Posted by: jrm1948 | October 23, 2018

Beer: A Defense

Given the way beer has entered the national conversation recently (witness the Kavanaugh confirmation for the Supreme Court), you can appreciate my disappointment at that the unseemliness that the confirmation hearing cast upon a heavenly (and healthy, as we shall see) libation. Justice Kavanaugh’s puerile defense of his taste for beer were the whiney rantings of a privileged adult trying to justify the debauched excesses of his youth. It was a bad look.

In “Beer: Stirring Civilization” (Psychology Today, June 2018: 35-36), Alexander Blum examines the very long history of beer in human civilization, discovering that its earliest production dates back as far as the cradle of civilization (Iran and the Fertile Crescent), and is documented in the Sumerian classic The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 B.C.).

The actual history of beer interests me less than the way Blum describes its impact on humankind.  “Early people,” he says, “struggling to survive, had few moments of unburdened joy. A night of drinking could foment a collective spirit, encouraging the airing of true thoughts and releasing simmering grievances. As civilization’s handmaiden, beer is a psychic technology deployed for stirring and clarifying conversation.” (35)  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such an technically elegant description of the loosening of tongues under the influence of alcohol (“a psychic technology”), but I must admit a certain delight in the thought, still true today, about beer’s ability to “encourag(e) the airing of true thoughts” and its use in “foment(ing) a collective spirit”. The fact that it was a release from what must have been the onerous burden of survival makes beer almost a sacred and ritualistic beverage.

Blum goes on to describe the importance of the addition of hops in beer production (dating to at least the ninth century C.E.). Hops contain photochemicals called humulones that, as he has found, offer multiple health benefits. They are anti-microbial, and have been used in the treatment of inflammation. Humulones, Blum says, prevent cognitive degeneration (the basis for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease). They improve cognitive function in people who suffer metabolic syndrome, and they are often prescribed to help people combat stress and anxiety. (36)

Additionally, beer is an excellent source of B vitamins, and “also harbors the minerals selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, and the malted grain yields silicon, thought essential for maintaining bone density.” (36)

So, while beer has recently been defended at the level of the Supreme Court of the United States no less, and rather clumsily given the messenger, I hope that the preceding is a much more reasonable defense of something that has been with us since the beginning of time, and will continue to be the democratic health drink of choice. Luckily, the advent of micro-breweries in the United States is creating a new “golden age” for this noble brew.

Drink on in good health!!!!

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