Happy National Lager Day! While it might be strange to celebrate a light, summery beer in the dead of winter, it’s best not to question an excuse to drink. So grab one of your favorite lagers and enjoy these sudsy facts.
1. BEER IS AN OLD FAVORITE.
Beer’s history is pretty murky, and no one has been able to pin down its exact origins. Many point to Ancient Mesopotamia as the first place with evidence of beer. Archeologists have found ceramic containers dating back to 3400 BCE that still have beer residue.
2. MOST BEER LABELS IN THE UNITED STATES ARE APPROVED BY JUST ONE MAN.
Kent "Battle" Martin is a quirky bureaucrat who is revered and reviled in equal parts by the brewers that must deal with him. He is the sole person in charge of approving labels for the Tax and Trade Bureau, a section of the Treasury Department. It’s his job to make sure each label is appropriate and does not mislead the consumer in any way. He approved over 29,500 beer labels in 2014 alone.
“He’s the king of beer. His will is law,” a lawyer who works with him told The Daily Beast. “There’s one dude in the government who gets to control a multibillion-dollar industry with almost no supervision.”
Martin is said to be extremely thorough and dedicated to the work of approvals. He has been known to work on several laptops, approving multiple beer labels at once. Despite his efficiency, many brewers complain about his finicky and sometimes nonsensical rules. For example, Martin once denied approval to a King of Hearts label featuring the playing card because it might imply the beer had heart healthy benefits.
3. JAPANESE BEER CANS HAVE BRAILLE.
To help the visually impaired pick the right drink, Japanese cans of beer and cider are helpfully stamped with “alcohol” written in Braille. Cans from the Japanese brewery Kirin are a little different—they read, “Kirin Beer.”
4. YOU CAN STILL HAVE A BEER AFTER AN ATOMIC BOMB EXPLOSION.
In 1957, the United States government conducted an experiment to see what beverages would be safe to drink in the event of a nuclear explosion. Called "The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages," the experiment tested a number of different packaged drinks. They exploded two bombs in close proximity to the test subjects (mostly beer and soda). Surprisingly, they found that bottles placed a quarter of a mile away from ground zero were only mildly radioactive (although the taste was certainly off). This means that, in a nuclear emergency, cracking a beer is a decent short term plan to stay hydrated—it just won’t taste very good.
5. HOPS ARE SOMETIMES HARD TO GET.
Hops, an essential ingredient in beer, are often in high demand, especially for IPA-style beers that require special kinds. In 2008, there was a severe hop shortage that left many brewers in the lurch. Luckily, Samuel Adams brewery had plenty to spare and sold their surplus hops to needy craft brewers at cost. Since then, the brewery has started a hop sharing program that sells high-demand hops like Simcoe, Citra, and Ahtanum to breweries in need. They can share about 30,000 pounds of the ingredient a year.
6. THE WHITE HOUSE BREWS ITS OWN BEER.
In 2012, President Barack Obama brought home a brewing kit. With the help of some home brewers on staff at the White House, the team was able to create the White House Honey Brown Ale, the first beer to be brewed on White House grounds. Since the first successful batch, Honey Porter and Honey Blonde have been added to the roster. All the beers use honey taken from a bee hive on the South Lawn. If you would like to try some of the presidential beer yourself, the administration generously provided a recipe.
7. BEER IS VERY, VERY POPULAR.
This may come as no surprise, but beer is the third most popular drink in the world, coming in right after water and tea. According to a Kirin report, the world drank about 187.37 million kiloliters of beer in 2012.
8. JIMMY CARTER WAS A FRIEND OF THE HOMEBREWER.
Before President Carter signed the HR 1337 in 1978, homebrewing beer or wine with an alcohol content over .5 percent was illegal. Once the president passed the law and removed this hurdle left over from Prohibition, people were free to create their own beer in their homes. It could be argued that Carter played a small but crucial role in the rise of craft breweries, as 90 percent of all craft brewers started as home brewers.
