There is a lot of history in that beer you’re drinking (or thinking about drinking) right now. Some might dismiss your can of Pilsner or bottle of IPA as nothing more than a throwaway consumer item. But make no mistake. Beer is not only ubiquitous. It is ancient — the product of the mother of […]
Page space comes at a premium in a graphic novel. But here on the web? Not so much. As a valuable and evolving companion to the book itself, thecomicbookstoryofbeer.com gives us the chance to give you some things that the physical book cannot. Like citations and annotations. Although The Comic Book Story of Beer is not some […]
Are you champing at the bit to understand why the ancient Roman physician Dioscorides claimed beer caused elephantitis? Will you be able to sleep tonight without knowing the name of the Irish saint whose pious breath could splinter casks of pagan brew into smithereens? Or which handy-dandy medieval medical reference prescribed a mix of beer […]
It's going to be one heck of a beautiful Saturday in Portland. And what could improve on that better than enjoying the fruits of sustainable brewing practices?
No, that's not a rhetorical question.
A Comic Book Story of Beer signing with artist Aaron McConnell can improve on that.
And that's just what will happen from 2-4 pm on Saturday, August 27, at the Organic Beer Fest in Overlook Park. Come say hello and pick up your copy of the most engaging crash course in beer history ever to hit bookshelves.
The Comic Book Story of Beer coauthor Jonathan Hennessey is at Comic-Con 2016!
San Diego is one heluva beer town, so c'mon out for the TEACHING HISTORY WITH GRAPHIC NOVELS panel on Saturday, July 23, at 11 am at the San Diego Public Library.
And—get this!—you don't even need an SDCC badge to attend the event.
More information here.
And just a few hours later, at 2pm, the San Diego Beer Fest is on at Liberty Station in the Point Loma neighborhood. With all the military personnel around Point Loma is like a sun-drenched Washington, D.C.
As holidays go, you don’t get more wet behind the ears than Beer Day Britain.
The annual event was initially conceived to coincide with the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta, which was June 15, 2015.
The day is furthermore the brainchild of award-winning beer author, blogger, historian, and “drinks expert” Jane Peyton, who hails from the vicinity of West London. Peyton is doing more to deepen and enhance beer history and appreciation than almost anyone. She’s a tour de force!
Although this day of zythophilic observance is new, the traditions of beer brewing and drinking in the British Isles is anything but. Some might be tempted to defer to Germany, Belgium, or even (dare it be suggested?) California as the fountainhead of beer innovation. But as the Beer Day Britain promoters remind us, if not for the alliance of the English, Scots, and Welsh, we wouldn’t have the clutch of mainstay brewing styles that includes India Pale Ale, Barley Wine, Pale Ale, Mild Ale, Brown Ale, Porter, Stout, or Russian Imperial Stout. (The last so-named because that style came into its fullness as a cherished export product to the court of Catherine the Great in Russia).
While Czech-Bavarian Pilsner might be the most popular single beer from the perspective of global consumption, no other nation than Britain can boast of so many of its signatures brews being produced on a regular basis around the world.
Any beer history tome, illustrated or otherwise, would be wholly discredited were it not to lavish many pages documenting the evolution of ale and beer in Britain. And The Comic Book Story of Beer duly does its duty.
So in honor of Beer Day Britain we proudly present our sequence on the four gentlemen who founded CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) — and who in the process just about single-handedly stopped the UK’s disturbing late 20th Century trend of pub closures and general apathy to brewing grain-based fermented drinks of distinction.
Want to see more? Get The Comic Book Story of Beer from Amazon in the UK or here in the USA.
The Comic Book Story of Beer is the most drinkable yet comprehensive single-volume book on the 9,000+ year history of the world's favorite drink. Come 'round frequently to thecomicbookstoryofbeer.com for fascinating new articles on brewing through the ages.
It was 1620 when the Pilgrims began to call these American shores their home. So here in the U.S., it will still be 104 years before we [white people] can legitimately celebrate the 500th anniversary of anything.
But in places like Germany, cinquecentennials are considerably less rarified. And one of those cinquecentennials is being celebrated today. It’s das Reinheitsgebot, a stringently conservative beer purity law that just may have kept Bavarian beers, for all these centuries, in their lofty heights of being counted among the world’s best.
Like we moderns who scrutinize ingredients labels in the grocery store for allergens, artificial preservatives, and sweeteners which happen not to be on the ever-changing approved list (is Stevia hot or not this year?), people in medieval times—or at least some of them—were concerned about what the heck was in their food and drink.
They had reason to worry. Iniquitous, penny-pinching brewers of “the world lit only by fire” were adulterating their beers with sawdust, ashes, darnel ryegrass (which is poisonous), even psychoactive fly agaric fungus. Some of the reasons for this was to stretch their supply or make stale beer more palatable (and sellable). Occasionally the adulterations were for dubiously “medical” purposes. We are talking Middle Ages technology, here, people.
Two Bavarian noblemen—Dukes Wilhelm IV and Ludwig X—decided to do something about it. They issued their brewing “purity command” on April 23, 1516, at a meeting in the city of Ingolstadt of the German Assembly of Estates. What the dukes put in writing and gave the force of law that day remains “one of the oldest examples of product regulation known to man.”
From that point forward, beer in Bavaria could only be legally made with water, barley (and not, for example, wheat), and hops. Well… Yeast was involved too. But nobody in 1516 quite had a handle on the world of microscopic organisms just yet. So that ingredient was left out.
The Reinheitsgrebot eventually spread to the other German states, and became Imperial law in 1906. It remains on the books today.
If, in Germany, you’re some craft-style brewer who would like to add tiny amounts of adjunct, a little lemon peel, or some invert sugar to your recipes to see what happens, you cannot label your end product “beer.” You are instead obligated to go to market with the highly compromised “mixed beer beverage” label instead.
Some have contended that the Reinheitsgebot is therefore keeping Germany stuck in the past and unable to take part in the creative, freewheeling, American-style brewing now taking much of the rest of the globe by storm.
To produce a Reinheitsgebot, you arguably already need to have a society where drinking and enjoying beer is a high priority. But the 1516 brewing code also had the effect of cementing Bavarian beer as a patriotism-infused cultural artifact. A beer locals could believe in, take pride in, and expect reliability from year in and year out.
Since beers like Cologne’s kolsches couldn’t contain preservatives or low-cost alternate ingredients, they accrued a positive reputation abroad. German beers could fetch premium prices on the export market.
And not only that. The Reinheitsgebot was also effectively a protectionist racket. Brews made without its exacting ingredients were legally banned from entering the country, which meant that the Czech, Danish, English, and American brews couldn’t be sold in Germany. Heck, Bavaria didn’t even allow beers from other parts of Germany until the 1950s.
When, beginning in that same decade, the EEC or European Economic Community began to integrate the economies of Western Europe, the Reinheitsgebot was in for a challenge. In the 1980s a French exporter took the German Federal Republic government to court, alleging that the Reinheitsgebot was an illegal impediment to free trade. The Germans put up a stiff fight. Their lawyers even argued that lifetimes of drinking the purest beer available would put Germans especially at risk of harm by an influx of foreign chemical preservatives and artificial flavors. But a 13-judge panel in Luxembourg was not sympathetic.
Domestic German beers today must still hew to the strictures of Duke Wilhelm IV. But the “bad guy” beers can be legally sold.
Not that it matters much. Imports still only make up less than 10 percent of beer consumed in Germany.
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