Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Immoderate Quaffing: Binge-drinking an age-old problem

"He who drinks beer sleeps well. He who sleeps well cannot sin. He who does not sin goes to heaven. Amen."

Unknown monk (Bless 'im!)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

The opening of the new Museum of London Medieval Gallery is set to coincide with new UK laws ushering in 24-hour drinking which come into effect on November 24. And the jolly museum curators are flagging it by pointing out that binge-drinking is an age-old problem – and we British are specialists!

Looking back only 700 years, London had over 1,300 alehouses - one for every 50 people living in the city - but only 108 parish churches. John Clark, curator of the Medieval London gallery, said: "Most people, including children, drank ale made from malted barley without hops.

"They even drank ale for breakfast, and got through up to a gallon, or four-and-a-half litres, a day each.

"At a price of a penny per gallon, only the poorest had to make do with water."

Historically, we know that the Mesopotamians made beer, and that the art spread, possibly through Armenia and Georgia, to Central Europe. Because there are linguistic links between the Hungarians, Estonians and Finns, we know that tribes from Central Europe spread to the far North of the continent and crossed the English channel to the island of Britain.

Beer drinking has been such an integral part of our culture for so long that it seems that we can’t get enough of the stuff, and as a people we have developed a marked tolerance for alcohol. We have evolved the genetic predisposition to generate the enzymes that process alcohol.

The Portman Group confirms that for some years now, it has been known that many Asians have a characteristic variant of the ADH gene, which seems to be responsible for their comparative aversion to alcohol. In turn, this means that they are less likely to become heavy drinkers or alcoholics. It is also the reason that your Japanese colleague may get very pink in the face and legless on a half pint of bitter shandy.

The genetic disparity between East and West came about for the simplest of reasons. The water wasn’t safe to drink.

The Asian solution? Add leaves and boil it. Thus producing tea.

The European solution? Add barley and ferment it. Thus producing beer.

So our culture of 24-hour drinking and bingeing on alcohol may not be exactly unique to modern society in the UK today.

Cross posted to Blogcritics.

If you want a good book on Beer - try Michael Jackson's (no not that Michael Jackson!) Beer Companion: The World's Great Beer Styles, Gastronomy, and Traditions. Buy it from Amazon by clicking on the link and I might even get a beer out of it!


Blogger kats said...

I'm not asian either. Goodness Gracious Me!


Tue Nov 22, 03:47:00 PM GMT  
Blogger ianhug66 said...

Yes, I'm sure we used to drink more on a daily basis, probably be considered an alcholic nowadays. It was safer to drink than the water, used to drink it with their breakfast..

Tue Nov 22, 03:55:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Six Years Late said...

I read a very interesting piece by rod Liddle in the Sunday times on Sunday. About class and drinking:


I'm out with mates on Wednesday, we're hoping that the pub we go to will cuck us out at 11.20 and then reopen at 12

Tue Nov 22, 04:57:00 PM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep multi posting and your greatest fan - well maybe except one!- won{t be able to keep up!

Wed Nov 23, 12:37:00 AM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Brilliant article Six, thanks for the link!

Span (in disguise) even a cursory glance at your blog informs the reader that keeping it up is not exactly your problem!

Wed Nov 23, 12:50:00 PM GMT  
Blogger sirreene said...

Interesting post.

Wed Nov 23, 07:43:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Lightning said...

Whilst on the subject of beer,this Pub was the best I can remember, if you get the chance, it's a great place, brill beers too.


Wed Nov 23, 07:56:00 PM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read, but I am of the belief (for me anyhow) that my alcoholism not only a physical addiction but a mental obsession. So it is only half in the genes the rest is in my head

Wed Nov 23, 09:10:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Looks nice Lightning but Norfolk is a bit off the patch....

Wed Nov 23, 10:33:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Sarnia said...

Hi Gavin - interesting blog! How's that naughty Span Ows btw?

Thu Nov 24, 02:23:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Welcome Sarnia! Well between thee and me...I think he's getting worse! But don't tell him, it'll only encourage him!

How's your boy?

Thu Nov 24, 02:29:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Sarnia said...

Thanks Gavin! He's fine thanks - really enjoying Uni life. He's actually cooking for himself (rings me on almost daily basis for instructions) and has started playing American Football. How's yours?

Thu Nov 24, 03:13:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Kayfer Kettle said...

Top post Gavin.

I feel so much more spiritual after reading the inspirational lead quote into this fine post.

God, and alcohol, are good.

Lena x

Thu Nov 24, 10:08:00 PM GMT  

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