Today is the 57th birthday of Sabine Weyermann, co-owner of Weyermann Malting in Bamberg, Germany. If you’ve visited any of the Craft Brewers Conferences, you’ve no doubt seen the bright yellow and red of the specialty malting company, which is sold in the U.S. by the Brewers Supply Group. Sabine’s family began the Weyermann Malt company in 1879, although she can trace her family back at least as far as 1510. She’s an amazing person, and her malt has helped fuel many a small and large brewery. Join me in wishing Sabine a very happy birthday.
Wednesday’s ad is a German beer poster by famed Swiss illustrator Herbert Leupin. This is maybe the seventh or eighth work by him that I’ve featured over the years. The text on the poster, “gibt kraft und nervenruhe,” is translated by Google as “gives strength and nerve rest.” I’m sure there’s a more idiomatic and elegant translation, but you get the idea. It may be a companion poster to Beer In Ads #1158: Spendet Freude Und Harmonie, which translates as “gives pleasure and harmony.” In that one, the male glass is smiling, whereas in today’s ad it’s more of a frown. I wonder if that’s a reflection of the beer in the glass?
Today is the birthday of Wilhelm Grimm, who along with his brother Jacob Grimm, created numerous fairy tales under the name the Brothers Grimm. Their best known stories are classics, tales like “Cinderella,”, “The Frog Prince,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rapunzel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “Snow White.” We usually think of these old fairy tales as being strictly for kids, probably because of how Disney and others have sanitized them, but the originals are often genuinely frightening, and their moral and purpose was to scare children, the original “scared straight” stories. In a few lesser-known stories, beer is mentioned and in a few cases is actually an important factor in the tale. Here’s a few of these Grimm’s fairy tales involving beer to read to your kids or just enjoy yourself.
There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie. And when she had grown up her father said: ‘We will get her married.’ ‘Yes,’ said the mother, ‘if only someone would come who would have her.’ At length a man came from a distance and wooed her, who was called Hans; but he stipulated that Clever Elsie should be really smart. ‘Oh,’ said the father, ‘she has plenty of good sense'; and the mother said: ‘Oh, she can see the wind coming up the street, and hear the flies coughing.’ ‘Well,’ said Hans, ‘if she is not really smart, I won’t have her.’ When they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, the mother said: ‘Elsie, go into the cellar and fetch some beer.’ Then Clever Elsie took the pitcher from the wall, went into the cellar, and tapped the lid briskly as she went, so that the time might not appear long. When she was below she fetched herself a chair, and set it before the barrel so that she had no need to stoop, and did not hurt her back or do herself any unexpected injury. Then she placed the can before her, and turned the tap, and while the beer was running she would not let her eyes be idle, but looked up at the wall, and after much peering here and there, saw a pick-axe exactly above her, which the masons had accidentally left there.
Then Clever Elsie began to weep and said: ‘If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar here to draw beer, then the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.’ Then she sat and wept and screamed with all the strength of her body, over the misfortune which lay before her. Those upstairs waited for the drink, but Clever Elsie still did not come. Then the woman said to the servant: ‘Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is.’ The maid went and found her sitting in front of the barrel, screaming loudly. ‘Elsie why do you weep?’ asked the maid. ‘Ah,’ she answered, ‘have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fall on his head, and kill him.’ Then said the maid: ‘What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down beside her and began loudly to weep over the misfortune. After a while, as the maid did not come back, and those upstairs were thirsty for the beer, the man said to the boy: ‘Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie and the girl are.’ The boy went down, and there sat Clever Elsie and the girl both weeping together. Then he asked: ‘Why are you weeping?’ ‘Ah,’ said Elsie, ‘have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.’ Then said the boy: ‘What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down by her, and likewise began to howl loudly. Upstairs they waited for the boy, but as he still did not return, the man said to the woman: ‘Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is!’ The woman went down, and found all three in the midst of their lamentations, and inquired what was the cause; then Elsie told her also that her future child was to be killed by the pick-axe, when it grew big and had to draw beer, and the pick-axe fell down. Then said the mother likewise: ‘What a clever Elsie we have!’ and sat down and wept with them. The man upstairs waited a short time, but as his wife did not come back and his thirst grew ever greater, he said: ‘I must go into the cellar myself and see where Elsie is.’ But when he got into the cellar, and they were all sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and that Elsie’s child was the cause, and the Elsie might perhaps bring one into the world some day, and that he might be killed by the pick-axe, if he should happen to be sitting beneath it, drawing beer just at the very time when it fell down, he cried: ‘Oh, what a clever Elsie!’ and sat down, and likewise wept with them. The bridegroom stayed upstairs alone for a long time; then as no one would come back he thought: ‘They must be waiting for me below: I too must go there and see what they are about.’ When he got down, the five of them were sitting screaming and lamenting quite piteously, each out-doing the other. ‘What misfortune has happened then?’ asked he. ‘Ah, dear Hans,’ said Elsie, ‘if we marry each other and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send him here to draw something to drink, then the pick-axe which has been left up there might dash his brains out if it were to fall down, so have we not reason to weep?’ ‘Come,’ said Hans, ‘more understanding than that is not needed for my household, as you are such a clever Elsie, I will have you,’ and seized her hand, took her upstairs with him, and married her.
