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On Rats and Beer

By January 11, 2010Beer Education

Why do we like to drink beer? Or drink any alcohol for that matter? Well, watching football games this weekend I thought about many actual reasons why. (As opposed to the reasons that are depicted on the endless and insipid light beer commercials).

Patrick McGovern, an archeologist from the University of Pennsylvania,  just published a book about the origins of alcoholic drink and ancient rituals and habits surrounding it called “Uncorking the Past”. (This is the clever guy from Penn that got Sam from Dogfish to brew “Midas Touch” from an ancient recipe, then the Asian brew “Jaihu”.)

What I found particularly interesting is the biology – how animals also seek out drink naturally – though it’s not usually as easy for them as it is for us to walk into Monks, TJ’s, Gulliftys or Teresa’s Next Door for a fine beer or two.

According to McGovern, Malaysian tree shrews (believed to be ancestral to the primate family) lap up at session what equates to 9 glasses of wine for a person. They show little or no signs of intoxication (talk about your flying squirrel!).

Most interesting to me are control tests where animals are given free access to an “open bar” allowing them to drink all they want. According to the book, at first chimpanzees will consume what amounts to three or four bottles of wine — with the males out drinking females 2 to 1. They then taper off but continue to drink enough to be continually tipsy. Hmmm…

Rats on the other hand, McGovern reports, are less binge-oriented. They actively gather at the drinking area before meal time (rodent happy hour?) then again shortly before time to sleep. Every four days or so they drink a bit more – a vermin party? Dude! When the cat’s away….

As I like to say, “What can we learn from this”? Is drink part of our make up, an integral part of us, or simply a great escape – if we can get it, we will take it?

Read the book yourself, or maybe you will agree with my contention that in moderation, it’s not a bad thing to digress from the daily grind with friends and a good beer or two. It’s natural. If that makes me a “rat” then so be it!



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