Anything popular develops a history of facts, trivia and folklore, and beer is no exception. Over the years beer has had many “firsts”, and has inspired an equal number of tall tales. So what is fact and what is fiction? Here’s a few nuggets from the vault on the history and trivia of beer:
- The first consumer protection law ever written was enacted over beer by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516. It was a purity law limiting the ingredients of beer to barley, hops and water.
- Tegestology is what collecting beer mats is called.
- Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world, coming in behind tea.
- Pabst Beer is now called Pabst Blue Ribbon beer because it was the first beer to win a blue ribbon at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
- To get rid of the foam at the top of beer (the head), stick your fingers in it.
- Monks brewing beer in the Middle Ages were allowed to drink five quarts of beer a day.
- Bavaria still defines beer as a staple food.
- To keep your beer glass or mug from sticking to your bar napkin, sprinkle a little salt on the napkin before you set your glass down.
- The oldest known written recipe is for beer.
- The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because of beer. They had planned to sail further south to a warm climate, but had run out of beer on the journey.
- Anheuser-Busch is the largest brewery in the US.
- The longest bar in the world is the 684 foot long New Bulldog in Rock Island, IL.
- The powers that be at Guinness say that a pint of beer is lifted about ten times, and each time about 0.56 ml is lost in a beer drinker’s facial hair. That’s a lot of wasted beer!
- As of 2001, 62% of Americans reported using a designated driver at least once.
- Molson, Inc. is the oldest brewery in North America.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was elected in 1932 because of his promise to end Prohibition.
- The first United States Marine Recruiting Station was in a bar.
- The first brewery in America was built in Hoboken, NJ in 1642.
- In 1935 the canned beer industry was revolutionized by a vinyl plastic liner developed for cans made out of tin.
- The movie The Shawshank Redemption got their period beer containers wrong. The prisoners on the roof drank beer out of bottles in the 1930s, when beer was canned until many years later.
- Tossing salted peanuts in a glass of beer makes the peanuts dance.
- Samuel Adams Triple Bock is the strongest beer in the world with 17% alcohol by volume. The strength is achieved by using champagne yeast.
- In Japan, beer is sold in vending machines, by street vendors and in the train stations.
- Bourbon is the official alcohol of the United States, by an act of Congress. Many people have attempted to have that overturned in favor of beer instead throughout the years.
- Many actors started out as bartenders: Sandra Bullock, Bruce Willis, Tom Arnold, Chevy Chase, Kris Kristofferson and Bill Cosby are a few of these.
- American beer is made mostly by rice, unlike the beers of other countries. This was invented to give American beer a lighter taste and tap into the market of women buyers.
- Michelob was invented during a brewer’s strike in the 1930s from a recipe tossed together by the untrained workers left behind to run the brewery. It was so bad local taverns tossed their delivered barrels in the gutter until the streets ran with beer. When the strike was over, the brewery didn’t want to lose all that beer, no matter how bad, so they repackaged it and sold it as Michelob.
- Beer is a source of B- complex vitamins.
- If you collect beer bottles your are a labeorphilist.
- The portable beer cooler was invented in Australia in the 1950s.
- The ‘33’ on a bottle of Rolling Rock was originally a printer’s error. It refers to the 33 words in the original slogan. It has generated enough mystery over the years that the company left it in the label.
While much of the above is good information, some of it is no longer accurate. For instance, Sam Adams Triple Bock is no longer the most alcoholic beer in the world… by a long shot. Some breweries are going goofy and making beer at over 50%, but even within reason Avery and Dogfish Head both make multiple beers higher than 17. “American beer is made mostly with rice…” That has to predate the craft beer movement. American beer has gotten much better, perhaps to phrase that as “Most American macro lagers …”
A couple of additional corrections. “Shawshank Redemption” did not take place in the 1930s. It begins when Andy is sent to prison in 1947 and ends in the late-60s. The scene in question where the prisoners are drinking canned beer takes place in May of 1949.
Also it’s quite an exaggeration to declare that FDR was elected because he promised to repeal prohibition. At best that was a minor factor that contributed to his landslide victory over Herbert Hoover in the depths of the Great Depression.