5,000-Year-Old Tablet Shows That Ancient Workers Were Paid in Beer

In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk, residents enjoyed many benefits of modern life. The city, located in modern-day Iraq, was home to massive ziggurats that would rival any of today’s modern skyscrapers for sheer monumentality. People in Uruk exchanged goods for money, played board games, and sent each other letters on clay tablets using a writing system called cuneiform. They were also paid for their labor in beer. We know this because pay stubs were incredibly common documents at the time, and one such pay stub (pictured above) is now in the possession of the British Museum.

Writing in New Scientist, Alison George explains what’s written on the 5,000-year-old tablet: “We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning “ration,” and a conical vessel, meaning “beer.” Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker.” Beer wages were by no means limited to Mesopotamia. In ancient Egypt, there are records of people receiving beer for their work—roughly 4 to 5 liters per day for people building the pyramids. And in the Middle Ages, we have several records of the great fourteenth century poet Geoffrey Chaucer being paid in wine. Richard II generously gave Chaucer an annual salary that included a “tonel” of wine per year, which was roughly 252 gallons.

These salaries weren’t just about keeping workers drunk so they would be more compliant. In the ancient world, beer was a hearty, starchy brew that could double as a meal. And during Chaucer’s time, people believed that wine brought good health—which may not have been strictly accurate but was certainly a lure at a time when the Black Death was decimating the populations of Europe.

Even today, some employers are still paying workers in alcohol. In 2013, Amsterdam started a controversial program to help alcoholics get their lives together by paying them beer to pick up trash. And of course, many tech companies offer employees free booze on Friday afternoons as a perk. Thanks to one miraculously preserved pay stub, we now know that bribing employees with beer is a practice as old as employment itself.

Survey Reveals That Craft Beer Drinkers Have Some Surprisingly Healthy Habits

Is binge drinking on the downward trend? Maybe, as long as the alcohol being imbibed is craft beer. According to a new study out from The Harris Poll, which looked at the drinking habits of 1,978 adults, craft-beer drinkers — especially younger craft-beer drinkers — are more likely to moderate their drinking and participate in exercise than their Bud-guzzling counterparts.

While the results don’t actually address the prevalence of binge drinking, they do paint a pretty clear picture of the lifestyles of craft-beer drinkers. For example (and stay with us here, the numbers are about to get dizzying), 73% of people who drink craft beer think of alcohol as an indulgence or special treat. It’s a small change compared to the 67% of average drinkers who view alcohol as an indulgence. But take a closer look at the youngsters — 80% of 21-34 year olds and 77% of those between the ages of 35 and 44 — and the difference becomes fairly significant. Millennial craft beer connoisseurs view their brews as “special.”

They also live their lives differently. 57% of the craft beer drinkers reported maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, compared to 52% of average drinkers. And, interestingly enough, they’re more likely to participate in group exercise: 40% reported preferring it over exercising solo, compared to 33% of average drinkers. Crossfit and craft brews must go hand in hand.

When it comes to their diets, craft-brew drinkers are similarly vigilant. Seventy-eight percent reported reading nutritional labels, compared to 73% of average drinkers. And 27% actively seek out locally-made food and beverages, compared to 21% of average drinkers. They’re even slightly more likely to track calorie intake: 18%, compared to the 14% of the average drinkers.

Surely the numbers aren’t great for breweries struggling to get their customers to drink more, but Danelle Kosmal, vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice, sees the figures as an opportunity for brewers and retailers. As she told The Harris Poll:

“First, it’s important for brewers to prioritize weekends for their biggest events in-store or at the brew pub and tasting rooms. This is when craft drinkers are thinking most about beer-drinking occasions. However, there also could be new opportunities to engage craft drinkers by creating weekday drinking occasions. Many brewers are already doing this through events like brewery-sponsored yoga or weekly group runs. It is a great way for craft drinkers to stick with their fitness plans, while still engaging in a fun, social activity, and then enjoying a beer with friends who share similar fitness goals and interests.”

There could be something in that. The poll also looked at factors that motivate drinkers to attend brewery-sponsored health and wellness events. Sixty-four percent of craft-beer drinkers reported that they were more likely to attend if a beverage or tasting was included in the price of the event — a huge leap up from the 37% of average drinkers. And the figure gets even higher when you look at the younger age groups: 73% of 21 to 34-year-olds and 77% of 35 to 44-year-olds.

