The International Organisation of Good Templars

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Just when I think prohibitionists can’t possibly get any scarier, I found out something new to give me the willies. I saw a odd set of letters retweeted by the good nut jobs at Alcohol Justice yesterday; the letters in question were the IOGT. I figured if they were in bed with AJ they would be worth knowing about. I’m not sure how I missed this group. They’re not exactly a secret, despite having all the trapping of a secret society. The IOGT was originally the “International Order of Good Templars,” a temperance organization founded in the 1850s. They eventually changed their name to the International Organisation of Good Templars in the 1970s because they felt Organisation sounded less like a scary secret society than Order. They also dropped the secret rituals and, I assume, got rid of the secret handshake. It didn’t help, and that’s probably why today they just use the initials IOGT.

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An 1868 membership certificate from a chapter in Michigan. Looks harmless enough.

Apparently, it’s “structure [was] modeled on Freemasonry, using similar ritual and regalia. Unlike many, however, it admitted men and women equally, and also made no distinction by race.” Except in the American South, of course, where folks naturally demanded there be separate lodges for black and white members. So you know they were good people. Nothing furthers a stated goal of “liberation of peoples of the world leading to a richer, freer and more rewarding life” by “promot[ing] a lifestyle free of alcohol and other drugs” like continuing racism after the abolishment of slavery.

In 1875, after the American Civil War, the American senior body voted to allow separate lodges and Grand Lodges for white and black members, to accommodate the practice of segregation in southern US states. In 1876, Malins and other British members failed in achieving an amendment to stop this, and left to establish a separate international body. In 1887 this and the American body were reconciled into a single IOGT.

Throughout the late 19th century, chapters were formed all over the world and today they’re headquartered in Sweden, where it’s known as the IOGT-NTO, and other hyphenated suffixes are used in the forty nations with a chapter.

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Apparently they’re fine with perpetuating stereotypes of wine for women, beer for men.

Here in America, it’s IOGT-USA, where there are 21 local chapters in only five states. On the plus side, “women were admitted as regular members early in the history of the Good Templars. In 1979, there were 700,000 members internationally, though only 2,000 in the country of the IOGTs origin, the United States.” I didn’t see any more recent membership figures, so who knows how many Good Templars there are now in the 21st century.

They have a somewhat unintentionally comic petition up on a separate website, with the headline “United to Expose the Alcohol Industry.” They go on: “It tears families apart, trashes personal ambition and holds back developing countries. Still, no one has looked deeper into the alcohol industry and demanded that they take responsibility for their actions. It’s time we expose them.” Seriously, “no one has looked deeper into the alcohol industry and demanded that they take responsibility for their actions?” Isn’t that what the IOGT, and all of the other prohibitionist groups have been doing for well over 150 years? But now “it’s time we expose them?” Maybe it’s because their history is rooted in being a secret society, but what exactly is there to expose? What exactly is secret about the global beer industry that hasn’t been written about, endlessly dissected, debated and discussed?

Down a little farther on the petition page, they claim that the “alcohol industry still rule people and markets without being watched, examined or globally questioned by media or lawmakers.” Um, Alcohol Justice is doing just that; styling themselves as the “industry watchdog.” And they’re hardly alone. Countless organizations are keeping a careful watch on the alcohol industry. It’s one of the most tightly regulated industries in the U.S., and I suspect that’s true in most other places, too.

I get that you don’t like alcohol, and think everybody should just stop drinking it, but let’s not pretend this idea just occurred to you last week. Or that brewers are part of some secret cabal to ruin your world. Because really, it’s not “your” world, it’s “ours,” by which I mean “everybody’s.” And many of us like a nice beer, thank you very much. You don’t want to drink alcohol? Fine, don’t drink it. No one is telling you that you must, I only wish you’d extend us the same courtesy and stop telling us about every problem drinker, as if we’re all the same. There are troubled people everywhere, doing all sorts of bad things, many of them worse than drinking too much. Like virtually every aspect of human existence, there is good and bad, and everyone should have the right to choose their own path. For every anecdote about an alcoholic, there are 99, or 95, people who aren’t; good people who are drinking responsibly, holding down jobs, raising families and getting on with their lives. They don’t deserve to have you condemning them every chance you get.

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Examples of non-alcoholic fun. I have fun without alcohol all the time, but only in moderation.

Spencer Trappist Brewery Is Bizarre?

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By now you’ve probably seen the news that the Spencer Trappist Brewery, America’s first Trappist brewery is selling beer, their Spencer Trappist Ale. I didn’t feel the need to write much about it since the news is just about everywhere, from the Boston Globe to L.A. Weekly, from NPR to CBS News.

But here’s one I don’t quite get. When ABC News, specifically the affiliate station out of Fresno, California, KFSN Channel 30, covered the story, they ran the headline US monks move into Trappist beer brewing business, but used essentially the same AP Story that most news outlets are using for this story. But ABC News also tagged the story with “Massachusetts,” which makes sense, and “bizarre,” which does not. Could somebody please explain to me what’s “bizarre” about this story? Other headlines in ABC’s bizarre topics include stories about devil babies, atomic wedgies and anal probes. But monks brewing beer, something they’ve been doing since the middle ages, possibly as early as the 6th century, is lumped in with what you’d normally only find in the pages of the Weekly World News when you’re checking out at the grocery store.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but that seems like beer getting a slap in the face to me. It was probably just some ignorant intern who didn’t know what to do with the story and didn’t want to have to think about it very much, and so just threw it in the catch-all category. But surely this story should have been characterized differently. Is that really too much to ask?