After Hans had had her some time, he said: ‘Wife, I am going out to work and earn some money for us; go into the field and cut the corn that we may have some bread.’ ‘Yes, dear Hans, I will do that.’ After Hans had gone away, she cooked herself some good broth and took it into the field with her. When she came to the field she said to herself: ‘What shall I do; shall I cut first, or shall I eat first? Oh, I will eat first.’ Then she drank her cup of broth and when she was fully satisfied, she once more said: ‘What shall I do? Shall I cut first, or shall I sleep first? I will sleep first.’ Then she lay down among the corn and fell asleep. Hans had been at home for a long time, but Elsie did not come; then said he: ‘What a clever Elsie I have; she is so industrious that she does not even come home to eat.’ But when evening came and she still stayed away, Hans went out to see what she had cut, but nothing was cut, and she was lying among the corn asleep. Then Hans hastened home and brought a fowler’s net with little bells and hung it round about her, and she still went on sleeping. Then he ran home, shut the house-door, and sat down in his chair and worked. At length, when it was quite dark, Clever Elsie awoke and when she got up there was a jingling all round about her, and the bells rang at each step which she took. Then she was alarmed, and became uncertain whether she really was Clever Elsie or not, and said: ‘Is it I, or is it not I?’ But she knew not what answer to make to this, and stood for a time in doubt; at length she thought: ‘I will go home and ask if it be I, or if it be not I, they will be sure to know.’ She ran to the door of her own house, but it was shut; then she knocked at the window and cried: ‘Hans, is Elsie within?’ ‘Yes,’ answered Hans, ‘she is within.’ Hereupon she was terrified, and said: ‘Ah, heavens! Then it is not I,’ and went to another door; but when the people heard the jingling of the bells they would not open it, and she could get in nowhere. Then she ran out of the village, and no one has seen her since.
Frederick and Catherine
There was once a man called Frederick: he had a wife whose name was Catherine, and they had not long been married. One day Frederick said. ‘Kate! I am going to work in the fields; when I come back I shall be hungry so let me have something nice cooked, and a good draught of ale.’ ‘Very well,’ said she, ‘it shall all be ready.’ When dinner-time drew nigh, Catherine took a nice steak, which was all the meat she had, and put it on the fire to fry. The steak soon began to look brown, and to crackle in the pan; and Catherine stood by with a fork and turned it: then she said to herself, ‘The steak is almost ready, I may as well go to the cellar for the ale.’ So she left the pan on the fire and took a large jug and went into the cellar and tapped the ale cask. The beer ran into the jug and Catherine stood looking on. At last it popped into her head, ‘The dog is not shut up—he may be running away with the steak; that’s well thought of.’ So up she ran from the cellar; and sure enough the rascally cur had got the steak in his mouth, and was making off with it.
Away ran Catherine, and away ran the dog across the field: but he ran faster than she, and stuck close to the steak. ‘It’s all gone, and “what can’t be cured must be endured”,’ said Catherine. So she turned round; and as she had run a good way and was tired, she walked home leisurely to cool herself.
