By Jack Kenny
We know that there are more than 5,000 craft brewers in the United States, and fewer than a hundred companies that brew commercial lagers and light beers. But if you add up all the people who work in the U.S. craft beer business and you compare the result to the number of employees at AB-InBev, the global parent of Anheuser-Busch, you’ll arrive at an imbalance of a different kind. AB-InBev employs 200,000, while all craft beer workers in the country amount to no more than 130,000.
Go ahead, toss those facts out there at your bar or store. No doubt your stock will jump. To further enhance your reputation as a repository of odd beer facts, read on. (Note: The comparison above is supported by published reports. Your columnist takes no responsibility for the veracity, or lack of same, of the following.)
Guinness Drinkers with Moustaches Waste Beer
Consumers of Guinness Stout in the UK are unknowingly wasting an estimated 162,719 pints every year by trapping it in their facial hair. Research commissioned by the brewer found that a typical moustachioed man traps 1.5 pints of the foamy beer above their top lip annually. The Guardian newspaper reported that an estimated 92,370 drinkers with facial hair in the UK, each of whom consumes an average 180 pints each a year, wastes about $600,000 worth of Guinness annually.
These statistics were published in 2000; no doubt today’s numbers stagger the imagination.
The First Trademark
The Bass Brewery was founded by William Bass in 1777 in Burton-on-Trent, England. In 1876, Bass Ale had the distinction of procuring Great Britain’s first trademark, the famous red triangle above the word Bass. By the following year, the pale ale had become the world’s best-selling beer. It is now in the portfolio of AB-InBev.
Stone Age Straws
The first known drinking straws were made by the Sumerians, in today’s Iraq, and were used for drinking beer. It is speculated that straws were developed and used to avoid the solid byproducts of fermentation that sink to the bottom. The oldest straw in existence, found in a Sumerian tomb dated 3,000 BCE, was a gold tube inlaid with lapis lazuli. The modern paper straw was patented in 1888 in the U.S. by Ohio native Marvin Stone.
One of many beer myths claims that drinking alcoholic beverages through a straw will accelerate intoxication. Science says no: Absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream is what leads to inebriation, and thus far we haven’t seen a common straw that goes directly into an artery.
The London Beer Flood
In October of 1814, in London’s St. Giles neighborhood, the popular porter at the Henry Meux Brewery was fermenting in wooden casks three stories tall. A worker noticed that a 700-pound metal hoop had slipped down from one of the immense containers, but it had happened before so he didn’t rush to fix it. Minutes later, the cask blew up. The eruption took out the next cask, and within moments all of the beer was set free – 570 tons of it.
It was not a good day. Brewery employees all survived, but eight women and children in the neighborhood did not. Two days later an investigative jury ruled the disaster an act of God, that the victims had died “casually, accidentally and by misfortune,” and the brewer escaped paying damages to the families of the victims.
Pope Gregory IX, who died in 1241, was Italian, so it’s a fairly safe bet that he was not a beer drinker. But he knew what it was, and he had occasion to make an ecclesiastical ruling about the use of beer in the performance of a Christian sacrament: No baptism by beer.
Imagine the indignation when he learned that a baby in Norway had been baptized with beer because – and here the claim is sketchy, so don’t blame me – water wasn’t available. Drought, maybe? When Gregory found out about it, he promptly straightened out the guilty parents as well as the archbishop of Trondhjem. Water only. Not milk, not mead, not beer.
Considering the distance from Norway to Rome and back, and the current methods and safety of transportation, the beer-splashed kid was probably two years old when he went back to the kirke for a do-over.
Jack Kenny has been writing The Beer Column for The Connecticut Beverage Journal since 1995. Write to him: firstname.lastname@example.org