As we celebrate the start of Germany's Oktoberfest on Saturday, and as we mourn the recent death of connoisseur Michael "The Beer Hunter" Jackson, let's investigate the civilizing qualities of beer.
1. Why did the Pilgrims land at
Rock instead of pushing on to
? Well, for one thing, they were nearly out of beer. A Mayflower passenger's diary reads: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration; our victuals being much spent, especially our beere."
2. In the 1600s and 1700s, midwives in Europe and Colonial America gave delivering mothers "groaning ale," which was fermented for seven or eight months and tapped when contractions began. After the birth, the child might even be bathed in the ale, since it was likely to be more sanitary than the water then available.
3. As president, James Madison proposed creation of a national brewery and appointment of a "secretary of beer." But Congress wouldn't go along. If such a Cabinet position existed today, who might fit it? Actor George Wendt of "Cheers," perhaps? Or Windell Middlebrooks, who portrays the Miller High Life truck driver who confiscates beer from overpriced establishments?
4. Beer can kill, but it usually doesn't do it nine at a time. The exception occurred in London in 1814 when the rupture of a brewery tank sent a giant wave of 3,500 barrels of beer cascading upon nearby residents. Two houses were demolished, and nine people died.
5. The North Side's Diversey Parkway and Lill Avenue were named after two early
brewers, Michael Diversey and William Lill.
devastated the local beer industry, allowing Milwaukee brewers to swoop in and seize market share. After grabbing a strong foothold in Chicago, Schlitz and other Milwaukee companies took advantage of Chicago's railroad hub to purvey their products across the country.
7. "The Guinness Book of World Records" was begun in 1955 at the suggestion of Guinness Brewery's top executive to settle gentlemanly disputes, such as those that would arise over mugs of beer.
8. Joe Charboneau, a
, Ill., native who played outfield for the
in the early '80s, used to open beer bottles with his eye socket and drink beer through a straw in his nose.
9. You've heard of "beer goggles" -- the idea that someone who has had a few quaffs finds members of the opposite sex more attractive. A study at Glasgow University in 2002 confirmed the effect. Tipsy students were 25 percent more likely to rate a person as sexually attractive than students who were sober.
10. During Prohibition, only "near beer" (less than 0.5 percent alcohol) could be sold. Such beer was sometimes illegally turned into high-octane "needle beer" when alcohol was injected into the barrel. The opposite of near beer might be called severe beer, such as Samuel Adams' Utopias. At 25 percent alcohol, its kick is five times as strong as Budweiser's. Reportedly, it tastes like cognac. It is so alcoholic that it violates the laws of 14 states, not including
Mark Jacob is the Tribune's foreign/national news editor\