How did I not know about this before? Although it’s not about beer, it is about goats, which is close enough for me. Apparently for the last fifty years Sweden has had their own version of a burning man (sort of), although for them it’s a Gävlebocken, or “Gävle goat.” It’s essentially “a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget in central Gävle, Sweden. It is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw. It is erected each year at the beginning of Advent over a period of two days by local community groups.”


Here’s the basic history, from Wikipedia:

The Gävle Goat is erected every year on the first day of Advent, which according to Western Christian tradition is in late November or early December, depending on the calendar year. In 1966, an advertising consultant, Stig Gavlén, came up with the idea of making a giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat and placing it in the square. The design of the first goat was assigned to the then chief of the Gävle fire department, Gavlén’s brother Jörgen Gavlén. The construction of the goat was carried out by the fire department, and they erected the goat each year from 1966 to 1970 and from 1986 to 2002. The first goat was financed by Harry Ström. On 1 December 1966, a 13-metre (43 ft) tall, 7-metre (23 ft) long, 3-tonne goat was erected in the square. On New Year’s Eve, the goat was burnt down, and the perpetrator was found and convicted of vandalism. The goat was insured, and Ström got all of his money back.


And vandalism of the goat has also become part and parcel of the legend each year. Even the Wikipedia page includes a chart of how long the goat lasted each year. Some years, like 2014, it lasted throughout the holiday season and into January. But even then, there were three attempts by arsonists. It’s actually only made it all the way to January intact a dozen times, and one of those years with some damage. This year, it only made it one day, and was burned down on November 27.

This was this year’s Gävle goat.

A tourist website for the town of Gävle, VisitGävle, with facts about “the world’s largest straw goat.”

The peculiar story about the Gävle Goat started in 1966. A man named Stig Gavlén came up with the idea to design a giant version of the traditional Swedish Christmas straw goat. The objective was to attract customers to the shops and restaurants in the southern part of the city. On the first Sunday of Advent 1966, the huge goat was placed at the Castle Square. Since then, the Gävle Goat has been a Christmas symbol placed in the same spot every year. Today it’s world famous. The goat is the world’s largest straw goat and made it to the Guinness Book of Records for the first time in 1985.

Worth knowing about the Gavle Goat

  • The Gävle Goat is 13 metres (42.6 feet) high, seven metres long and weighs 3.6 tonnes.
  • It takes a whole truck full of straw from the local village of Mackmyra to create the goat.
  • 1600 meters of rope is used.
  • 12,000 knots are tied.
  • 56 five metre straw mats form the straw coat.
  • 1200 metres of Swedish pine create the wooden skeleton.
  • 1000 man-hours of work are needed to build the Gävle Goat.
  • The Gävle Goat is inaugurated on the first Sunday of Advent every year, in conjunction with the “skyltsöndagen”.
  • The Gävle Goat has friends in more than 120 countries around the world that follow it in social media.
  • In 2015, 420 000 people visited the Gävle Goat, dressed in a flower coat, when it was on tour in the Chinese twin town of Zhuhai.
  • The Gavle Goat has been hit by a cruising car and been subjected to fire and sabotage over the years.
  • Staged hacker attacks and kidnappings have also been planned.

You can also read more about it at Atlas Obscura and the BBC


Visit Gävle adds. “You can follow the Gävle Goat from the first Sunday of Advent until after New Year or until the sad day that it meets its notorious fate.” For that purpose, they’ve set up a webcam where anyone can keep an eye on the goat, although this year it’s already too late. On the plus side, that’s how they were able to capture it burning on film.

Patent No. 3364033A: Method Of Preparing Hop Extracts

Today in 1968, US Patent 3364033 A was issued, an invention of Lars O. Spetsig, assigned to Sweden’s Stockholms Bryggerier Ab, for his “Method of Preparing Hop Extracts.” There’s no Abstract, but here’s his introduction in the description. “This invention relates to a new and improved method of preparing hop extracts for flavoring beer and other fermented malt beverages, in which a more complete utilisation of the hop constituents is achieved.” And further along there’s this:

It has now been discovered that better utilisation of the valuable substances is achieved if the hops are extracted in the following manner. The hops are first treated with Warm water to obtain a tannin extract. This is followed by leaching out the readily soluble bitter substances (among them hulupones) and isomerizing the relatively insoluble humulones to readily soluble isohumulones: by boiling the hops in an aqueous solution of neutral pH to yield a first bitter extract. Rapid boiling at this stage is preferred to counteract oxidation. The vapour boiling off is condensed to form an aromatic extract. Since the most valuable aromatic substances are the last to be distilled off, however, fractionation may be employed to collect two or more separate fractions. Finally, the partially spent hops are oxidised by customary means, e.g. see Swedish Patent No. 150,997, to form a second bitter extract.


The International Organisation of Good Templars

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.

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.

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.

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

Sweden Forbids Lust

I tend to think that the U.S. has a lock on the provincial, puritanical thinking that forbids so many odd features of everyday life, often anything to do with sex, while at the same time allowing violence with nary a sideways glance. I’ve never understood that, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, apparently Sweden is similarly off the deep end on sex, something I would never have expected. A Danish brewer, Amager Bryghus, created a series of seven beers based on the seven deadly sins, with a different beer, and label, for each. They call them the Sinners Series.


Take a look at the seven labels below and see if you can guess which one Sweden decided had to be censored?

If you answered Lust, you’re correct. Here’s what the label looks like outside of Sweden.


And here’s what it looks like inside Sweden.


According to The Local, an English-language news website covering Sweden, the problem was that “Danish beer bottles ‘too sexy’ for Sweden.” Like some U.S. states and Canadian provinces, Sweden has government-run liquor stores, and they make the decisions as to what’s acceptable.

Sweden’s state-run liquor retailer has decided that the picture on the Lust bottle, which contains a sweet Belgian ale with a 9.2 percent alcohol content, doesn’t abide by Sweden’s alcohol etiquette.

“We can’t accept the label, it’s against Sweden’s alcohol laws,” Systembolaget spokesman Lennart Agén told The Local.

“It’s quite a sexual label.”

As a result, Systembolaget has told the brewers to remove or edit the picture if the beer is to be sold in Sweden. The brewers responded by simply blacking out the entire label so neither the woman nor the bath is visible at all.

But it wasn’t an easy process, according to the brewers.

“We had to go through ten attempts before they’d accept it,” Henrik Papsø, head of communications at the brewery, told The Local.

Still, it seems awfully weird that a cartoon woman that’s only suggestive at best tripped up the censors. And I though we were prudes.


Beer In Art #148: Anders Zorn’s Brewery Paintings

This week’s works of art are by the Swedish artist Anders Zorn. The first one was painted in 1890. The title of it is “In the Brewery,” or sometimes “The Great Brewery,” and “in this genre scene depicting the interior of a Stockholm brewery, he shows a group of workers putting labels on beer bottles. The composition is strikingly unexpected and brutal, the row of figures on the right facing an empty space on the left. The play on light and the rapid, confident treatment accentuate this particular effect.” However, other accounts indicate that the brewery in the painting was in Hamburg, Germany.


Although he was estranged from him, Zorn’s father — Leonard Zorn — was a German brewer who moved to Sweden for work. The second painting, also created in 1890, is “The Little Brewery” and is in Sweden’s Nationalmuseum.

The little brewery, 1890, Anders Zorn, Nationalmuseum, Sweden

You can read Zorn’s biography at Wikipedia, at the 4 2day Artchive and a longer account at Arts Graphica. You can also see more of his works at AndersZorn.com and at Alsing, with links to other galleries at ArtCyclopedia.