Beer is Healthy Part 3

I know I keep bringing this up. I’m sorry. It just seems people keep coming up with healthy reasons for drinking beer. I don’t particularly think you need healthy reasons to drink beer. It is delicious, and compliments a variety of foods. The health benefits just give me a greater pieces of mind, especially since the rest of my eating is pretty healthy.

I actually found an entire website about Beer and Health. It looks like an actual symposium about the health attributes of beer.  Some of the things they talk about are pretty basic, such as how alcohol helps the cardiovascular system, delays the onset of dementia, and the beer belly probably has a lot more to do with the things you eat along with the beer than the drinking of the beer itself. One interesting thing they brought up is that beer contains high levels of well absorbed silicone which helps bone health.

One real surprise that I found very interesting is their research of beer and exercise. I have heard many times (sometimes just joking) that beer is good for exercise recovery. Meaning, eating and drinking something within about half an hour of exercise when your body is most receptive to refilling glycogen levels. I have also heard that alcohol dehydrates you, and therefore wouldn’t be a particularly good form of hydration. This site claims “Research into whether alcohol content prevented adequate recovery and/or rehydration found that neither a specific nor a negative effect could be attributed to the intake of beer compared to the intake of just water. In conclusion, at least in healthy, young adults, beer in moderate amounts is as effective as water for rehydration and recovery after exercise.” That is very exciting to me.

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The Most Exciting Time in the History of Beer

Beer has been around for about 10,000 years. Some anthropologists claim that the reason people settled down towns was to have enough barley to make beer. The Sumerians invented writing  to keep track of commodities, especially beer. The language has 60 different words for beer, more than the Eskimos have for snow.

It was a major food stuff in ancient Egypt. Despite what watching certain movies would tell you, the Pyramids were not built by slaves, and in fact a pyramid builder would be paid 1 gallon of beer a day.

Beer in Europe went from a largely home-made product, brewed by the lady of the house or Alewife, to a major industry starting with the Church in the Middle ages, and expanding to the Nobility, whose legacy can still be found in the Hofbräuhaus.

In 1870, there were over 3,000 breweries in the US. Prohibition didn’t start the decline of the number breweries, but it certainly nailed down the coffin. After prohibition ended, ridiculous alcohol laws, and a generally poor attitude to food culture (think wonder bread and processed American Cheese) between WWII and the 1980s kept the number of breweries declining until in 1970, there were only 40 left. With the legalizing of homebrewing in 1978, and a generally change in the food culture, we now have over 2,000 breweries in the US, with 1,500 additional breweries being planned. Without a real unbroken beer tradition like Germany, were aren’t mired in a stagnant beer culture, and beer is going places it has never gone before.

With the rapid rise in the number of breweries, and new styles and brewing methods being tried out every day, the year 2012 is the most exciting time in the 10,000 year history of beer. The best part about that statement, is that I will probably be able to say that about 2013 as well.

Beer is Healthy Part 2

If the heart healthy benefits of alcohol, or the whole grainy goodness of the ingredients weren’t a good enough reason to take up beer drinking, don’t worry, I’m not done with the health benefits yet. I was reading Runners World Magazine the other day and it looks like drinking beer prevents colds. They did a study on people who were going to run a Marathon. I know from personal experience that training for a marathon puts a huge toll on your body, and people who are training are more likely to get colds because of the stress you are putting on your system. The study had half the runners drink a beer a day for 3 weeks before the Marathon and for 2 weeks after the marathon. The beer drinks had less respiratory tract infections and more T Cells. They used non alcohol beer, so we know that the benefits didn’t come from the alcohol like with heart disease. Meaning, it was a benefit you can’t get from other alcoholic beverages. So drink your beer, eat your barley, and live a long healthy life.

Whiskey 101

Yesterday I went to a Whiskey 101 class from the company I Wish Lessons. I know this Blog is about beer, but what is whiskey but distilled unhopped beer aged in barrels. No wonder it is my favorite hard liquor. There has to be a reason that Michael Jackson wrote and talked (and drank) about both Beer and Whiskey.

I wish lessons has a number of food and drink classes, where they bring in an expert coach in the field. My fiancé actually bought the class from Groupon over a year ago, with the intention of taking the craft beer class. I put off actually signing up for a class until the expiration date on the Groupon was upon me. Over a year later I realized that a basic craft beer class probably isn’t going to be very informative to me, so, loving Whiskey and all, I went with that one, and I was not disappointed.

Sorry about the lack of my usually large amount of pictures, but all the learning left no time for pictures.