Now all this time the ale was running too, for Catherine had not turned the cock; and when the jug was full the liquor ran upon the floor till the cask was empty. When she got to the cellar stairs she saw what had happened. ‘My stars!’ said she, ‘what shall I do to keep Frederick from seeing all this slopping about?’ So she thought a while; and at last remembered that there was a sack of fine meal bought at the last fair, and that if she sprinkled this over the floor it would suck up the ale nicely. ‘What a lucky thing,’ said she, ‘that we kept that meal! we have now a good use for it.’ So away she went for it: but she managed to set it down just upon the great jug full of beer, and upset it; and thus all the ale that had been saved was set swimming on the floor also. ‘Ah! well,’ said she, ‘when one goes another may as well follow.’ Then she strewed the meal all about the cellar, and was quite pleased with her cleverness, and said, ‘How very neat and clean it looks!’
At noon Frederick came home. ‘Now, wife,’ cried he, ‘what have you for dinner?’ ‘O Frederick!’ answered she, ‘I was cooking you a steak; but while I went down to draw the ale, the dog ran away with it; and while I ran after him, the ale ran out; and when I went to dry up the ale with the sack of meal that we got at the fair, I upset the jug: but the cellar is now quite dry, and looks so clean!’ ‘Kate, Kate,’ said he, ‘how could you do all this?’ Why did you leave the steak to fry, and the ale to run, and then spoil all the meal?’ ‘Why, Frederick,’ said she, ‘I did not know I was doing wrong; you should have told me before.’
The husband thought to himself, ‘If my wife manages matters thus, I must look sharp myself.’ Now he had a good deal of gold in the house: so he said to Catherine, ‘What pretty yellow buttons these are! I shall put them into a box and bury them in the garden; but take care that you never go near or meddle with them.’ ‘No, Frederick,’ said she, ‘that I never will.’ As soon as he was gone, there came by some peddlers with earthenware plates and dishes, and they asked her whether she would buy. ‘Oh dear me, I should like to buy very much, but I have no money: if you had any use for yellow buttons, I might deal with you.’ ‘Yellow buttons!’ said they: ‘let us have a look at them.’ ‘Go into the garden and dig where I tell you, and you will find the yellow buttons: I dare not go myself.’ So the rogues went: and when they found what these yellow buttons were, they took them all away, and left her plenty of plates and dishes. Then she set them all about the house for a show: and when Frederick came back, he cried out, ‘Kate, what have you been doing?’ ‘See,’ said she, ‘I have bought all these with your yellow buttons: but I did not touch them myself; the pedlars went themselves and dug them up.’ ‘Wife, wife,’ said Frederick, ‘what a pretty piece of work you have made! those yellow buttons were all my money: how came you to do such a thing?’ ‘Why,’ answered she, ‘I did not know there was any harm in it; you should have told me.’
Catherine stood musing for a while, and at last said to her husband, ‘Hark ye, Frederick, we will soon get the gold back: let us run after the thieves.’ ‘Well, we will try,’ answered he; ‘but take some butter and cheese with you, that we may have something to eat by the way.’ ‘Very well,’ said she; and they set out: and as Frederick walked the fastest, he left his wife some way behind. ‘It does not matter,’ thought she: ‘when we turn back, I shall be so much nearer home than he.’
Presently she came to the top of a hill, down the side of which there was a road so narrow that the cart wheels always chafed the trees on each side as they passed. ‘Ah, see now,’ said she, ‘how they have bruised and wounded those poor trees; they will never get well.’ So she took pity on them, and made use of the butter to grease them all, so that the wheels might not hurt them so much. While she was doing this kind office one of her cheeses fell out of the basket, and rolled down the hill. Catherine looked, but could not see where it had gone; so she said, ‘Well, I suppose the other will go the same way and find you; he has younger legs than I have.’ Then she rolled the other cheese after it; and away it went, nobody knows where, down the hill. But she said she supposed that they knew the road, and would follow her, and she could not stay there all day waiting for them.
At last she overtook Frederick, who desired her to give him something to eat. Then she gave him the dry bread. ‘Where are the butter and cheese?’ said he. ‘Oh!’ answered she, ‘I used the butter to grease those poor trees that the wheels chafed so: and one of the cheeses ran away so I sent the other after it to find it, and I suppose they are both on the road together somewhere.’ ‘What a goose you are to do such silly things!’ said the husband. ‘How can you say so?’ said she; ‘I am sure you never told me not.’
They ate the dry bread together; and Frederick said, ‘Kate, I hope you locked the door safe when you came away.’ ‘No,’ answered she, ‘you did not tell me.’ ‘Then go home, and do it now before we go any farther,’ said Frederick, ‘and bring with you something to eat.’
