7 things you didn’t know about: beer

Assorted Beers in a Flight Ready for Tasting
Assorted Beers in a Flight Ready for Tasting
Image: 123RF/Brent Hofacker

Some are currently missing it (lockdown vibes), some hate it, but one thing is for sure, many drink it.  With the current restrictions imposed on us with the national lockdown, there can be no doubt that one mistress that has likely been top of mind, but far-from sight, is beer. 

So massive is its reach, that beer even has a day dedicated to celebrate it, International Beer Day. Locally, we even have the Beer Association of South Africa, which brings together a few of the industry’s bigwigs including the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken South Africa and SAB. But how much do you actually know about your favourite malty drink?

In the spirit of the beverage that we share over sports, spill over dancefloors and sip and sip until our stomachs swell, here are seven things that you probably didn’t know about beer.

1. It has been around for at least four thousand years

A clay tablet that was decrypted from fourth-century Mesopotamian hieroglyphs represents upright beer jars, which suggests that this universally-beloved drink has been around longer than the New Testament.

Additionally, there is evidence that the men who built the Egyptian pyramids were paid in liters of beer, without which, according to some archaeologists, it is unlikely that these intrepid workers would have been prepared to withstand such miserable working conditions.

2. You can drink it hot

South Africans favour their beer ice cold (for obvious reasons), but in centuries past beer was a hot winter staple in cold countries such the United States of America, where the heat (accrued over a metal vessel atop a fireplace) also ensured that the beer or ale was purged of unwanted bacteria foreign pathogens.

3. The term ‘cenosillicaphobia’ refers to the fear of an empty beer glass

Symptoms include a sense of dread and physical revulsion or squeamishness as the beer is depleted and the bottom of the glass comes into view. 

4. The strongest beer in the world is more alcoholic than vodka

A Scottish brewery (aptly) called Brewmeister produces “Snake Venom", a beer that comprises a staggering 67.5% ABV, which makes it more alcoholic than your average unit of Vodka (40 % ABV).  

5. Africans lead the way 

Africa is Guinness Beer’s biggest source of sales. The Irish company opened its first offshore Brewery in Lagos in 1962, shortly after Nigeria won its independence. Since 2007, more Guinness has been consumed per annum in Nigeria than it has in the U.K., where sales of the dark, hopsy brew have been on the decline.

6. Hipsters can thank Jimmy Carter for advent of craft beer

The mania for craft beer can be traced back to 1978, when then US President Jimmy Carter authorized a tax exemption for beer that was brewed by and for families at home. Naturally, people began to take an interest in producing their own beer, and this hobby gradually burgeoned into a market of small, highly-individuated beer labels in the U.S. and abroad.

7. You can study beer at university 

When people talk about “majoring in drinking,” they’ re usually making a joke at some poor inebriated student’s expense; but “zythology” actually encompasses the study of beer-making and beer itself, and can be incorporated as a subject into a Bachelor of Sciences where one is specializing in subjects such as Fermentation Science or Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Bonus fact: Finland’s “Wife Carrying World Championships” offers the winner their wife’s weight in beer as its first prize.