I don’t generally post beer reviews on this blog. I can’t be bothered. Had ratebeer been around in the mid to late nineties when my appetite for new beer experiences was at its most voracious I think I may well have become an uber ratebeer nerd, not a ticker mind you, flavour was always the big thing for me, not the list. Although I’d been introduced to good beer in my teens it was until my late twenties that I became a fully-fledged beer geek – buying beer books, traipsing around obscure beer shops and planning jaunts around local beer availability.
Anyway, I’ve started this post with a digression. What I really wanted to talk about was ongoing, all-consuming quest to understand the psychology, economics, anthropology, sociology and a whole host of other ologies – pertaining to beer: who drinks what, where they do it and why they do it. At this point I'd like to work in a gag about "what makes people tick" but I'm not sure how.
And so it was when I had a week in Egypt back in April. After a couple of days on the tourist trail I realised I was rarely weeing, and when I did it was almost like passing honey (OK, too much information). I was very dehydrated. I was turning into a human prune. 35C and 12% humidity had got to me. Mad dogs looked on in admiration.
I got to thinking about alcohol’s role in desert societies. Islam – often described as “the religion of the desert” – prohibits the consumption of alcohol. Also, alcohol is a diuretic: it makes you wee more than you put in at the other end. Water is scarce in the desert (that’s what defines it as desert of course). Could there be a link between Islam’s prohibition and alcohol being a diuretic?
I’m a life-long atheist (I even had to leave cubs because I refused to go to church parade). Nonetheless I’m utterly fascinated by the phenomena of religions – in the same way I’m a-CAMRA-ist but fascinated by it. I think a lot about things like this.
Islam and Judaism share a prohibition on the consumption of pig meat. This isn’t coincidence. For a large part of human history, any many parts of the world pigs have been hosts to fluke (I’m more than willing to be corrected on this). Getting fluke from eating infected meat is not a good idea. Simply attempting to spread the word (“psst, don’t eat pig, pass it on”) to hungry, illiterate peasants wasn’t good enough. “How do we make the message more forceful?” thought some enterprising Rabbis and Imams. “I know!” they chorused “we’ll call it a commandment from god or the teaching of a prophet or summat.” “Yes that’s it – if you eat pig, god won’t be happy with you and he may arrange something nasty for you in the afterlife. That’ll do the trick.”
And so it came to pass that the prohibition on pig consumption gained its status as religious dogma. Being religion though, rationality is discouraged. Fluke has long been eliminated in most of the world so Middle-Easterners can now tuck into pork with impunity. They don’t. The rule has stuck. Religion’s like that.
So, back to Egypt. I had a thought. Could Islam’s prohibition on alcohol have occurred in the same way – leaders wondering how to deter people from drinking booze in order to prevent dehydration and preserve water supplies? I reckon so. I’m not sure how Judaism escaped the same prohibition though. Perhaps it was because of early migration into Europe where there was lots of water.
I’ll leave you to ponder. I’m off to the pub.