Thursday, August 21, 2014

Point of brew: Have a beery beery Christmas and Prosbeerous New Year


From page A9 | December 18, 2013 |

In recent days I have run across beer in odd places:
A) Beer as bribe,
B) Beer on eBay,
C) Beer and bikes,
D) Beer and bricks, and
E) Beer and billboards.

The question is: What has all this to do with Christmas? Are there any Christmas messages here? Let me try to find the connections.

Beer as bribe is an odd story from Holland. A rather unlikely person — a woman and a Muslim — is mayor of a small town. She has a problem with a some homeless and alcoholic people infesting the local park. What to do? Well, put them to work, of course: They can clean up the town!

To make the job attractive at merely 10 euros per day plus clean overalls and a clip-on bow tie, she adds two cans of beer at breakfast, two at lunchtime plus two more at the end of the day provided the cleanup work was well done. Beer as bribe. Massive success.

What is the Christmas message? It’s this: Homeless and even alcoholic folk are people, too, and — especially at this time of year of generosity, good will and gift-giving — we should spare a thought for those less fortunate than we are. For example, among many other opportunities, never pass a Salvation Army red kettle without putting folding money in it.

Beer on eBay (or Craigslist) is also an unlikely story until you remember that some people are beer enthusiasts with special and even peculiar tastes in beer; often enough, those folk already have every bauble and whiz-bang and gizmo a Christmas gift-giver can possibly afford to give. So let us buy a beer that he/she knows about but cannot possibly find; this is called “demand.” Cue the beer black market; this is called “supply.”

Beers that are in limited distribution and have earned an extraordinary reputation in the beer press, such as Pliny the Elder made by Vinnie and Nathalie Cilurzo and their team at Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa), have been appearing on eBay at exorbitant even breathtaking prices.

Isn’t this just a wonderful opportunity to give a thoughtful, inventive and even magical gift at Christmastime to that special person and beer-lover in your life? Well no! Selling beer without a license and selling beer online are illegal and raise many other issues. Nathalie was at the forefront in curtailing the practice.

Beer on bikes struck me as odd because the photograph showed four kegs of beer in a trailer behind a “cargo” bike. Obviously, this would be a grand way to deliver this splendid libation to any Christmas party one might attend. Beer is the best beverage to drink at a party because it is large in volume (and so fills one up faster) and one has to find a washroom on a regular basis; also, most easy-drinking party beers are relatively low in alcohol.

The danger, it turns out in this case, is not so much getting home after the party but surviving the journey to it. A full keg of beer weighs about 160 pounds and four of them would be about 650 pounds plus the weight of the trailer and bike. Pedaling that could well cause a heart attack and the bike would be unsafe at any speed because it would be even harder to stop than start! Nevertheless, such a bike and cargo would be ideal this time of year.

Beer and bricks is really about home and hearth and family where most of us want to be at Christmastime; “warm face, warm hands, warm feet (and warm heart). Oh! Wouldn’t it be loverly?” Well, turns out beer can help here, too. Apparently, clay bricks are made with polystyrene added for strength; unfortunately, the EU regulations for greenness make this expensive.

Enter a brewery waste product called spent grain that, when mixed with clay, maintains the strength of bricks and dramatically improves their insulating properties; apparently spent grain entraps air in brinks that impedes heat flow. Try straw?

Billboards have appeared recently along Interstate 80 to Sacramento, installed by atheists; one might suppose they are a part of Fox “News” annual lament about the War on Christmas. Atheists might point out there is no evidence for God and our most cherished Christmas stories are the result of bad translation and the imagination of first-century journalists. But these atheists want to come out of the closet to show they have as good a moral compass as the righteous, because after all, they are perfectly cool with most of the Ten Commandments.

One billboard reads “I believe in humanity,” which, as far as I’m concerned, has the same impact as saying “I believe I’ll have beer.”

And so here we are, once again, at this wonderful time of year. May I wish you who have honored me by reading this column this far a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year; may you spare a thought for those less fortunate, exchange magical but legal gifts, party safely and sensibly, stay warm and safe, and remember that those age-old stories — myths really — we tell of the first Christmas are merely the outer wrappings around the great core of Faith.

— Reach Michael Lewis at Comment on this column at





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