had it pretty good).

  • It was also customary during the Middle Ages to bathe newborn babies in beer, because the beer was more sanitary than the water supply. (I think it's time for an official EEEEEWWWW. I don't even want to think about what was in that water to make beer seem like a wholesome alternative).

  • The beer can was first introduced in 1935 - however those cans didn't come with pull tabs so the cans had to be opened with a special opener called a "church key" to puncture the tops. (Was the person who came up with the name for the opener trying to be ironic, or were they trying to shame the drinkers into getting back on the straight-and-narrow? I want to know more. But, unfortunately the book doesn't elaborate on that point). Then in 1963 pull tabs made their debut (ahh, progress).

  • The creepiest bar in the world (in the author's opinion, and I must wholeheartedly agree), is in Holywell, England. Legend has it that the bar is haunted by a teenage girl who hanged herself and then was buried nearby. I wish I could say that was the creepy part, but no. The creepy part came later, when the bar expanded and now the girl's gravestone is inside of the bar. (Okay, I have nothing clever to follow up that tidbit of information, because I'm still reeling from how disturbing it is).

  • There are more breweries in Portland, Oregon than anywhere else in the world - 20 to be exact. (I fear there's a family trip to Portland in my future).
I hope you've enjoyed this tacky blog entry of mine - and if you didn't, well then, no need to worry because I can assure you that tomorrow's book will be a wholesome one.