Catherine did as he told her, and thought to herself by the way, ‘Frederick wants something to eat; but I don’t think he is very fond of butter and cheese: I’ll bring him a bag of fine nuts, and the vinegar, for I have often seen him take some.’
When she reached home, she bolted the back door, but the front door she took off the hinges, and said, ‘Frederick told me to lock the door, but surely it can nowhere be so safe if I take it with me.’ So she took her time by the way; and when she overtook her husband she cried out, ‘There, Frederick, there is the door itself, you may watch it as carefully as you please.’ ‘Alas! alas!’ said he, ‘what a clever wife I have! I sent you to make the house fast, and you take the door away, so that everybody may go in and out as they please—however, as you have brought the door, you shall carry it about with you for your pains.’ ‘Very well,’ answered she, ‘I’ll carry the door; but I’ll not carry the nuts and vinegar bottle also—that would be too much of a load; so if you please, I’ll fasten them to the door.’
Frederick of course made no objection to that plan, and they set off into the wood to look for the thieves; but they could not find them: and when it grew dark, they climbed up into a tree to spend the night there. Scarcely were they up, than who should come by but the very rogues they were looking for. They were in truth great rascals, and belonged to that class of people who find things before they are lost; they were tired; so they sat down and made a fire under the very tree where Frederick and Catherine were. Frederick slipped down on the other side, and picked up some stones. Then he climbed up again, and tried to hit the thieves on the head with them: but they only said, ‘It must be near morning, for the wind shakes the fir-apples down.’
Catherine, who had the door on her shoulder, began to be very tired; but she thought it was the nuts upon it that were so heavy: so she said softly, ‘Frederick, I must let the nuts go.’ ‘No,’ answered he, ‘not now, they will discover us.’ ‘I can’t help that: they must go.’ ‘Well, then, make haste and throw them down, if you will.’ Then away rattled the nuts down among the boughs and one of the thieves cried, ‘Bless me, it is hailing.’
A little while after, Catherine thought the door was still very heavy: so she whispered to Frederick, ‘I must throw the vinegar down.’ ‘Pray don’t,’ answered he, ‘it will discover us.’ ‘I can’t help that,’ said she, ‘go it must.’ So she poured all the vinegar down; and the thieves said, ‘What a heavy dew there is!’
At last it popped into Catherine’s head that it was the door itself that was so heavy all the time: so she whispered, ‘Frederick, I must throw the door down soon.’ But he begged and prayed her not to do so, for he was sure it would betray them. ‘Here goes, however,’ said she: and down went the door with such a clatter upon the thieves, that they cried out ‘Murder!’ and not knowing what was coming, ran away as fast as they could, and left all the gold. So when Frederick and Catherine came down, there they found all their money safe and sound.
The Golden Goose
There was a man who had three sons, the youngest of whom was called Dummling,[*] and was despised, mocked, and sneered at on every occasion.
It happened that the eldest wanted to go into the forest to hew wood, and before he went his mother gave him a beautiful sweet cake and a bottle of wine in order that he might not suffer from hunger or thirst.
When he entered the forest he met a little grey-haired old man who bade him good day, and said: ‘Do give me a piece of cake out of your pocket, and let me have a draught of your wine; I am so hungry and thirsty.’ But the clever son answered: ‘If I give you my cake and wine, I shall have none for myself; be off with you,’ and he left the little man standing and went on.
But when he began to hew down a tree, it was not long before he made a false stroke, and the axe cut him in the arm, so that he had to go home and have it bound up. And this was the little grey man’s doing.
After this the second son went into the forest, and his mother gave him, like the eldest, a cake and a bottle of wine. The little old grey man met him likewise, and asked him for a piece of cake and a drink of wine. But the second son, too, said sensibly enough: ‘What I give you will be taken away from myself; be off!’ and he left the little man standing and went on. His punishment, however, was not delayed; when he had made a few blows at the tree he struck himself in the leg, so that he had to be carried home.
Then Dummling said: ‘Father, do let me go and cut wood.’ The father answered: ‘Your brothers have hurt themselves with it, leave it alone, you do not understand anything about it.’ But Dummling begged so long that at last he said: ‘Just go then, you will get wiser by hurting yourself.’ His mother gave him a cake made with water and baked in the cinders, and with it a bottle of sour beer.