The TL;DR of the study: Craft-beer drinkers are in the minority, they think of beer as an indulgence and not a habit, and they’ll work out for free beer. But come on, who wouldn’t?

Recipe of the Week: Beer Pulled Pork Nachos

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. pork butt
  • 2 cups brown ale
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup French’s Classic Yellow Spicy Mustard
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • ½ garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz. tortilla chips
  • 2 lbs. cheese
  • ¾ cup corn
  • ¾ cup black beans
  • 1 cup jalapenos
  • ¼ cup sliced red onions
  • ¼ cup sweet barbeque sauce

Optional toppings

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • cilantro
  • lime

Instructions:

  1. To make pulled pork: Place pork but in the bottom of slow cooker. In a large bowl combine and mix remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over pork butt. Set slow cooker to low for 8 hours.
  2. To assemble nachos: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly cover baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place half of the chips, pulled pork, corn, black beans, jalapenos and onions and cheese. Repeat with remaining ingredients for one more layer. Bake until cheese is melted, 20-25 minutes.

*Optional: Serve with sour cream, avocado, cilantro and lime.

Long Weekend Hack: Add Extra Flavor (and Alcohol) to Cocktails By Using Beer Instead of Soda Water

When the sun begins to shine and the temperatures rise, you’ll find me sipping on spritzes. Soda water is an obvious way to add bubbles to a drink, but you can add carbonation, flavor, and more alcohol if you swap it out for beer.

Epicurious suggests adding a good lager to one of my favorite simple cocktails, the Americano (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, usually topped with soda water) but the options are only limited by your imagination. In addition to the Beer Americano, I’ll also be making a Beer Aperol Spritz (Beerperol Spritz?), with a nice sour or Gose, and I suggest you do the same.

6 New Beers Perfect for Memorial Day Weekend

Summer may not officially begin until June 20th (so says the Farmer’s Almanac) but we all know that Memorial Day weekend marks the actual beginning of the summer season. That’s when we all try to squeeze into our bikinis for the first time of the year, dust off our croquet sets, and gas up our motorboats or inflate our inner tubes. Summer’s first weekend of festivities deserves a fresh batch of beer. So we’ve curated the ultimate Memorial Day Weekend Six Pack, chock full of brand new beers.

Sweetwater Brewing Goin’ Coastal IPA with Pineapple

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those super saccharine fruited IPAs that may or may not give you a pre-diabetic condition. Sweetwater takes it easy with the pineapple in this killer IPA, showing some welcomed restraint in a world overrun with fruity beers. Sure, there’s some pineapple on the nose and the sip, but it’s a mellow adjunct that adds just the right amount of sweetness. Part of Sweetwater’s limited Catch and Release seasonal program, you can find the 6.1% ABV brew in 12 ounce bottles or 16 ounce cans. It’s Memorial Day, so go with the Tall Boy cans.

Victory Brewing Cage Radler

The radler is about as divisive as a beer style can get. Part beer, part lemonade, the radler is about as far from the Reinheitsgebot as you can get. But if you can get over the impurity of the style, you might just realize that the radler is summer in a glass—the original beer cocktail built for hot days and long drinking sessions. Victory’s take on the style doesn’t disappoint. The lager base adds a crisp element to the concoction, while there’s plenty of lemonade attributes to keep it light. And it’s only 3% ABV, so you can have another. And another…

Dry Dock Sour Apricot

Your cooler doesn’t have to be stocked entirely with lagers this weekend. There’s room for something a bit off-center, like this new beer from Dry Dock, which promises to balance the sweet with the sour. Tart, effervescent, and full of fresh apricot, the new beer is now part of Dry Dock’s year-round series. Thankfully, they’re releasing it in cans starting this week, just in time for the big weekend.

Stone Brewing IPA…In Cans

Okay, this isn’t a new beer at all. It’s been around since ’97 and has helped define what a West coast style IPA means today. But for the first time, Stone is releasing their signature IPA in cans.This is about as excited as I’ll ever get over a piece of aluminum. And it’s just in time for Memorial Day. It’s 6.9% ABV (so be careful) and available year round, of course.

