>> Friday, July 11, 2008
We take our beer seriously here in Portland. July is Oregon Craft Beer Month, culminating with the Oregon Brewers Festival the last weekend of the month. It's easy to plan for future visits. It's always the last full weekend of July.
Turns out that even George Will is onto the importance of beer. His column earlier this week explains how beer is health food.
No beer, no civilization.
The development of civilization depended on urbanization, which depended on beer. To understand why, consult Steven Johnson's marvelous 2006 book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World." It is a great scientific detective story about how a horrific cholera outbreak was traced to a particular neighborhood pump for drinking water. And Johnson begins a mind-opening excursion into a related topic this way:
"The search for unpolluted drinking water is as old as civilization itself. As soon as there were mass human settlements, waterborne diseases like dysentery became a crucial population bottleneck. For much of human history, the solution to this chronic public-health issue was not purifying the water supply. The solution was to drink alcohol."
Often the most pure fluid available was alcohol -- in beer and, later, wine -- which has antibacterial properties.
Read the whole column here - I'll see you at the Brewers Festival.