When he came to the forest the little old grey man met him likewise, and greeting him, said: ‘Give me a piece of your cake and a drink out of your bottle; I am so hungry and thirsty.’ Dummling answered: ‘I have only cinder-cake and sour beer; if that pleases you, we will sit down and eat.’ So they sat down, and when Dummling pulled out his cinder-cake, it was a fine sweet cake, and the sour beer had become good wine. So they ate and drank, and after that the little man said: ‘Since you have a good heart, and are willing to divide what you have, I will give you good luck. There stands an old tree, cut it down, and you will find something at the roots.’ Then the little man took leave of him.
Dummling went and cut down the tree, and when it fell there was a goose sitting in the roots with feathers of pure gold. He lifted her up, and taking her with him, went to an inn where he thought he would stay the night. Now the host had three daughters, who saw the goose and were curious to know what such a wonderful bird might be, and would have liked to have one of its golden feathers.
The eldest thought: ‘I shall soon find an opportunity of pulling out a feather,’ and as soon as Dummling had gone out she seized the goose by the wing, but her finger and hand remained sticking fast to it.
The second came soon afterwards, thinking only of how she might get a feather for herself, but she had scarcely touched her sister than she was held fast.
At last the third also came with the like intent, and the others screamed out: ‘Keep away; for goodness’ sake keep away!’ But she did not understand why she was to keep away. ‘The others are there,’ she thought, ‘I may as well be there too,’ and ran to them; but as soon as she had touched her sister, she remained sticking fast to her. So they had to spend the night with the goose.
The next morning Dummling took the goose under his arm and set out, without troubling himself about the three girls who were hanging on to it. They were obliged to run after him continually, now left, now right, wherever his legs took him.
In the middle of the fields the parson met them, and when he saw the procession he said: ‘For shame, you good-for-nothing girls, why are you running across the fields after this young man? Is that seemly?’ At the same time he seized the youngest by the hand in order to pull her away, but as soon as he touched her he likewise stuck fast, and was himself obliged to run behind.
Before long the sexton came by and saw his master, the parson, running behind three girls. He was astonished at this and called out: ‘Hi! your reverence, whither away so quickly? Do not forget that we have a christening today!’ and running after him he took him by the sleeve, but was also held fast to it.
Whilst the five were trotting thus one behind the other, two labourers came with their hoes from the fields; the parson called out to them and begged that they would set him and the sexton free. But they had scarcely touched the sexton when they were held fast, and now there were seven of them running behind Dummling and the goose.
Soon afterwards he came to a city, where a king ruled who had a daughter who was so serious that no one could make her laugh. So he had put forth a decree that whosoever should be able to make her laugh should marry her. When Dummling heard this, he went with his goose and all her train before the king’s daughter, and as soon as she saw the seven people running on and on, one behind the other, she began to laugh quite loudly, and as if she would never stop. Thereupon Dummling asked to have her for his wife; but the king did not like the son-in-law, and made all manner of excuses and said he must first produce a man who could drink a cellarful of wine. Dummling thought of the little grey man, who could certainly help him; so he went into the forest, and in the same place where he had felled the tree, he saw a man sitting, who had a very sorrowful face. Dummling asked him what he was taking to heart so sorely, and he answered: ‘I have such a great thirst and cannot quench it; cold water I cannot stand, a barrel of wine I have just emptied, but that to me is like a drop on a hot stone!’
‘There, I can help you,’ said Dummling, ‘just come with me and you shall be satisfied.’
He led him into the king’s cellar, and the man bent over the huge barrels, and drank and drank till his loins hurt, and before the day was out he had emptied all the barrels. Then Dummling asked once more for his bride, but the king was vexed that such an ugly fellow, whom everyone called Dummling, should take away his daughter, and he made a new condition; he must first find a man who could eat a whole mountain of bread. Dummling did not think long, but went straight into the forest, where in the same place there sat a man who was tying up his body with a strap, and making an awful face, and saying: ‘I have eaten a whole ovenful of rolls, but what good is that when one has such a hunger as I? My stomach remains empty, and I must tie myself up if I am not to die of hunger.’