9. AND HIS BROTHER WAS A FRIEND OF BEER IN GENERAL.
It’s worth noting that the president’s brother, Billy Carter, also had some influence in the beer world. As a well-known imbiber (sometimes to the detriment of his brother's campaign), Billy was the perfect man to have his own brand of beer. A struggling Louisville-based brewery called Falls City approached the president’s brother to start a partnership. The beer was aptly called Billy Beer and came with his endorsement: “I had this beer brewed just for me. It’s the best beer I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a lot.” In truth, the beer was so bad that even the drink’s namesake couldn’t stomach it.
10. SCIENTISTS HAVE TRIED TO TAKE THE HANGOVER OUT OF THE BEER.
While a night of heavy drinking might be fun in the moment, most people have to pay for it in the morning. Besides crippling regret, drinkers also suffer from nausea, headache, and fatigue—telltale symptoms of a hangover. Australian scientists believe they can make these ailments a thing of the past with an electrolyte-charged ale that keeps the drinker hydrated. Researchers at Griffith University's Health Institute gave their special Gatorade-like beer to participants who had just exercised. The study found that the special beer helped the body successfully rehydrate.
Unfortunately, this only works with beers with low alcohol content, which generally aren’t the culprits of particularly nasty hangovers. On top of this, we still don’t really know the specifics of what causes a hangover or how to properly cure it. Fixing dehydration isn’t going to fix your hangover, though it certainly can’t hurt.
11. BEN FRANKLIN IS NOT THE BEER-LOVER YOU THOUGHT HE WAS.
The jovial founding father is often misquoted as saying, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants to us to be happy.” Despite the prevalence of the quip, there is no evidence that Franklin ever said it. It’s likely that the quote came from something he once wrote about wine. In 1779, Franklin wrote this to André Morellet:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
12. GERMANY HAS A BEER PIPELINE.
We all know Germany is crazy about beer, but the country doesn’t mess around when it comes to their suds. In Gelsenkirchen, Germany, there's a five-kilometer long beer pipeline that connects the bars inside the Veltines-Arena. Under the stadium, there is a cooling center that can hold 52,000 liters of beer. The pipeline brings the beer up to the bars at a breakneck speed of 14 liters of beer per minute. The handy creation supplies the bars and restaurants with much needed beer to accompany the games.
13. THE STRONGEST BEER HAS A 67.5 PERCENT ABV.
Scottish brewery Brewmeister broke its own record for world’s strongest beer in 2013, with the dangerous Brewmiester Snake Venom. The extremely boozy beer boasts an ABV of 67.5 percent. Made with smoke peat malt, champagne yeast, and ale yeast, the beer is designed to have a bite. Despite the obvious alcoholic taste, it apparently still retains its hoppy and malty beer flavor. A nine-ounce bottle of the stuff will set you back about $80. This ridiculously alcoholic drink beat out the previous champ, Brewmeister Armageddon, which has an ABV of 65 percent.
14. PBR DOESN’T JUST MAKE CHEAP BEER.
While Pabst Blue Ribbon might be a favorite amongst the frugal in the United States, the beer sells to a different crowd in China. PBR 1844 is swankier and pricier than the Milwaukee favorite we know stateside. The fancy booze is meant to be savored in a champagne flute instead of guzzled between bites of hotdog. Just one bottle of the stuff costs about $44. So what does it taste like? According to one Beer Advocate review:
Sweet caramel malts in the front of this with maybe a hint of toffee. Light bitter hops are in the middle and fade into a sweet alcohol. The ending once again has that interesting American PBR taste to it with a muted oak presence in the background.
15. SOME PEOPLE BATHE IN BEER.
In Eastern Europe, taking a dip in warm beer is a more relaxing alternative to getting into a hot tub. The yeast and vitamins are apparently great for skin and hair. The Bahenec Hotel in the Czech Republic lets you and a friend relax in a vat of beer for about 25 to 45 Euros (roughly $35 to $65).