Brew & You Special Edition
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Beer has figured prominently in the history and economy of man on earth and will likely continue to do so until the last man standing. I propose that we drop the current use of gold and silver, plastic and paper, coin and Bitcoin, in lieu of the more viable alternative currency; beer.
In this issue of Brew & You we will explore the rich history of beer, how its production utilizes a mechanism of extinction, how it was key in leading us into the next era after the hunter-gatherer stage, and how it can now usher us into the final era of mankind; The Beer Economy.
Often, I have referred to beer as “liquid bread,” so, while picking up some Christmas Cheer at the local Total Wine & More, the title of an article on beer caught my attention: “Liquid Bread to Long Pour.” Into my basket I tossed the third edition of Total Wine’s complimentary “Guide to Beer: A Comprehensive Look at the Wide World of Beer – Its History, Process, Production and Styles.” I’d like to share some of that article with you along with my personal view on how to deal with the upcoming extinction event of man.
If a single thing can be considered common to all the different cultures over the ages, it could be beer. Whether beer was viewed as a “gift from the gods” or seen as the “Devil’s Brew,” everyone had it from ancient Babylon and Egypt to modern times. Whether we find recipes written on tomb walls in the Royal Pyramids or written down as the lyrics in Tom T. Hall’s poplar country song, we find that many past and current folk could sing “I love beer, It makes me a jolly good fellow.”
Anthropologists have long been aware that grains were in use before the agrarian society. Many thought that grains were used to make bread and beer as sustenance on long hunting trips, and to supplement hunter gathering. Ask yourself, if you were a hunter gatherer on a long journey away from the man cave, wouldn’t you bring along bread and brew? Drinking water was not generally sanitary, or easily found while on the hunt. Beer was not only a staple at home, because it was safe to drink, it was a good provision to take on long trips.
Probably someone’s bread porridge fermented and beer was accidently discovered. The Egyptians likely developed farming to produce enough grains for their beer and to trade with the Sumarians. Not only was beer necessary as a sanitary source of drink and useful for trade; what self respecting Egyptian would go into the afterlife without his favorite beer recipes and ingredients? And it was also a religious sacrament having been handed down to them by Osiris. The Ancient Ones obviously took beer very seriously, and you should too.
Eventually, cultivation of grains for brew afforded small nomadic peoples the opportunity to settle down and large societies began to spring up giving agrarian based-civilization a running start. One could say that the agrarian society began because of the need for beer.
For thousands of years, “Ale Wives” were the main producers of beer, and pubs began popping up in the houses that offered a popular “Brewster’s” grog. Persons could sit and drink or purchase and take out beer, and the Pub was born.
Not to be outdone by the women, scholarly Christian Monks helped spur the large-scale commercial production of beer by advancing brewing technology. God bless those Christians! Monks used beer to help them in long fasts, drinking around two gallons of beer per day! Monasteries and nunneries soon became “repositories of brewing and winemaking techniques” says David J. Hansen in his book, “History of Alcohol and Drinking around the World.”
Monks kept their techniques secret as they relied on the revenues to support their philanthropic endeavors. In medieval times the monks basically controlled the commercial production of beer. They were probably the first to use hops and this is likely because of its preservation quality. Europeans resisted the hops and so for a time “ale” was brewed with gruit while “beer” was brewed with hops.
Eventually, feudal lords took away the monks brewing rights forcing them north into Belgium and the Netherlands. The German Lords made ordinances requiring that only hops, barley and water be used in the brewing process and today we refer to this as their Purity Laws. Later, wheat and yeast were added as proper ingredients.
Flash forward from medieval times to the time of the pilgrims who were on their way to Hudson. The Mayflower took along 42 tons of beer (now that’s my kind of cruise!), 10,000 gallons of wine, and only 14 tons of water. Because they ran out of beer, they had to stop in Plymouth Rock. The lives of Squanto, his Native American brothers, the Pilgrims, and the Americas would never be the same.
Fermentation was still considered magic and no one understood the role of yeast until the 1800’s when microscopes were able to see those tiny, little, teensy-weensy microbes.
Now’s a good time to take a look at yeast, fermentation, and how it clearly shows us a very well understood principle of extinction.
When a species exceeds its carrying capacity it experiences die-off and then die-out. It is what happened to the passenger pigeon and to Easter Island inhabitants. Another example of exceeding carrying capacity is in the making of beer:
“Fermentation is the process by which yeast converts the glucose in the wort to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas -- giving the beer both its alcohol content and its carbonation.” - Wiki
Take a look at yeast cells in a fermentation vessel. Yeast is a very successful species THAT EATS UP the nutrients and increases their population. In a few weeks the 'pollution' they produce (alcohol and CO2) fills up their environment, and they experience die-off and extinction.
But let’s continue our tale of ale. It took the industrial revolution to move from warm fermenting to cold fermenting when lagering and cold storage techniques were developed.
Competing against the Germans, the Bavarians introduced their Pilsner, but dark beers were more able to spread around the world due to the ability to stave off bacterial infections.
Brewing spread across Europe, to Mexico, and to the Americas. Different styles cropped up due to varying types of readily available ingredients.
Ale dominated American beer until Dutch and German immigrants arrived. John Wagner brought his Bavarian lager yeast to Philly around 1840. German beer makers, such as, Coors, Pabst and Busch dominated the beer market until at least prohibition.
There were mostly thousands of small local breweries in America until the invention of refrigeration allowed mega breweries to establish coast to coast trade. By 1915 some 60 million barrels of beer were made a year. I don’t know how many bottles of beer on the wall that equates to, but today it’s about 196 million barrels per year.
Today, eleven of the 3,300 or so breweries produce about ninety percent of the beer consumed in the U.S. of A.
“Craft beer is on the rise, generating over 19 percent of the entire American beer industry’s $101.5 billion in sales. But the fast growing imported beer market also accounts for a significant piece of the beer drinking pie. According to Nielsen data, the amount of Mexican beer sold in grocery stores in the last year is equal to the amount of all craft beer sold from supermarket and convenience store shelves.
“And despite the fact that there's more choice, one beer produced by a big brewer continues to dominate. Last year, 38 million barrels of Bud Light were sold in the U.S.— which equates to one out of every five beers sold.
“Take a look at the list of the biggest brewers selling in the U.S. to see how acquisitions through the years continue to reduce independent brewers in the country.”
Easy to see that if the big mega brewers stopped brewing today, in just a few short days, there would be ….GASP!... no beer at the local beer market! There would be widespread panic. No amount of gold or silver can satisfy the thirst. You can’t drink money!
Therefore, I propose that our new currency should be beer. When the inevitable artificial economy overturns, and man reverts to the natural economy, at least then we can drink our money!
There are other advantages to this as well. We can pay back our debt to China pretty quickly while putting many farmers, brewmasters and laborers to work. I’m sure the Chinese would agree (can you imagine having to drink just Tsing Dao every day? Yeech!).
Replacing the Federal Reserve Banks with Miller, Budweiser and Coors would be an easy transition. We just shut the feds down. Everyone knows that private enterprise can do anything better than the government anyways. Surely, you can see the advantage here, instead of the Feds printing up fiat, the Mega Breweries just boost production of beer.
Currency conversion is simpler. Banking and accounting would be less difficult for the common man. A pint is a pint anywhere. Of course, there is the ABV, and the alcohol to volume ratio is an objective criteria that would determine the denomination.
Of course, the bottom line is we can’t stop the inevitable, but we can go down drinking!
Raise your glass and celebrate life because… We’re not Doers, we’re Beers!