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Bateman: Beer — A human history

By Oliver Bateman

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According to our Internet sources, one of the strangest and most mysterious pleasures in life is… According to our Internet sources, one of the strangest and most mysterious pleasures in life is beer. Little is known about this miraculous elixir, however, so we decided to conduct a hard-hitting investigation that’s certain to get us shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize or perhaps even a MacArthur Genius Grant.

For starters, beer is a relatively recent invention. The most credible story attributes its creation to Jakob “The Jaker” Bier, an early 20th-century Danish chemist who sought a delicious accompaniment to the 5-krone frikadeller dinners on which he subsisted during his college years. After fiddling around with some chemical compounds, he stumbled upon a secret formula that was later popularized in the United States under the “Milwaukee’s Best” label.

Other scholars claim that beer originated further south on the continent. According to this legend, a military officer from Tours, France, who was engaged in a primitive form of “Call of Duty” known as the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), sought a better way to relax with his bros. Unlike moustache-waxing and sideburn-growing, the era’s two principal hobbies, the resulting “biere” — which he fashioned out of truffles and tubers — offered these French soldiers an opportunity to unabashedly amuse one another by making fart sounds and quoting popular lines from one of playwright Henrik Ibsen’s most recent hot college comedies.

Regardless of its provenance, beer captured the hearts and mesolimbic system reward circuits of Americans during the 1950s. Prior to beer’s arrival on our shores, nearly every single man, woman and child in America smoked unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes. Baseball players toddled to the plate with two or sometimes even three cigarettes dangling from their mouths. Cars rolled off Detroit assembly lines with cigarette burns preinstalled in their upholsteries. Elementary school students were given three 15-minute smoke breaks each day.

It wasn’t long, though, before beer had seized the day and vanquished smoking from every public facility in America. Owing to the support of legendary alcoholics like home run slugger Mickey Mantle, glamorous pinup  Farrah Fawcett and charismatic canine spokesdog Spuds McKenzie, millions of Americans were soon rushing to their local drugstores or 7-Elevens to acquire cases of this exciting new substance. Whereas smoking had merely reduced their anxiety, beer introduced people to a thrilling, carefree and unspeakably fun new world.

The effects of beer consumption on the nation were immediate and almost entirely positive. For one thing, the American population quintupled between 1950 and 2010, a testament to beer’s ability to make anyone and anything appear as attractive as Farrah Fawcett. On top of that, the GDP grew at a much more rapid rate as people redirected their hard-earned savings into creative and useful activities, such as paying off enormous bar tabs and buying snazzy new clothes to wear to the bar.

By 2010, there were four distinct beers being sold on the American market: Miller Lite, Budweiser, Bud Lite and Milwaukee’s Best. Pedants might argue that there are actually millions of microbrews on the market, but much like how most “champagne” is actually just sparkling wine, these other products are best classified as “alcoholic drafts” and thus left outside the scope of this report.

A distinct “beer culture” has grown up around these four brands, one into which most university students are indoctrinated after they reach our society’s sacrosanct and inviolable drinking age of 21. Without access to a potent brewski, most adolescent pleasures are simply unendurable. Can you imagine, for example, trying to watch reruns of ESPN SportsCenter or the dreadfully unfunny cartoon “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” in anything short of an alcoholic stupor? Or paying for a loose, vertically striped “clubshirt,” flare-legged Armani jeans and a ridiculous “clubspike” hairdo if you weren’t about to drink yourself into oblivion and in the process forget how much money you just spent?

On top of all that, beer has allowed Americans to expand their circle of friends to include any number of wretched, unpleasant people they’d never associate with outside of the neighborhood speakeasy. Under the salutary influence of Bud Lite, however, such cretins become not only tolerable but also wittier than all five founding members of the Algonquin Round Table put together. Bros in the full flower of their youth can take comfort in the gradual softening and expanding of their bodies caused by one too many Miller Lites, a puffiness that can be passed off as weight room “hardgaining” and disguised underneath the aforementioned loose, vertically striped clubshirts.

As our short review has ably demonstrated, beer is undeniably the best thing ever. In addition to serving as the perfect accompaniment to some of life’s best activities, such as procrastinating and playing video games, it’s also the only proven cure for a hangover. Whether you’re reaching for a cold one at your best friend’s kegger or your younger brother’s bris, you should pause before imbibing to thank Jakob Bier, Mickey Mantle and all of the other brave pioneers who fought to make your swig possible.

Oliver Bateman is the brewmaster of ceremonies at the Moustache Microbrewery of America. Grab a growler of our finest flash fiction at moustacheclubofamerica.com.

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Bateman: Beer — A human history