Monday, July 13, 2009

This Day in Booze:  The Beer Bottle

You've just come home from a long hard day at work. you're tired and exhausted, and you just want to relax for a couple of minutes. You grab a nice cold bottle of beer out of the fridge and the condensation on the bottle feels great in your hand. You pop the top, kick off your shoes, flop down on the couch, and enjoy. Ahh, that hits the spot.
Sounds great doesn't it, but that wasn't always a luxury that every man could enjoy....or was it. I thought it used to be that if you wanted a beer in the old days, you had little choice but to head on down to the local tavern or inn, where the barman would poor you a nice "warm one" from the huge wooden cask behind the bar.

I was surprised to find out recently that bottled beer goes back a lot farther than I originally thought. Then I thought about it a little and it made perfect sense. Of course bottled beer had to exist in the old days. How else would you tailgate with your buddies outside the Coliseum. Nothing like a cold one to get you in the mood for gladiators fighting or the lions getting their noon snack.

So how far back does the beer bottle go?

It was a pleasant July day in 1568. Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, in London, decided he wanted to do some fishing down by the river. He packed up all his fishing gear and tackle, the wife packed him a ham and cheese sandwich, and he grabbed his night crawlers and the new fishing lure he bought off of the Outdoor Channel. He was all set to go when he realized, what would go great with fishing? A beer! Because fishing without beer is like driving without beer. It's just no fun. So he stopped by the corner pub on his way to the river and had them fill a glass bottle up with beer for him. He made sure they sealed it up good and tight with a cork so his horse wouldn't get pulled over for an open container.

When done fishing, he accidentally left the still half full bottle on the river bank. Several days later (July 13th) he returned to do some more fishing, because he needed an excuse to get away from the wife for a while. He saw his old beer on the ground and thought "man, I could really go for some for that right now." When he went to drink it, the cork opened with a loud bang (the beer had fermented further over the past few days). He found it to be extra fizzy and quite delicious.

I guess he must have told his buddies, because by the 17th century bottled beer was quite commonplace. It was usually only drunk, however, by the wealthier middle and upper classes who really didn't want to mingle with normal folk down at the inn, or those people who just weren't that into Friday's lute and karaoke night.

Another one for those masochists out there.

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