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Neatolicious Fun Facts: Beer

By popular request, here are the neatolicious fun facts for ... beer:

1. Beer is old stuff: Recipe found in 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet

The first references to beer dates to as early as 6,000 BC. The very first recipe for beer is found on a 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet containing the Hymn to Ninkasi, a prayer to the goddess of brewing. It tells how to brew beer from barley:

The filtering vat, which makes
a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on [top of]
a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat,
which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on [top of]
a large collector vat.

If you're curious as to how the world's oldest beer tastes like, the Anchor Brewing Company produced a limited edition beer (under the Ninkasi label) based on the recipe.

2. Beer is not mentioned in the bible

Wine was mentioned - many times, but not beer. Instead, the Bible mentioned "strong drink," which some translated as fermented beverage made from grain (i.e. beer). (Source)

3. The Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock Because It Ran Out of Beer
The Mayflower was supposed to sail to the mouth of the Hudson River, near present-day New York City - but the Pilgrims decided to head to Plymouth Bay because they were low on beer.

Colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow wrote this first-hand account: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer ..."

Why did the ship carry beer? It's because unlike water, beer don't go bad on long ocean voyages - but lest you think the shipmates were all plastered all the time, the type of beer they carried was "ship's beer," which wasn't very alcoholic. (Source: The Straight Dope by Cecil Adams - though consider this rebuttal by Bob Skilnik, author of Beer & Food: An American History)

4. World's Strongest Beer: Sam Adams Utopias MMII

The strongest beer in the world was the Sam Adams Utopias MMII, a limited-run (only 3,000 bottles were made) production by Boston Beer Co. It weighs in at 24 percent alcohol by volume in a mini, old-school, copper-brewing kettles. If you want to get one, be prepared to shell out at least $100.

5. What is hop and why is it used in beer anyway?

For flavors, aroma and stability. Hop is the flower of the hop vine (a cousin of the hemp, actually).

Early beers didn't use hops - instead, they were flavored with wild rosemary, coriander, ginger, anise seed, juniper berries and even wood bark.

Hop was used as flavorings as early as 400 BC by captive Jews in Babylon, but historians think that the real reason it was used as additive was for its antiseptic properties. By adding hops, brewers didn't have to have high alcohol content to prevent spoilage. This meant less grains and therefore more profit. (Source)

6. Beer in a Bag

Photo: indy2kro [Flickr] - not sure if this is the original photographer

Quick - how many different ways of transporting beer can you think of? Bottles, glass, cans and kegs? You've missed one: in China, you can buy beer in a plastic bag!

7. St. Arnold: Patron Saint of Brewing

In the 11th century, Arnold of Soissons, a bishop in the Benedictine St. Medard's Abbey in Soissons, France, began to brew beer.

He encouraged the locals to drink beer instead of water for its health benefits (beer was healthier than water mainly because it was boiled and thus sterilized from pathogens). No wonder they made him a saint!

8. How do you say Beer in Zulu?


This website will help: here's how to say Beer in 78 Languages. Or if you want to order a beer in 50 languages.

9. "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" That's what Benjamin Franklin said, anyhow.

That was fun - but we barely scratched the potential with beer. Got any trivia about beer? Add them to the comment! And what should we do for "C" (no cats, mmmkay?)

> 9. "Beer is living proof that God loves
> us and wants us to be happy"

Franklin was writing about wine, not beer:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy! The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.
- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Letter to Andre Morellet
circa July 1779
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Nice one. :)
Also, just if anyone wants to know... Hammurabi's Code has a part saying that beer shouldn't contain too much water and cost too much (long live the king!). :)
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Sam Adams Utopia WAS the strongest beer for a brief period. The world's strongest beer is now being brewed in Bavaria again. It comes with 25%Alcohol and is produced with different yeasts (more alcohol tolerant) than regular beer, then the water content will be reduced by freezing it out - the "Eisbock" principle.
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Beer not mentioned in the Bible? Whose Bible are you reading?

1 Samuel 1:5 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.

Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Proverbs 31:4 "It is not for kings, O Lemuel--
not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,

Proverbs 31:6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;

There are several others, but rest assured, beer is Biblical. ;-)
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I wish I could get a sack of beer from my neighborhood pub . . . But then again, how do you drink or pour from a sack?
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Furthermore with those pilgrims, pilgrim children drank beer as soon as they were weaned. The water wasn't safe, so it was the only thing anyone drank. Most people assume that this was near beer (low-alcohol beer), but books I've read dispute this, some insisting that everyone was drunk pretty much all the time until modern sanitation.
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The Ben Franklin quote is spurious. It's similar (though not exactly so) to a statement he made on wine, a beverage he praised many times. His writings rarely mention beer.
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There's a Saint Arnold's microbrewery in Houston, Texas that makes several very delicious kinds of beer (Lawnmower is the best). I had no idea that there is actually a Saint Arnold!
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The reason that the Pilgrims (and other seafaring folk) could absolutely not run out of beer is because the beer they had on board was spruce beer. Spruce beer was their only source of vitamin C, which staved off scurvy. Without the beer, the scurvy would've killed them.
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Since we're on the topic of delicious psychoactives, why not list some fun facts about cannabis for the letter "C"? Surely this would be more interesting than beer in a bag.
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Dogfish Head Brewery, of Delaware, produces a beer called Midas Touch which is based on the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world.

It's also delicious.
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Dogfish Head also produces and ever older brew, called Chateau Jiahu, which is based on a 9000 year old recipe from China.
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Also, hops were probably used first and foremost for bittering. Without hops, beer would be cloyingly sweet. Hops are generally added for 3 properties: bittering, flavor and aroma. The preservative properties of hops were not known when hops were first used, but are a fortunate side effect that lead to many excellent beers.

And yes Huckabrew, barely wine is a beer style. Also there are numerous styles of beer that can have high alcohol content, not just barley wine, so it is not true that beers over a certain ABV are considered barley wine.
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I've had beer before and I can't for the life of me understand its taste appeal. Maybe it was just the brew I had.

You know what they need to bring back as a drink? Mead.
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Hops is merely bacteriostatic (it inhibits bacterial growth, but doesn't KILL bacteria). Also, it only seems to work on members of the phylum Firmicutes ("Gram-positive"). It does nothing against critters like "E.coli" - or Acetobacter and Gluconobacter (vinegar bacteria), for that matter.

Hops is still useful though, since a major pest in beers (other than lambics!) is lactic-acid producing bacteria (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, etc.), which are members of the phylum Firmicutes.

E.coli and such are inhibited more by the alcohol rather than the hops.

(There, you all have your US RDA of Useless Knowledge™ now...)
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1. Beer Sheva has nothing to do with beer as we know it. Be'er in Hebrew means well.
2. While the possible references to beer in the Bible may be vague, and may refer to many things including date beer, there is a clear reference to hops in the Babylonian Talmud. So that afforementioned fact has legs to stand on.
I'll take a good hefeweisen under the reinheitsgebot any day of the week.
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