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You can also see additional photos at their Facebook page. And below is a video of the Spencer Trappist monks from St. Joseph’s Abbey.

A day in the life of a monk at St. Joseph’s Abbey from Spencer Brewery on Vimeo.

Beer Brewed With Elephant Dung

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I’ve had my share of beers made with odd ingredients, from pizza beer to Wynkoop’s bull testicle beer, with all manner of flowers, nuts, fruits, vegetables and tree parts in between. But this one has to take the cake. The Japanese brewery Sankt Gallen created a beer with elephant dung, which reportedly immediately sold out.

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According to Drinks Business:

The beer, which is called Un, Kono Kuro, is made using coffee beans that have passed through an elephant.

The Sankt Gallen brewery called the beer a “chocolate stout,” despite it not containing any chocolate. The coffee beans used in the beer come from elephants at Thailand’s Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, which cost over $100 per 35 grams. The beans are so expensive as 33 kgs of beans in the mouth yields 1 kg of useable coffee beans.

According to another source, International Science Times, the beer “utilizes the flavor of Black Ivory Coffee, a variety of your morning brew that retails for about $500 per pound because the beans are harvested from elephant poop. And by “harvested” we mean picked out of a big pile of dung and rinsed off. The elephant poop beer uses the coffee beans to enhance the flavor in its coffee stout.” They continue.

Un, Kono Kuro is a pun on “unko” which is the Japanese word for “crap,” a fitting name indeed for elephant poop coffee. Although the elephant poop beer was a sales success, don’t expect it hit shelves anytime soon. The brewer, Sankt Gallen, isn’t adding it to their regular line-up. It’s not cheap beer, either; the retail value of a keg of Un, Kono Kuro is around $1100.

So apparently it’s pretty popular. At least one reviewer said it wasn’t bad, saying “there was an initial bitterness that got washed over by a wave of sweetness. Following that, a mellow body rolled in and spread out through my mouth.” Still, this may be going too far. What do you think?

Sankt-Gallen

Beer From Beard Yeast, Yes; From Vaginas, No

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You most likely remember that Rogue harvested some yeast from the beard of their longtime brewmaster, John Maier, and White Labs analyzed it and propagated a brewing yeast that Rogue in turn used to brew a beer with. Not everyone responded favorably to the news, but in terms of attention and publicity, it’s been a huge hit, with almost every news agency, website and blog writing about it. I made it the subject of part of one of my newspaper columns back in July. A Google search of “rogue beard beer” turns up over 1.4 million hits.

But just when you think things can’t get any weirder, my wife — who’s been working in Shanghai this week — just sent me an article from a feminist blog she reads regularly, Jezebel. Inspired by John Maier’s beard beer exploits, they wrote an article about one more place known for its occasional yeast production that we can write off as a place to harvest for brewing. The article, entitled Just So You Know, You Can’t Make Beer With Your Vagina, answers the question I’m not sure anyone was asking. But now that I know there is an answer, I can’t look away. It’s like that car crash on the side of the road. I know I shouldn’t look, but I just can’t help myself.

Beginning with the premise that “[y]east is everywhere, even (as we ladies well know) buried deep inside our vaginas, waiting to go bad and ruin our week at any moment,” they wonder if anyone could “turn a yeast infection into a full-bodied IPA.” At this point, I’ll let author
Madeleine Davies share the results.

We did some research and, in a word, no. The yeast used in beer is a completely different strain of yeast than the one that causes yeast infections. And there goes your artisanal brewery idea!

The yeast used in beer is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and works by converting carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. This is also the yeast used in bread, which is why baking yeast can be used to brew beer, though it generally makes the end product doughy in flavor and texture. Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans, a fungus that grows as both yeast and filamentous cells and can cause oral and genital infections in humans. Using this to brew would be entirely ineffective, not to mention, guh-ross.

So there you have it. No vagina beer. I, for one, am relieved. It was one thing to have Sam Calagione and his team spitting in his Peruvian-style chicha beer, and Maier’s beard never bothered me too much, because White Labs removed any lingering ick factor by growing the yeast in their San Diego lab. But in the on-going quest to push the envelope, generate publicity and maybe even make something worth drinking, this may be crossing a line. What do you think?

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Close, but no vagina.

Beer Safe To Drink In Post-Apocalyptic World

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It’s nice to know that after the world ends in a nuclear fireball, we’ll still have beer to drink. According to an interesting article at the Nuclear Secrecy Blog Restricted Data, beer was tested and found to be relatively safe after being exposed to a nuclear blast. In 1955, Operation Teapot tackled the problem of what surviving humans might drink after the big one was dropped. In Beer and the Apocalypse, author — and historian of science at the American Institute of Physics — Alex Wellerstein details the experiments and their results. It’s a fascinating and frightening tale. And at least it gives me an excuse to increase the size of my beer cellar.

Bovine Beer Drinkers

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It seems we’re not the only mammals with a taste for beer. In the small Massachusetts town of Boxford a few days ago, six young cows escaped from their pen and set out on a night of partying. Lured by the music of a college graduation party down the road, they crashed the party and immediately went for the beer.

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According to the Boxford Police, via Gawker:

Being uninvited didn’t seem to bother the kine, which helped itself to a few cold ones. “They went right for the beer,” said Lt. James Riter. “And then when one was done, they’d knock another one over and take care of that beer.”

And the local newspaper, the Eagle-Tribune, reported that the cows seemed to prefer Bud Light over Miller Lite.

Watch the full story below.