Burial Brewing Ceremonial Session IPA

Burial is a small brewery in Asheville’s South Slope that’s managing to make waves, especially since they began canning recently. Ceremonial is built for summer—a 4% ABV session IPA, with just the slightest bitter bite, but dry-hopped for maximum citrus aroma. And it comes in big boy cans. Look for it on shelves now.

Dogfish Head Biere de Provence

Consider this the beer for your fancy Memorial Day party. This saison was brewed with lavender, bay leaf, marjoram and chervil for an herbal, earthy nose and taste. I don’t know what chervil is, but whatever, it’s Dogfish, they know their herbs. And they released it earlier this month, on the anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, because as president Sam Calagione put it, “we have always believed this law is nothing more than a relatively modern form of art censorship.” You can find it in fancy bottles all over, but be careful, it’s 8.3% ABV.

High Heel Brewing Launches in Lakeland

High Heel Brewing, an innovative new craft beer company founded by master brewerKristi McGuire, will introduce a line of craft beers specifically aimed at female craft beer consumers. The company, which produces its beers in partnership with St. Louis-based Brew Hub, plans to introduce its first two beers this summer. High Heel’s beers will be brewed at Brew Hub’s brewery in Lakeland, Florida, and will be available throughout the state beginning in June. Republic National Distributing Company will distribute the beers throughout Florida.

“It’s incredibly exciting to launch High Heel Brewing and introduce our first two beers,” said Kristi McGuire, master brewer and founder, High Heel Brewing. “Our goal was to fill a gap in the market and to celebrate women in brewing and all women who love craft beer. It has been a dream come true to collaborate with the women of Brew Hub, and this launch would not have been possible without them.”

High Heel Brewing’s first two beers will be Slingback, a Perry Ale, and Too Hop’d to Handle, an American IPA.

Slingback is a hybrid beer brewed by combining the taste of a traditional ale with pear cider. The brew includes natural passion fruit juices, Hallertauer hops and subtle spicing with chamomile and elderflower. The result is a fresh, fruity, floral beer with a crisp, clean finish. Slingback is 5.4 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), 15 international bitterness units (IBUs) and is slightly more carbonated than most ales. Slingback pairs well with shellfish, berries and soft cheeses.

“With Slingback we created an entirely new style of beer, hitting that sweet spot between ale and cider,” said McGuire. “It’s the Prosecco of beers – perfect for the hot summer days to come.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Too Hop’d to Handle, a bold American IPA assertively hopped with Columbus, Mosaic and Simcoe varieties and brewed with Munich and honey malts for a toasted flavor. Belgian candied sugar is added to balance the beer and give it a smooth finish. A rotating fourth hop varietal will be added to both the kettle and dry hops to reflect seasonal flavors and trends. For the initial launch, Calypso hops were used as the fourth hop. Too Hop’d to Handle is 8.4 percent ABV, 89 IBUs and pairs nicely with grilled meats and strong cheeses such as sharp cheddar, Stilton and Roquefort.

“The growth of IPAs has been compelling, and we expect hop-forward beers to continue to flourish,” said McGuire. “Craft beer consumers are looking for new flavors and styles of IPA, and we feel Too Hop’d to Handle is going to stand out in the crowd of pale ales. We brewed the beer with several varieties of hops that normally aren’t used together. The result is a bold, confident IPA we think women will love.”

McGuire completed the Master Brewers program at the University of California, Davis, and was honored as an Associate with Distinction at the Institute of Brewing in London, England. She has spent more than two decades developing beers from the ground up at companies such as Alaskan Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch.

Slingback and Too Hop’d to Handle will be initially available in 12-ounce glass bottle four-packs throughout the state of Floridaand will be priced similarly to other premium craft beers. The beers will also be available on draft at Brew Hub’s tasting room in its brewery in Lakeland, Florida.

Florida Brewery’s Edible 6-pack Rings Protect Marine Animals

A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic, and a lot of that plastic comes from the rings that hold together six-packs of beer, soda and other beverages. The marine life that lives in the oceans ingest plastics, too. These toxic plastics harm the health of our sea life, often killing them.

