Monday, April 8, 2013

Not Quite Right

I don't usually like to use this blog as a forum to say, "No, you're wrong", but since the Internet Know-it-all Act of 2011 was passed, I'm obligated to do so bi-annually. Since were nearly a quarter through 2013, I might as well get to it.

In honor of the most auspicious of holidays, National Beer Day, The Huffington Post put up an info graphic, on Friday, titled 24 Things You Didn't Know About Beer. Unfortunately there are few things they don't know about beer. Maybe a little more stringent fact checking should have been employed by the folks at

Let's review, shall we?

1. (It's not a great sign when the first item on the list is wrong, is it?) "Beer is Proof that God loves us." -Benjamin Franklin

Franklin's now-famous misquote refers to wine, rather than beer. What Franklin actually wrote—in a 1779 letter to the French economist André Morellet—was:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

8. Beer gone bad. When British brewers tried to send their pale ales over to India, the beer would go bad during the long ocean voyage. Beer makers began to add extra alcohol and hops to help with the preservation. This inadvertently created a new style of extra bitter, extra powerful beers called India Pale Ales (IPAs). 

There is nothing accurate in that statement. They could have said IPA was first found in craters of green cheese on the moon, collected by space monkeys, then sold at church pot lucks, and it would be just as true.

9. There are 400 types of beer. Belgium has the most individual beer brands in the world.   

I might be splitting hairs, but I'd say that there are two types of beer—top, warm fermenting beers and cold, bottom fermenting beers—maybe, a third type if you include hybrid beers.

12. More beer please! The agricultural revolution was started because people needed a way to make more beer. This led to inventions such as the plow wheel and irrigation systems.

This is a gross exaggeration. The transition of human society from small nomadic bands of hunter-gathers to those settled in fixed locations was brought about by the invention of the plow and the domestication of animals, which allowed for large scale farming. Those factors led to the development of permanent agrarian societies. Let's not let all this beer saved civilization stuff go to our heads. Saying beer started the agricultural revolution is like saying the internet was created or beer blogs—and we all know the real credit goes to porn.

13. Beer made with spit: Ancient Incan girls age 8-10 would chew corn into a pulp like consistency in their mouths, then spit the pulp into huge vats of warm water to sit for several weeks. The viscous, cloudy, lumpy spit filled mixture would be later strained. 

Chicha—which, by the way, is still made throughout Central and South America—is not beer. Granted, it is a fermented beverage, but it is no more "beer" than wine, brandy, cider, perry, tepache, gouqi iu, pito, kefir, or mead. A drag queen may have tits, but that does not make him a woman.

15. Beer for health. Beer contains almost all of the minerals we need to survive. It was a staple of many diets during the European Middle Ages, when good nutrition was rare. You drank beer to survive. Drinking wasn't just for adults. Children also consumed beer as a source of energy and nutrients.

This one isn't technically wrong, but they've neglected to include the main reason beer was drank—because most water was not potable for much of human history. Equating beer as a nutrition source would have been so far over the heads of those living in the European dark ages, you might as well have been trying to explain Quantum theory to a 4-year-old. Boiling is an effective way of killing coliform bacterial contamination in water, and beer needs to be boiled. Viola—the boiling of beer in the brewing process made it safe to drink, while regular water was not.

24. 6 packs to go. The first beer cans were produced in 1935. Drinkers were no longer going to taverns, and breweries needed to get beer into homes. The smaller packages made it much easier to get beer home.

The first beer cans were produced prior to 1935, but Newark New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company, was the first to sell canned beer at the beginning of that year. The rest of the statement doesn't hold water for two reasons. Drinkers may not have been frequenting pubs and taverns in the U.S. due to Prohibition (not legally anyhow), but they sure were in the rest of the world. I also suspect that U.S. breweries weren't hard-up to sell beer less than two years after a thirteen-year dry spell.   Secondly, breweries had been bottling "smaller packages" of beer for for centuries, so that theory goes out the window.

Seven wrong out of twenty four. That works out to a 70, if this were an exam—solid D work (not much worse than my work in high school—so I can't poke too much fun.) Maybe they can just re-title the graphic. How's this for an alternate:
24 Things You Didn't Know About Beer although 7 Aren't Really True, but 24 Sounds Better Than 17.


  1. These days 70% gets you a first class degree at most universities, which ain't too shabby. But, yeah, that's pretty poor going from Huffington

    1. 70%!? But I worked so hard to get into... Oh, who am I kidding.

  2. ON #8, I read this weekend in the Montreal Gazette how brandy was created because wine was not enduring the new longer sailing trips the Dutch in the 1300s and 1400s were able to make. This is in line with the connection between England and the development of port and sherry as a means to make the stuff get to its intended destination. So, it is not entirely far fetched as, based in large part by the Baltic trade of the 1700s, it was the case that strong drink was known to travel better than weak drink. But, yes, that connection to India Pale Ale has never been made that I have seen... unless there was general shipping awareness.

  3. In the case of pale ale—or what was to become IPA—I think it was more important that the beer be fully attenuated rather than strong—or even heavily hopped for that matter—when it came to long trips abroad. A strong beer, even one 9 to 10%, that still has active yeast in it, is going to go bad far quicker than beer that doesn't.

  4. You know, with all respect to Pete Brown, "they" should send casks of various sorts of beer in various sorts of containers to India with probes and other sensing devices hooked up to a satellite link to settle this once and for all.

  5. A while back Martyn did an experiment of bottle conditioning two of the same beers. One in Abu Dhabi heat and one back in England—with interesting results.