Most of us cherish the feeling of gulping down an ice cold brew. For many of us, it doesn’t even matter if it’s morning, afternoon, night, or a time unknown to our drunken selves. But hey, it’s beer, the sweet nectar of the gods, so luckily no one blames us, right?
We all know beer is great, but did you know it is arguably the only reason humanity exists today? Let’s take a look at how this delectable drink has ensured humanity’s survival into the grand age of Google and Hot Pockets.
A Brief History of Humanity and Beer
According to Charlie Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at the University of California, Davis,
Beer is the basis of modern static civilization, because before beer was discovered, people used to wander around and follow goats from place to place. And then they realized that this grain [barley] could be grown and sprouted and made into a bread and crumbled and converted into a liquid which gave a nice, warm, cozy feeling. So gone were the days that they followed goats around. They stayed put while the grain grew and while the beer was brewed. And they made villages out of their tents. And those villages became towns, and those towns became cities. And so here we are in New York, thanks to beer.
This is a very simplified and exaggerated version of human history, but many historians argue that Bamforth’s description may not be that far from the truth.
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Brewing beer has been practiced by our ancient ancestors for at least 7,000 years. Brewing may be even older, but the earliest tangible evidence dates back to around 3,400 B.C., nearly 5,400 years ago. The evidence was discovered using a chemical tests of ancient pottery jars in what is today Iran. The jars contained chemicals only found via the brewing process.
Egyptians and Mesopotamians left extensive written documentation of brewing practices, tavern laws, and nutrition. Kings, pharaohs, merchants, and commoners alike all drank beer due to its nutrition and effects on the body and mind. They also drank beer due to dirty water conditions back in the day.
After Christian monks started brewing beer, a whole new standard and efficiency of beer production began. Monks and nuns choosing to follow the Rule of Saint Benedict are required to live self-sufficiently without charity, work hard, accommodate guests and help the poor. To meet all of these requirements monastic orders and churches started brewing and selling beer.
In the 1850’s Louis Pasteur studied beer extensively and realized that it was alive. His work led to the pasteurization process, allowing our favorite drink to be more easily handled, produced, and transported. After the invention of refrigeration, automatic bottling machines, and widespread railroads, everybody was double-fisting brews like the U.S. was one big University frat party.
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Today the beer industry is composed of thousands of local and international businesses which had a total global revenue of over 500 billion dollars ($509,554,000,000 to be exact) in 2012, a number that continues to grow year after year. The world always has and always will love a good brew.
So, is all this guzzling a good thing? That is entirely dependent on how much beer you consume. As long as your consume a moderate amount, which is more than you might think, your body and mind will love you!
Why We Should All Drink Beer
Moderate consumption of any type of alcohol is associated with overwhelming benefits for the heart and overall well-being. Nearly all people living in Blue Zones, areas of the world where people live drastically longer on average, have been said to partake in regular, but moderate consumption of alcohol. This remains true across all Blue Zones. Moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers. Beer has an upper-hand on other alcoholic beverages, however, due to its nutritional content.
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Beer is likely the most nutritious of all alcoholic beverage and. Although many people think of wine as the ‘healthy’ alcohol to consume in moderation, beer and wine have the same number of antioxidants (though the type of antioxidants do vary). Beer contains more B vitamins and protein. To make the playing field even more one sided, drinking 4 or more glasses of wine per week has been linked to a 15% increase in breast cancer in women!
A meta-analysis of several studies revealed that moderate beer consumption reduces a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes by a whopping 31%. This is approximately equivalent to the heart pumping power of wine.
A study of 12,000 women showed that consuming light to moderate amounts of beer daily makes you 20% less likely to experience age-related mental problems later in life. According to Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, senior author on the study,
Low levels of alcohol appear to have cognitive benefits. Women who consistently were drinking about one-half to one drink per day had both less cognitive impairment as well as less decline in their cognitive function compared to women who didn’t drink at all.
Congratulations ladies, your mental Holy Grail has been revealed.
Consumption of alcohol, as we all know, dramatically reduces stress levels. This is arguably the most important health benefit beer can provide since stress is associated with nearly every illness. Beer is an especially good choice because it takes longer to consume, making it less likely that you will over-drink, which isn’t biologically beneficial in the least (the other benefits, are a different story). This benefit is entirely dependent upon set and setting. If you are depressed, or are in a dangerous place, any type of alcohol has the potential to increase stress levels.
The nutritional benefits of beer were discussed above. Don’t forget that the essential nutrients in beer are vital to a healthy, illness free life. As for calories… let’s just pretend all the empty calories are perfectly filling.
No More Bad Hair Days:
Apparently certain beers can get rid of frizzy hair and add volume.
The malt nourishes and smooths hair, while yeast strengthens your strands and pumps up the volume.
Great for Skin:
Alright guys, I know most of us will stick to just plain drinking beer, but the ladies like to take extra special precautions when it comes to skin health. Beer is reportedly an incredible skin-care agent. Many breweries in Austria and the Czech Republic have recently created Heaven by opening beer spas and filling entire swimming pools filled with the golden goodness. Beer facials and beer-based meals are available of course.
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A Healthy Level of Beer
Although scientists disagree on the recommended daily intake of beer, the consensus narrows down to no more than four drinks in one day, and no more than 14 drinks in a week for men, and no more than three drinks in any day and no more than seven drinks in any week for women. Ideal amounts are less though, at roughly 22 ounces (just under 2 American bottles) of beer with 5% alcohol for men, and 12 – 18 ounces ( 1 to 1.5 bottles of American bottles) for women. Women, give that other half of your bottle to your man. Or, live on the wild side and drink 2!
*Note: According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 43% of men and 29% of women in the U.S. are binge drinkers (4+/5+ (women/men) drinks within 2 hours at least once). While there is a fine line between control and alcoholism, just remember that alcohol is an incredibly dangerous and deadly drug. We have all experienced the dangers of alcohol either directly or indirectly. I am only advocating a healthy dosage of alcohol each day, nothing more.
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If you do not want to consume alcohol but still want to participate in the glory that is beer, you can always drink a non-alcoholic brew. Apparently they taste incredible, and are still packed full of nutritional goodness.
Which Beer is the Healthiest?
The answer to this question depends on what you consider healthy. Are you looking for less calories, or are you interested in B vitamins and antioxidants?
Although there are many types of beer, the two most basic types are ales and lagers. They differ by the temperature they ferment at and the type of yeast used. Beers can differ in nutritional content with surprising magnitude. Some bottles boast a measly 5 grams of carbs while other bottles contain a hefty 65 grams of carbohydrates or more.
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Many people focus on caloric content, opting for light beers instead of the regular. The truth is that in most cases light beers differ from their heavy counterparts by about 40 calories, an utterly negligible amount. And for those of you looking for the buzz of drinking, in most cases light beers are light because alcohol is removed, so you’ll have to drink even more to attain the same feeling. Some brewski lovers choose to drink ultra-light beers that are less than 100 calories while retaining 4% alcohol. In these cases something other than alcohol has to be removed, which means grains and many of the nutritional sources that make beer such a healthy drink.
There is no single healthiest type of beer. Countless representatives from the entire spectrum of beer brews have claimed the title of healthiest beer, but again, it is entirely dependent on what health means to you.