Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Beer and the holidays

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Beer and the holidays

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Japan

Archaeologists discovered four-thousand-year old clay images of people brewing, storing, and drinking beer in ruined cities and forgotten tombs scattered throughout the ancient world. The Babylonians made sixteen kinds of beer, using everything from white and black barley to wheat and honey. Beer was glorified in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where it was referred to as the “beer of truth” and “beer of eternity.” Beer has been made from many different grains through the ages, yet, barley has proven the world’s most valued brewing ingredient.

Bavarian monks first brewed lager beer during the 14th Century, but it could only be brewed during the winter months. In 1620, the Puritans regulated, by law, daily beer consumption. They were allowed two quarts for breakfast alone. But back then, there was little choice of beverages and the unhealthy management of waste disposal contaminated many pure water sources. People were afraid to drink the water and drank beer instead, consuming beer as fast as we drink water or sodas today. In 1637, the legislature of the Massachusetts Bay Colony fixed the price of beer: “not more than one penny a quart.” By law, beer in Colonial America had to be served in standard half-pint, pint, or quart mugs. Today, drinking beer has gotten a bit out of control since colonial times.  

In 1840, a wave of German migrants arrived in America, bringing with them the recipes of bottom-fermenting lagers. Migrants such as Frederick Pabst, Bernard Stroh, Joseph Schlitz, Adolph Coors, Henry Weinhard, Theodore Hamm and Eberhard Anheuser. In 1892, the modern bottle cap was invented. Before this date most beer was consumed on draught.  After the invention of the bottle cap, beer sales would never be the same again. In 1935, Krueger Brewing Company and the American Can Company introduced canned beer. Today American pale lager is produced at a rate of 180 million barrels per year.

With all this drinking going on, it leads up to two kinds of alcohol-related problems: health problems and impairment problems. Alcohol related impairment problems develop quickly, since alcohol is a nervous system depressant slowing down bodily functions. Impairment problems include impaired driving, violence, falls, and general injuries. Alcohol-related health problems develop over time. Alcoholism is the best example of these health problems, and includes heart disease, liver disease, cancers, and other illnesses.

Binge drinking is the ingestion of too much beer, wine or hard liquor, too quickly and could lead to alcohol poisoning. When the body’s vital centers have been depressed enough by alcohol, unconsciousness or death can occur from acute intoxication. Due to differences in body chemistry, women can overdose after drinking lesser amounts than men. People who survive alcohol poisoning sometimes suffer irreversible brain damage. If the person is cold, clammy, pale, or have bluish skin, slow respiration, breaths of eight or less per minute, better call 911 pronto. Drinking and driving was not an issue back in 1620. BAC levels didn’t exist. Falling off your horse was a major problem, and folks died younger.  The new view of drinking is that alcoholism is a lifestyle-related health problem and it can be divided into two categories: risks we can change and risks we cannot change. Everyone has some level of biological risk, or trigger level for developing lifestyle-related health problems. This is a risk we cannot change and is true for heart disease, cancer and alcoholism. Drink responsibly. Live.

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