Hoops on Hops: Beer facts and fond memories
I could go on all day about the deep history beer has with humankind’s culture.
Greetings, all! Over the years I occasionally write about personal experiences I’ve had and how the beer I was enjoying at the time was a co-pilot to the memory. Today, I have a few more to share with fun memories and good times. But let’s start with some fun facts on beer in general.
Beer has been around since 3100 B.C. During these times, it was not completely understood how fermentation happened. It was considered magic as the last of the clay jugs were dumped into the new batches, and fermentation commenced.
Until the years of the Vikings, women made the beer as the men were hunting or raiding. Women held the role of cooking, and so they were the brewers as well. (Although many women were warriors, too!) The cold climates of Scandinavia, northern Europe and especially Germany provided ideal temperatures for beer to mature without spoilage.
The brewery Weihenstephan was founded in 800 A.D. in Munich and continues to this day brewing beer as the oldest brewery in the world. Starting then, German brewers had been considered the gold standard of brewing until about 15 years ago, when U.S. brewers claimed the mantle — quite a long run.
You can drink a different German beer every day, and it would take 15 years to go through all the styles and substyles the country produces.
In 1777, Fredrick the Great of Prussia banned coffee-drinking and decreed that “my people must drink beer.” One of my favorite quotes.
Beer is the second-most-popular drink in the world behind tea. (Water is actually No. 1, but for this telling, we’ll just take that as a given.)
The end of Prohibition was the first and only time a U.S. amendment abolished a previous amendment.
I could go on all day about the deep history beer has with humankind’s culture. Instead, I’m moving on to highlight some fun stories about beer.
My first story goes back to 1996. My fiancée and I came to Minnesota to be married, and we stayed at Fitger’s in Duluth. The modern brewery inside the historic complex became a go-to location to hang out as we planned and prepared for the wedding. The beers were great, and the beautiful, historic brewery and the inviting lake out back became a memory that cannot be beat. Three years later, we moved back to Duluth from San Francisco, and I became the brewer at this iconic place.
A few years later, after Bent Paddle Brewery opened, a number of brewers from the local breweries at that time, which also included Thirsty Pagan, Lake Superior and Fitger’s Brewhouse, got together during the holidays. It felt like a class reunion and was one of the best beer discussions I’ve been a part of. The excitement for the future of Twin Ports beer brewing was the main focus. The camaraderie that we shared that night is still going strong and continues to grow as there are many more breweries in the area now.
Another of my favorite beer-centric memories might resonate with many of you. I was a young man, and my older cousins were at the house visiting. My dad and uncle (whom I admired very much) were standing around the grill barbecuing and chatting about all sorts of topics, many of which I was just learning about. It was 1986, and I was about to strike out on my own. Unexpectedly, I was handed a Schell’s (still the second-oldest family-run independent brewery in America). Not only was I thrilled to be handed a beer by my uncle (from boy to man with the flick of the bottle opener), it opened my eyes to the centuries-old connection between beer and conversation as well as this coming-of-age event that many of us have experienced.
These are some things that make beer special.
Please share any stories with me; maybe I can write about them.
Enjoy the spring.
Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Write to him at email@example.com.