At this Dummling was glad, and said: ‘Get up and come with me; you shall eat yourself full.’ He led him to the king’s palace where all the flour in the whole Kingdom was collected, and from it he caused a huge mountain of bread to be baked. The man from the forest stood before it, began to eat, and by the end of one day the whole mountain had vanished. Then Dummling for the third time asked for his bride; but the king again sought a way out, and ordered a ship which could sail on land and on water. ‘As soon as you come sailing back in it,’ said he, ‘you shall have my daughter for wife.’
Dummling went straight into the forest, and there sat the little grey man to whom he had given his cake. When he heard what Dummling wanted, he said: ‘Since you have given me to eat and to drink, I will give you the ship; and I do all this because you once were kind to me.’ Then he gave him the ship which could sail on land and water, and when the king saw that, he could no longer prevent him from having his daughter. The wedding was celebrated, and after the king’s death, Dummling inherited his kingdom and lived for a long time contentedly with his wife.
Here’s some interesting news, and a nice twist or role reversal of recent events. Florian Kuplent, the talented former Anheuser-Busch brewer, in 2011 opened the Urban Chestnut Brewery in St. Louis, after A-B was acquired by InBev. I first met Florian in Denver shortly after he’d brewed an excellent German-style hefeweizen at the Fort Collins A-B brewery. Kuplent was born in Bavaria, Germany, and also was trained as a brewer at Weihenstephan.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Urban Chestnut “has acquired the Bürgerbräu Wolnzach brewery in Wolnzach, which is about 35 miles north of Munich.” That’s right, a small craft brewery has bought a German brewery. Apparently, Bürgerbräu Wolnzach closed down around six months ago, and Klupent saw an opportunity. The Post-Dispatch explains that the “St. Louis-based company plans to brew small batches of beer at the Bavarian facility in the second quarter of 2015. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.”
Here’s another interesting historical artifact on beer and good health. This is from the Tennessee State Fair Official Souvenir Program and Guide, from 1907, advertising a talk by a German professor, Dr. P. Bauer, “demonstrating the effect of beer on the health.” It looks like his appearance was sponsored by the William Gerst Brewing Co. of Nashville, Tennessee. One insight he could be expected to give: “Solid foods often remain in the stomach a long time and retard digestion. Liquid foods, like GERST Beer, are an aid to digestion.” Oh, and there’s this subtitle. “People Who Drink Plenty of Beer Are Always Strong and Healthy.” The ad then ends with this branded tagline: “There is Good Health in every bottle of Gerst Beer.”
Friday’s ad is by the Swiss illustrator Herbert Leupin. The tagline, “spendet Freude und Harmonie,” translates to roughly “gives pleasure and harmony.”
You’ve undoubtedly seen a belligerent drunk at some point in your life. Perhaps you’ve even been one. There are some people who seemingly turn angry when they drink. Some of them get into fights, maybe start one in a bar, the classic mythical bar fight where chairs start flying and everybody joins in because everyone who drinks is looking for a fight, right? Watch almost any western movie to see this in action. It’s so taken for granted, it’s a cliche. I’m sure bar fights occur, but honestly I’ve never seen a full on fight like you see in the movies. And I’ve been to more bars in my lifetime than the average person, I’d warrant. There are apparently people who become angry after a few too many drinks. And some of them probably do start a fight. There are certainly people like this, and I’ve always thought of them simply as “bad drunks.”
My stepfather was one. He turned mean on a bender, and he was violent and very, very scary, especially to a young sheltered suburban punk like me, ages 5 to 15 or so. But I quickly figured out all on my own that it wasn’t the alcohol that made him so belligerent. He was already that way, thanks to his own trials and tribulations growing up. Not to mention he was raised in a place/culture/family/time when/where not only weren’t men supposed to show their feelings, they weren’t supposed to actually have any. That’s not an excuse, just a fact. He walked around seething, all bottled up, and used alcohol to release his demons. It seemed to help him, of course, but it was devastating to anyone around him, especially me and my mother, who was too co-dependent to do anything about it. But the next morning, the relief he’d felt was all too brief, and the pressure would start building again to its next inevitable violent conclusion; a day, a week or even a month later.
