Volume 11, Issue 2: Recipio
As Melville put it-"The world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow." This quote descibes wonderfully how feminism ruined beer. Our culture is lead by its pulpits. As the preachers of Christianity became emasculated, our culture was dragged into effeminacy. Part of this trend in our culture is reflected in the destruction of our beer.
We see the result of this curse in the drastic disparity between American beer and the beer served throughout Europe during the last century. For decades America's beer of choice has been the watered-down lager, brewed (as was recently advertized) in vats the size of Rhode Island; whereas our European brothers have enjoyed a diverse selection of the richest and darkest beers. What transpired in the American religion to rob us of this selection? Our culture, with our European ancestors, began well, but something happened along the way.
Beginning in Europe, one of the most Christian beverages in the European world was beer. Charle-magne's favorite brewer,
Saint Gall, was a Christian missionary to the Celts.1 Shortly after Charlemagne's reign, the
church became Europe's exclusive brewer, and in order to imbibe, one needed to be on good terms with the church. When a young woman was married, the customary response to any wedding gifts was a special ale the church brewed called the "bride ale" (which later evolved into our word bridal). This close association between the church and beer was originally part of our own country's heritage. When the pilgrims, seeking religious fredom, landed at
Plymouth rock, the first permanant building put up was the brewery.2
However, somewhere along the road America lost its stomach. This is evidenced in the type of beer selections that Americans have been given over the last eighty years. Europe has been blessed with a great variety of beers, from the Belgian Ale to the English Porter. America, however, has had one beer-a watered down lager in an aluminum can. Why is that?
During the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth, American culture experienced a major shift in power. This shift is more thoroughly described in the Thema of this issue, but the result was a bowing of the church to feminism. As the reins of the clergy passed into female hands, piety became blurred with femininity. This abdication of masculinity paved the way for prohibition. In general, beer, especially the darker beer, is a drink preferred by men. But as femininity became enshrined as godliness, the feminine scorning of alcohol became more and more synonymous with virtue.
During the early twentieth century, the fight for a dry country and the fight for women's suffrage went hand in hand. The following lines from a prohibition-era song demonstrate this: "But if the men can't drive it out we'll call for women voters; they'll scrub out the nation's barber shop with all the whiskey bloaters. When we get women voters, good-by to beerkeg toters. O-ho! O-ho!
When we get women voters."3
In order to drive out the sins of America, what we needed was women voters! Many of the prohibition songs display this presumption that the sanctifying influence in this world was femininity. "'Twas near the hour of midnight, two lovers loitered late. The moon hung o'er the city, while they hung o'er the gate. And as he stooped to kiss her, his arm around her belt, an odor strong of liquor then suddenly she smelt. In vain he did deny it, then vowed he'd drink no more; When she replied, sarcastic, `I've heard such talk before.' How often, O how often, he begged, and then did sigh; how often, O how often he listened for reply. At last, in desperation, he
swore that he would quit; but in the moonlight tender, she simply said, `You git.'"4, 5
Prohibition was simply applied feminism, and the passing of the eighteenth amendment was feminism victorious. When prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, most of the breweries had gone under. Only a few of the largest had been able to survive during prohibition by making malt products or near
beer. (It was often said that whoever named near beer was a poor judge of distance.)6 When prohibition was finally repealed the remaining breweries were then left with the task of reintroducing the American people to beer.
Since only the largest breweries had survived, brewing became a mass-marketing endeavor. Beer was pumped out as quickly as possible and marketed to please the greatest number possible. Unfortunately, the repeal of prohibition had not removed the great prejudices against the drink. To fight the resentment that women had againts beer, the breweries had to market their product to please women. This became even more important as World War II replaced the working man with Rosy the Riveter. Brewers had to brew beer that the working woman would like. The solution was a very light beer that anyone could get down-a lager.
The lager is a lighter, practically clear beer. It's a far cry from the dark, chewy porters and much more appealing to feminine tastes. American brewers even advertise how few calories lagers contain, appealing to the weight-conscious female mind. It would seem that the goal of American brewers has been to brew a beer that bears as little resemblance to beer as possible.
Recently, as the micro-brew market has opened up, America has seen the resurgence of a number of great beers. But this is only a superficial recovery. While it is true that we are now offered a variety of beers, the root of the problem remains. The church, in general, still links the prohibitionist mentality to piety and can't even stand alcohol in the Lord's Supper. It would appear that the American culture aptly portrays the American church. We have an emasculated church and wimpy beer to match.