Saltwater Brewery in Florida created a six-pack ring that feeds animals instead of killing them. Many six-pack rings from beer end up in the ocean, so the brewery took barley and wheat remnants from the brewing process and turned them into an edible, compostable, biodegradable product that holds together a six-pack but doesn’t harm birds or sea life if it ends up in the ocean. It’s also strong enough to handle the weight of a six-pack.

This is the first time a 100 percent edible and biodegradable packaging has been implemented in the beer industry. The manufacturing cost of the edible six-pack ring raises the price of the beer, but the narrator of the video points out that if most breweries implemented this safe and sustainable product, the cost would be competitive with the plastic six-pack rings. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

Why has no one thought of this before? In addition to being impressed by this product, I’m wondering how quickly I can put together a business plan, get funding and partner with Saltwater Brewery to open up a plant that can produce edible six-pack rings for all breweries.

I bet there’s money to be made from this smart, responsible idea.

[vimeo id=”165947724″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

The Rise of Nitro Beers

Nitro beers are far from new, but the category is getting a lot of hype in the U.S. thanks to big brewers like Samuel Adams and Founders releasing their respective Nitro Beer Project and Nitro Draft Series. And while it might not be a noble gas, nitrogen definitely results in noble beers.

The vast majority of the beer you’ve consumed in your lifetime is force-carbonated. It’s a method in which additional CO2 is dissolved into the beer before it’s bottled, kegged, or poured directly into my cupped hands. The result is beer that’s fresh for much longer than the cask ales of ye olden days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t options beyond additional carbonation though, like say… nitrogenation. But what is nitro beer?

Guinness is the most well known nitro beer on the market, even if you never realized that’s what made it different. There’s a good reason for their status, too. They invented nitro beer. In the 1950s, Michael Ash had the brilliant idea that beer could be made using nitrogen, and he was hired by Guinness to make it happen. The process took 4 years to perfect, but in 1959, pints of Guinness began using nitrogen to achieve the creamy taste and signature cascading effect for which it’s known.

Nitro beers are created by adding a mixture of gasses that’s 70% N2 and 30% CO2. And while there’s plenty of chemistry at play that’s well beyond me, there are a few easy ways to recognize differences between nitrogenated and carbonated beer.

N2 bubbles are significantly smaller than CO2 bubbles. Their small size makes N2 bubbles more stable, resulting in a thick, long-lasting head. It’s a frat party’s worst nightmare but a beer lover’s wet dream. The bubble size also contributes to the telltale cascading effect.

If you’ve ever watched the bubbles in a Guinness, you’ll know what we mean by cascading. Many have wondered how it’s possible for gas filled bubbles to sink instead of rise, but the answer is pretty simple. As the bubbles rise in the center of the glass, beer is pushed up and to the side. As the beer falls back down along the side of the glass it pulls some of these tiny bubbles with it, creating the mesmerizing visual.

Nitrogen doesn’t just affect the visuals of a beer either. You can tell the difference the second the heavenly nectar hits your mouth. Whereas carbonation helps make a beer crisp, lively, and in some cases bitter, nitrogen smooths out the flavors and makes the overall mouthfeel much creamier. The same beer side by side, one nitro and one standard, will be worlds apart. Try both if you happen to be in a bar with options on tap. It’ll figuratively blow your mind.

Speaking of taps, they play a big roll in nitro beers. Not only does a special gas blend (also 70% N2 and 30% CO2) force the beer to the tap, the nozzle itself is unique. Unlike Frank the Tank’s Red Dragon, the nozzle on nitro taps have a restrictor plate added to slow down the pour and aerate the beer.

Guinness has had a monopoly on “that one weird tap” for decades, which will likely cause problems as more breweries jump into the fray. Some bars are adding more nitro lines, but it’s not a big focus for many. Unfortunately that means most of these awesome nitro beers being produced might never find a home in your local bar.

Thankfully Guinness also invented the widget. No, not the kids’ TV show about an adventurous alien. They invented a little plastic ball that releases nitrogen into the beer once the can or bottle is opened. It’s almost as fun to watch as the show, and it means you can have the same great experience from a can as you would from a tap. Left Hand Brewing took it a step further in 2011 by introducing America’s first nitrogenated bottle of beer without a widget.