You’d think after such unpleasant experiences that I might have sworn off alcohol entirely. But as I said, I knew it wasn’t the alcohol that made him that way. It was people and society who were convinced and believed that alcohol made him angry that allowed him to continue to be a nasty drunk, and not have to take any responsibility for his actions. It was just the alcohol, they’d say. Prohibitionists today continue this lie, and it’s one of things I so hate about them, by claiming it’s the alcohol that causes harm. But it’s not. And every time they spout that meme I wonder how many more kids are made to suffer by spouses and family and a community who listen to them, and do honestly believe that were it not for the drinking, Dad would be fine, a model citizen.
But look around you. Not everybody who drinks turns angry. In fact, most don’t. That’s how I know it’s not the alcohol. Because I can get rip-roaring drunk, and never become angry. Believe me I’ve tried, but it never happens. I get more talkative, if that’s possible, and more philosophical and sleepy. And most people I know react similarly, at least insofar as they don’t start a bar fight every time they take a drink. That’s also my biggest problem with AA and similar programs that preach that people are powerless, in effect not responsible. They often claim otherwise, but turning the superhero credo on its head; with great powerless comes a great ability to shirk responsibility for one’s actions. And so it’s the alcohol that ends up with the blame, not the person who abused it. Why society allows that is apparently complicated and is something I frankly don’t completely understand.
A German study published late last year in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, entitled Alcohol-Related Aggression — Social and Neurobiological Factors sought to examine “Alcohol-related aggression and violence” and begins by noting that “nearly one in three violent acts in Germany was committed under the influence of alcohol (31.8%).” But that also means that over two-thirds of violent acts are committed by people who were not drinking or drunk. Maybe there are other factors we should be looking at as to why people are violent? And it also doesn’t answer the question of how many violent acts were prevented because someone had a drink after a tough day and that relaxed and calmed them.
Curiously, when reported on here in the U.S., the reference to this being a German statistic was removed, making it a much broader, universal statement. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, Science Daily and Medical News Today (MNT) all begin their coverage with the same sentence. “One-third of all acts of violence are perpetrated under the influence of alcohol.” So first of all, it was actually less than one-third and secondly, that statistic was confined to Germany. Not exactly an auspicious beginning for there to be two errors in the very first sentence. The MNT headline itself is misleading, stating that “Social and neurobiological factors linked to alcohol-related aggression,” while the study didn’t confirm a link so much as examine the “causes of alcohol-related aggression.” But by using that headline, it changes the tone of how you read the entire article.
But that just seems like prohibitionist interests bending it to their purposes, because the study itself is interesting, and worth a read. The whole article is online, and there’s also a pdf you can download. It’s not so much a scientific study but a survey, or review, of all of the previous studies and literature about alcohol-induced aggression. In the abstract, they describe their process as follows.
In this review, based on a selective search for pertinent literature in PubMed, we analyze and summarize information from original articles, reviews, and book chapters about alcohol and aggression and discuss the neurobiological basis of aggressive behavior.
What they found was that “[o]nly a minority of persons who drink alcohol become aggressive,” which is what we all know. There appears to be evidence that “neurobiological factors” can account for the aggression, but that possibly more importantly, so can “personal expectations of the effects of alcohol, on prior experience of violent conflicts, and on the environmental conditions of early childhood, especially social exclusion and discrimination.”
They cite the World Health Organization and several other studies, and meta-studies, that indicate how many crimes, many of them violent, are committed by drunk people. But for many, if not most, of these, they specifically cite “acute alcohol intoxication” which is not the same thing as having a few beers, drinking responsibly in moderation. In addition, it’s also worse for people with “chronic alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence” issues. So again, this is a subset of all drinkers. But most American prohibitionist groups lump everybody who drinks together into one group, insisting all drinking is bad and leads to all sorts of trouble and mischief, taking a simplistic approach that treats all drinkers the same. But the Germans found things aren’t so simple.
Both clinical observations and scientific data have shown that the manifestation of alcohol-related aggression is by no means uniform. Rather, it is becoming clear that individual differences play a key role. In addition, more recent models are moving away from single-factor causes and towards multifactorial sets of conditions.
So what are the various factors that contribute to someone drinking and turning violent? They identify four.
- Executive functions such as the control and inhibition of ongoing behavior
- Information processing
- Attentional control
- Individual differences in expectation of the effect of alcohol consumption (e.g. “Alcohol makes me aggressive.”)
They also add to that list, Social learning, described as “experiences with friends or relatives who exhibit aggressive behavior under the influence of alcohol, [and] play a key role in the onset of alcohol-related aggression.”