The class was held at Maeve (which means “She Who Intoxicates”) and for the life of me I could not remember the name of the expert coach they brought in so I searched the interwebs and found it was Chuck Cowdery. He worked in marketing for the distilled spirits industry for much of his life, but now mostly teaches and writes.

We tasted four different Whiskey’s: Jameson, Johnny Walker Red Label, Jack Daniels, and Templeton Rye while Chuck talked about all sorts of things Whiskey. He definitely knew a lot, and I learned a lot.

I learned that diluting the Whiskey with water actually allows you to taste the Whiskey better, because unlike a beer which rarely has an ABV above 10%, Whiskey is about 40% alcohol and that can really blunt your taste buds and tire them out quickly.  It definitely worked for me.  I tried the Jameson first without dilution and then with some, and tasting the Jameson after dilution really brought out the caramel characters for me. I’ll definitely order Whiskey and Water more often from bars, although the last time I ordered one from a bar, I ended up with a shot of Whiskey and a glass of water. I think I need to frequent better bars.

I never realized how Blended Whiskeys were blended. I kind of just assumed it was Whiskey’s of different ages that were blended, kind of a young Lambic is blended with an aged one to blunt some of the sourness. I was completely wrong. A blended Whiskey from across the pond like Jameson or Johnny Walker will have a certain percentage of single malt whiskey made from 100% malted barley. The rest will be from what I think I remember was called a grain whiskey, made from some cheaper grain. The more expensive Johnny Walker label colors will have a higher percentage of single malt.  On the other hand a blended Whiskey from the US (like Seagrams), is whiskey blended with Vodka.

This must have been the first time I have ever tasted straight Johnny Walker, because I wasn’t prepared for the smokiness. Kind of reminded me of the New Holland Chatrooka Rye Smoked Doppelbock in smokiness (if not in much else).

Speaking of Rye, those who are fans of the blog probably know I love the spicy pepperiness that Rye gives to beer, and the Templeton Rye was my favorite. The grain bill is about 95% Rye and the Whiskey was originally meant to be a flavoring Rye for cheaper blended Whiskey’s.

That’s just the tip of the Whiskey Iceburg that you get into in this class.

If you ever get a chance to take an I Wish Lesson you should go for it. I wholeheartedly recommend the Whiskey 101 class. Learn a bunch about Whiskey and drink some at the same time, how can you beat that? You might want to wait for a Groupon or a Living Social Deal as they can be over $50 for a 1 hour class, but once you get one you are hooked. I purchased a Mixology 101 class at the end of the Whiskey 101 class (at their in-class deal rate of course).

Beer is Healthy

Beer is healthy. That’s right, I said it. Are you telling me that it isn’t good for you? That it will make you fat? Oh, sure pounding back 6 beers a night probably will kill you in a matter of decades, and  if you are drunk all the time, every day events become a game of Russian Roulette. And sure, drinking liquid calories is a really easy way to increase weight if not careful, but I did not say being an alcoholic was healthy, I said beer is healthy.

Recently I have decided to eliminate as many processed food as possible. When I say processed food, I mean “complete” meals that come in boxes, or have ingredients that you can’t pronounce. I don’t mean things like cheese, tofu, or especially beer which also could be considered processed, but in an older fashion. It’s not that I’m a Luddite and hate modern things. I believe that one day science will understand nutrition so completely that eating will be a separate activity than giving  your body nutrients, largely in the same way sex is now separate from having babies. The problem is that it seems clear that modern processed food isn’t healthy. Eating  it seems to lead to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

On the basic level, beer has natural ingredients and is made by a natural process. It’s not as easy to make a wine, which can simply make itself if you have enough weight on the grapes to crush the juice out, and let the natural yeast on the skin do its job. Nevertheless, the processes involved could all be reproduced in nature.

Beer is also made from whole ingredients. You have the wonderful benefits of whole barley, and on occasion, whole wheat, rye and oats. It is much healthier for you than bread made from highly refined flours. Now of course its more like a tea made from the grains than the grains themselves so there is some nutrient left, but of course you can use spent grains in all sorts of food. You’d also be surprised how hard it is to find bread that has strange and unpronounceable ingredients. Maybe one of you knows the reason, but I don’t understand the purpose of the monogycerides and triticales, in addition to the ubiquitous corn and soy in the The Brownberry 12 grain bread. A twelve grain bread should  have flour, water, yeast, salt and 12 different whole grains.

In addition to my opinions on the healthiness of natural food, studies do seem to show that alcohol is heart healthy. Up to 5 drinks a day could be good for your heart. Although, if you do drink that much you are risking increased chances of cancer and accidents. So drink no more than 2 glasses of beer if male and 1 glass if female and live forever.