Lederhosen, Beer and Oktoberfest
Fall is in full swing here at The Storage Inn of Egg Harbor Township New Jersey, and this self storage rental facility is jumping with customers shuttling in and out of their storage units, most of them pulling out their cold weather clothing and fall items such as Halloween decorations.
There’s always something interesting going on here, but yesterday I witnessed a sight that I never expected to see.
I recognized the truck that pulled into our storage unit rental office parking lot. It was one of our good customers, Jason, the wrestling coach of the local high school. What I didn’t expect was to see Jason hop out of his truck and stroll into the office, dressed head-to-toe in German Lederhosen!
“You’re a little early for Halloween, aren’t you?” I said as he walked through the door.
“Not Halloween – Oktoberfest!” he replied.
Jason and his wife were on their way to an Oktoberfest celebration. They even had special beer mugs that they had retrieved from their storage unit for the occasion. Jason grabbed a roll of packing tape and some bubble wrap, and then took off to Oktoberfest.
This got me thinking not only about Oktoberfest, but more importantly, about beer! Where did beer come from, and why do so many people around the world love it so much?
I decided to do some research and here is what I found…
Drink Like an Egyptian
Beer has a long history, one that’s longer than we’ll ever be able to trace. Residue of the first known beer was found in a jar at an excavation site in modern day Iran, presumably sitting there since someone took his or her last sip around 3400 B.C. But chances are, the first beer had been “cracked” long before that.
So while an exact date or time for the first chug, or keg stand, or even hiccup, is not known, what is known is that beer, like bread, developed best in farm-based societies where there was an enough grain and time for fermentation. One thing we definitely know is that ancient man loved beer as much as—if not more—than we do. The Babylonians had about 20 recipes for beer, Egyptian Pharaohs were buried with vats of the stuff, even the workers who built the pyramids were essentially paid in beer.
One of the first written recipes for beer actually comes from a 3800 year-old poem that celebrates the Sumerian goddess of beer and also conveniently outlines steps for brewing.
However it began, beer rapidly took hold as one of civilization’s favorite, and safest ways to drink. Historically speaking, water wasn’t always safe to drink, and alcoholic drinks like beer, which were sanitized by the application of heat, were actually safer to consume. The appearance of beer also changed as brewing methods evolved. Babylonians drank their beer with a straw because it was thicker and full of grain!
Germany “Hops” On Board
For centuries, beer cultivation in Europe relied on a mixture of herbs and spices called gruit. Only around the turn of the first millennium A.D. were hops regularly finding their way to beer, with Germany exporting hops for brewing around the 13th century.
By the 16th Century,Germany’s “Reinheitsgebot” beer purity law had essentially removed everything but water, hops, and barley from acceptable brewing ingredients (yeast, a slight oversight, was added back to the list a few centuries later).
Over the centuries, beer’s popularity has remained constant. The Prohibition era introduced our palates to a lighter flavor profile that lingers to this day, especially among mass-marketed beers. On the other hand, craft beer has made serious gains in the market, yielding a historically unprecedented diversity of styles. One company and even brewed a beer using the ancient poem’s recipe, and Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales line includes beers like the “Ta Henket – a version of Egyptian bread beer.
So, now that you are armed with some serious beer history knowledge, courtesy of The Storage Inn, you can pull on your Lederhosen, grab your beer stein, and head for your local Oktoberfest celebration. Have fun, but take it easy on the Bratwurst – Auf Wiedersehen!