Notes from the Cellar: Whirled history
by Jeff Cox, Beer and Wine Merchandiser
This article was originally published in September 2010
Once upon a time, well before cans, bottles or kegs, before micro and macro, before Jesus, Jahweh, Mohammed, Krishna or Buddha, before atheism raised them one with no god at all, before people had gotten around to doing pretty much anything, some enterprising, thoroughly inspired soul invented beer.
Or maybe didn’t invent but discovered. Who knows how exactly but one day way back when, somebody had a beer and, behold, it was very good.
Time fades away … or does it? Everything is different since then, although very little really has changed. Kingdoms, empires, even civilizations have risen, fallen, risen again. Beer was there. Tragedy, comedy, music, poetry, the novel, rhetoric, astronomy, bronze ages, golden ages, dark ages, renaissance, revolution, enlightenment, the end of the world as we know it. Beer was there.
One can argue quite convincingly that beer and bread are at the root of humanity’s ability to build civilizations and develop technology. Winning one’s daily bread is sufficient motivation to take up the plow, while beer, if not motivation, certainly is a bountiful reward for a day’s toil. The history of humankind is inseparable from beer and even can be described accurately in terms of beer. As goes beer, so it goes, as it were.
Henry David Thoreau observed that “the tavern will compare favorably with the church.” Beer being as old as organized religion, most faiths have more than a little bit to say about partaking in what the deities provideth.
From cautionary parables to outright prohibition, high priests across the ages have realized that hearts and minds are best managed when magic is taboo and liberating genies are kept in the bottle. For the world’s most repressive traditions that means keeping beer verboten (and women behind the veil).
Microbrews are old news. Before there was Bud, all beer was local. With the industrial revolution, it became possible for those with greater access to means of production and transportation (i.e. money) to dominate the market, forcing small, local brewers out of business.
Now, with the tables turned and market share eroding, the big players are stealing a page from electoral politics and dressing up the same old corporate product with down-home populist marketing. You know the drill.
You’ve come a long way, baby. Perennially proletarian, beer is ascendant. Alas, upward mobility engenders classism, giving birth to a brand new type — the Beer Snob. Every bit as insufferable as his wine counterpart but replete with an annoying sort of reverse elitism. Oh my.
I could go on but I’m tired and thirsty. Fortunately, there is an antidote. Happy trails. Burp.