Beer Saves

It’s empty calories, I know.

If you are on a diet, beer kills—one imperial pint (20 ounces) of Yukon Red could be a tenth of your allowable intake of calories for the day.

But beer also heals. If you drink bottle-conditioned beer (the stuff that is unfiltered and has the yeast sediment in the bottom), you get a healthy dose of B vitamins from the residual yeast.

There are also minerals from the barley malt, such as magnesium and dietary silicon (good for your bones).

If you drink dark beers such as Guinness, you are getting antioxidants from the roasted grains. Move over red wine.

We’ve all seen those old posters advertising Guinness: Guinness is Good for You. Of course, you’d never get away with this sort of advertising these days, but there is a modicum of truth in there.

I remember reading 10 years ago about a beer fortified with calcium that was being marketed toward women. I guess women just weren’t pulling (drinking) their beer weight and this was supposed to make beer more attractive.

I haven’t heard of it since, so I’m thinking it went down the sad, obscure path of fanny packs and MC Hammer pants.

Imagine my surprise when a Google search pulled up a website listing trademarks—one of them for Boner Beer, the only beer brewed with calcium. The trademark is expired and the beer appears not to exist.

Now I’m just waiting for an irreverent company such as Stone Brewing (Arrogant Bastard ale, Ruination IPA, etc.) to pick up the name. I’d buy it.

There is good reason beer has been called liquid bread, and nobody knew this better than the monks.

Denied most earthly pleasures, monks in Europe fully embraced their beer. The 46 days of Lent were particularly arduous.

The Paulaner monks in Munich produced a special beer in the 1600s to get them through these long hungry during which they weren’t allowed any solid food. This beer evolved to be known as Paulaner Salvator. This “saviour” beer is fermented with lager yeast and gets its character from dark roasted malts. It has a bready, grainy aroma with slight malt sweetness. The flavour is refined with subtle malt sweetness balanced by low hop bitterness.

Even my mother would enjoy this beer. It is widely available in southern Canada for your stint of self-denial. You do fast for Lent, right?

As a semi-practising atheist, I don’t generally praise religious organizations, but I give kudos to the Roman Catholics for creating patron saints for everything from mad dogs (really) to brewers.

One of the patron saints of brewers is St. Arnold of Metz who died in 640 CE. (Yep, there’s more than one—the lines between saintly jurisdictions aren’t sharply drawn.)

Apart from a few unsubstantiated miracles, the most impressive thing Arnold did was to save lives by warning people not to drink the ubiquitous disease-borne water, but to drink healthy, nutritious beer instead.

No known pathogens can live in beer. For most of us, the worst that can happen is that we ‘worship’ our beer saint too much and pass out in awkward places.

Beer not only induces sleep, for obvious reasons (alcohol), but the presence of hops increases sleepiness. Humulus lupulus, or hops, are a soporific (sleep-inducing). You can even buy hop pillows on the internet.

Hops also have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and, allegedly, can help you with nervous tension.

The oldest written account of hops being used in beer is from the Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who wrote about them in the 12th century in Europe.

Hildegard also performed miracles and had visions (not attributable to the hops). There are also studies that suggest hops may be anti-tumour agents.

Just don’t feed them to your dog, unless you’re looking for a cheap way to euthanize him. Hops are toxic to dogs.

Beer does have its limitations, though. Alone, it can’t prevent scurvy. But throw some spruce tips into the brew and voila— instant medicine.

Even Captain Cook knew in the late 1700s that adding spruce tips to beer could prevent scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C. Humans, some primates and a smattering of lesser animals lost the ability to make vitamin C in their bodies and need to get it from their diet. Weird.

While the North lacks the ability to grow virtually all the essential ingredients in beer, we have been swamped with spruce.

Several northern brewers have taken advantage of this fact. Alaskan Brewing Co. out of Juneau makes a summer ale with spruce tips. Skagway Brewing makes a delicious spruce-tip ale, and even wee, little Haines Brewing Co. makes a pretty tasty spruce-tip ale.

I’m still waiting for Yukon Brewing to throw its hat into the ring.

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