Brewing great beer is certainly an art form, but it’s mostly science. Beer has been around since the negative 30th century, and it’s been brewed in its current form since the 9th century. Using nitrogen to replace some carbonation is just one of the latest of many tweaks experienced over those 1,200 years, so enjoy the variety; it’s the spice of beer life.

Here are a few nitro beers to try:

Sam Adams – Nitro IPA:

Jim Koch experimented with nitro beers from ’93-’96 and it was an epic failure. Thankfully the consumers are ready this time around because they’re back with the Nitro Beer Project. In the past nitro has primarily been used in stouts and porters, but Sam Adams cranked the hops to normally absurd levels and managed to make an incredibly interesting Nitro IPA.

Oskar Blues – Old Chub Nitro

This is the perfect beer to use as a comparison tool. Grab a can of Old Chub and a can of OC Nitro, pour them into pints, and try one right after the other. Who knows which one you’ll prefer, but you’ll be able to see and taste the difference in an instant. Plus, people need to buy more scotch ales so that more breweries start making them. That’s just me being selfish though.

Founders – Nitro Rubaeus

Rubaeus is proof that fruit beer can be a glorious style when made well. It’s also a great example of a beer that changes significantly with the use of nitrogen. The signature tartness is reined in and the confusing experience of creamy raspberries will cause you to repeatedly sip, seeking some sort of explanation, until the pint is gone in mere minutes. Order another and try again.

Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro

These guys are the OGs of American craft nitro. They even have videos demonstrating the proper way to pour their beer. Hint: aggressively. You’ve most likely had Milk Stout Nitro or Sawtooth Nitro by now, but I’d lose my license to drink if I didn’t include them

Budweiser Has a New Name, and That Name is America

Let’s just get this out of the way quickly because you’re probably not going to understand it the first time I say it: Budweiser is renaming its beer “America.” The beer Budweiser will henceforth be known as America. When you gingerly lift a tall boy of Budweiser out of your bodega’s fridge, what you’ll really be lifting is a tall boy of America. Got it? Budweiser, the King of Beers, will now respond only to its new chosen name, America.

America, as you may be aware, is also the name of a country. Budweiser doesn’t seem to mind this conflation, and instead seems to view its name choice as something of a patriotic duty. The rebranding is a nod to the 2016 presidential race, Fast Co Design reports, and the cans will reportedly go back to normal after the November election. Tosh Hall, the creative director at the branding firm behind the name change, delivered a really perfect nonsense statement to Fast Co: “We thought nothing was more iconic than Budweiser and nothing was more iconic than America.” Nothing is more iconic than Budweiser, except perhaps America, and nothing is more iconic than America, except perhaps Budweiser.

bud-america-cans

I am both sincerely giddy and honestly disturbed by this news. While it’s true that I do love spectacle, and I do love to yell “AMERICA” in a husky voice every time I crack open a can of Bud, I don’t like my beer-fueled patriotism foisted upon me like some red, white, and blue cold sore. And while this is delightful to me in the same way that dogs who walk on two legs are delightful to me (i.e., completely unaware of their own absurdity), there are definitely some people out there who will respond to this news with entirely straight-faced statements like, “It’s about time someone named their beer after the greatest country in the world.” Dear God. Or should I say, Beer God.

One more thing: does this mean we can now use the terms “Budweiser” and “America” interchangeably? The United States of Budweiser? Budweiser’s Got Talent? Budweiser Ferrera? Who knows! Throw everything you used to know in the trash, and crack open an America, because this is Budweiser country now.

The Only Mexican Beers You Should Be Drinking on Cinco de Mayo

Like many readily available American beers, a lot of the Mexican beers you come across offer little in the way of flavor. We’re not saying partying with a few Coronas is going to make for a bad Cinco de Mayo, but there are some other options out there that deliver at least a little more in the way of taste.

Here are five we recommend.

  • Bohemia – Link
  • Negra Modelo – Link
  • León – Link
  • Dos Equis Amber Lager – Link
  • Indio – Link

Craft Beers of Mexico

  • Minerva Imperial Tequila Ale – Link
  • Los Muertos Immortal Beloved – Link
  • Ensenada Horchata Obscura Porter – Link
  • Calavera Mexican Imperial Stout – Link
  • Cucapa Green Card – Link
  • Propaganda American Pale Ale – Link