But looking through the entire survey, what seems clear is that it’s the “expectations of effect” that has the most influence. And that brings us back to everyday experience. People believe that they can act differently under the influence of alcohol, and so they do. Society also expects that people will act differently under the influence of alcohol and so they don’t impose social penalties or ostracize that behavior. In many cases, it’s not just tolerated and excused but forgiven, and therefore enabled. By letting drunks essentially get away with bad behavior, it leads to a society that creates incentives for acting badly. That’s why I hate bad drunks so much. They ruin it for the rest of us. Bad drunks are what prohibitionists believe we all become when we have a beer, any amount of beer, despite the massive evidence to the contrary.
Other “individual factors” they identified “with an increased probability of alcohol-induced aggression” include:
- Sex (men have a higher risk of reacting aggressively following acute alcohol consumption)
- Personality traits such as sensation-seeking
- High underlying irritability
- Lack of empathy
They add. “Maladaptive reasons for drinking, such as drinking as a coping mechanism, and the assumption that aggression is an acceptable form of social interaction, also play a major role.”
So essentially, they’re saying it’s personality-driven, which has been my experience, as well. If you have a propensity to act aggressively toward women, alcohol will give you the excuse to act that out. If you’re seeking sensational experiences, alcohol will give you the excuse to act that out. If you’re already irritable or angry, alcohol will give you the excuse to act more violently and aggressive. If you already lack empathy, alcohol will give you the excuse to care about other people even less than you normally do. And as long as that’s “an acceptable form of social interaction,” then people will continue to do so because they can use getting drunk as an excuse to be a douchebag.
In the conclusion they sum this up. “Individuals who find it difficult to inhibit their behavior and delay gratification and who have problems enduring unpleasant feelings seem to become aggressive more frequently after consuming alcohol.” And this happens even more often to people who are “alcohol-dependent” but curiously is “not associated with alcohol dependence, including chronic alcohol dependence, per se.” I can’t help but think that’s because in such cases being drunk is used as the excuse to act badly, knowing that society — friends, family, etc. — will let them get away with it because they too have the expectation that the alcohol is causing them to behave badly, and that they shouldn’t, or can’t, be held responsible for their actions.
As this article makes clear, while there are genetic and neurobiological factors that in some people can lead to abusing alcohol, the majority of the problem stems from social conventions. Because the neurobiological causes can be identified, dealt with and treated. The social structures that allow people to use getting drunk as an excuse for bad behavior is a lot harder to change, because it’s so well-rooted in how our society functions. And it doesn’t help that addiction organizations and medical groups that treat this problem also enable this behavior by accepting it as dogma. And it doesn’t help that prohibitionist groups believe it, too, insisting that it’s the alcohol that’s causing the harm, not the individuals using, or abusing, it. By targeting the product that some people are abusing, instead of those people, they’re essentially allowing and even making the conditions more attractive to anyone using alcohol to continue using that as their excuse. After all, they must think, “I can’t be responsible for acting like an asshole, I was drunk. The booze made me do it, I couldn’t help myself.” And that, I think, is why some drunks fight. Because we as a society let them.
We don’t need tougher laws, or more police, or roadside checkpoints, or more prohibitionist propaganda. If everybody with a friend or family member who’s a bad drunk stopped letting them get away with it, this problem would be substantially reduced, whittled down to the people physically unable to control themselves. And we could then get those people the help they need. I say don’t tolerate bad drunks, let them know you don’t accept alcohol as an excuse for their bad behavior. They’ll either stop, or they’ll figure out they really do have a health problem that needs addressing. Social pressure and the threat of ostracization are usually a much more effective method of changing behaviors.
Drinking should be about the enjoyment of life, and responsible, moderate consumption should enhance what’s good in our lives already. Whether it’s improving a meal, conversation with friends at a pub, or celebrating a holiday or personal achievement, beer can heighten and complement those experiences, from the ordinary to the very special. That’s the goal of beer with flavor, that people drink less, but better. Who could fight with that?
Today’s infographic is still another poster about Oktoberfest, which began four days ago in Munich, Germany. This one is called How To Survive Oktoberfest with Your Liver Intact and was created by Accredited Online Colleges. It features a brief history of Oktoberfest and some tips for navigating the festival.