Beer and Islam. Two things that go together like… well, like two things that don’t go well together. Or so I thought.
I lived with a few Muslim guys for a year at university who really liked their beer, and my mates and I used to give them a pretty good ribbing. They said that alcohol was a long-tolerated tradition of many Muslim communities and that we were being narrow-minded by sarcastically giving them the “Good Muslim” award at the end of year fines evening. They brought up how Sufi mystics and poets often wrote about their love of wine, and not only as a metaphor for spiritual intoxication. I also had a few Muslim friends who would never dream of touching a drop of alcohol. It was complicated.
This sounds a lot more serious than it actually was - it was good-natured fun, after all - but it did raise an interesting issue: can beer and Islam co-exist?
The answer it seems is a qualified yes. While devout Muslims usually consider alcohol haraam, that is, forbidden, there exists many others who not only enjoy alcohol but make it too, arguing that alcohol has long been a part of Islamic culture. But how does it actually work in Arabia?
Enter Taybeh Brewery, Palestine’s only microbrewery. Run by Christians, its products are enjoyed by Muslims and secular Arabs alike. I found a very interesting article by the Guardian about this little brewery’s seventh annual Oktoberfest, held in its tiny home village on the West Bank.
To add to the bizarreness of the situation, this Oktoberfest, the seventh of its kind, took place not in hip Ramallah but in the remote village of Taybeh, perched picturesquely at 850m above sea level and with a population of just 1,500. Moreover, readers in western countries may wonder why thousands upon thousands of revellers had trekked all that way to attend a beer festival with only one beer on tap.
Secular Palestinians, expats and even leftist Israelis equipped with glasses of Taybeh beer wandered around food and handicraft stands, watched traditional Dabke dancers, modern music, comedy and theatrical performances.
Despite its remoteness and tiny proportions, Taybeh has earned its place on the cultural and social map as being the location of the only Palestinian beer brewery. It has battled the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to become a rare Palestinian business and cultural success story.
This may explain why Taybeh once adopted “Taste the revolution" as its advertising slogan. And, judging by its micro-brewery quality, the revolution tastes pretty good.
For an extremely interesting insight into how beer and Islam co-exists in a country whose largest city, you know, has a religiously-informed ban on all alcohol, this article is recommended reading. It also provides a very interesting perspective into how the issue of alcohol has been dealt with in Islamic cultural and historical writings and how non-Muslims enjoy their tipple while living in Islamic states.
Of course, I’m not going to argue about how a faith that isn’t mine deals with their matters, but from a beer perspective, this is very interesting indeed.
I have long believed that “beer belly” is one of the worst misnomers for abdominal pudginess possible. Why? Well, it’s because beer in itself does not make you fat. An inbalanced diet and lack of exercise makes you fat. It’s a very simple nutritional fact that the overindulgence of any alcoholic beverage is a fast-track to an unhealthy body, and even though beer is not even close to being the most calorific beverage per unit available, the myth still circulates that it is beer that makes one most fat.
In the words of Dwight Shrute: “Incorrect.”
For this and 14 other beer myths and misconceptions - including the assumptions that dark beer means heavier beer, fruit beers are made for women and that “cold-filtering” is a beneficial brewing step – you can check out this list (link) from the Webiot.
BONUS COMPETITION: Ironically enough, I’ve realised that one of these corrections of misconceptions is itself incorrect! So, in light of this, I’ll buy a beer for the first person to correctly tell me which one it is, and for which reason. It’s a bit of a tricky one though, so think about it carefully!
So this is what we have come to. Well done, humanity.
I don’t really have the words to describe this, so I’ll leave it up to infamous shock-brewers Brewdog from Scotland:
Fu*k the system. Forget what you know. What has been. Bow to no one. History is bereft. Reorder. Disorder. Embrace the unknown. The groundbreaking. The challenging. The revolution is upon us.
Say hello to Ghost Deer. A defiant and irreverent, devil may care, supersonic bitch of a beer. Ghost Deer is a 28% fermented beer, the strongest ever fermented beer which is only ever served from a single handcrafted and authentic deer’s head.
This idiosyncratic ale combines the 3 things that we are most passionate about: craft beer, art and taxidermy. This is a revolution in brewing and in beer dispense. The impact is at once beautiful and disturbing – it disrupts conventions and breaks taboos, just like the beer it pours.
28% a.b.v. beer served from the taxidermied head of a beautiful deer. Yeah - “idiosyncratic”. Sometimes I’m disappointed at the fact that craft culture in South Africa isn’t always the most inventive or crazy, but at least we’re not here.
Even though Brewdog has not yet made any actual Ghost Deer brews or taps, I’m awaiting a taxidermied elephant that pours marula stout from its trunk. It’ll be great. Producers could even sell the leftover ivory to the Far East.
Also, how does it pour? Do you turn one of the poor thing’s antlers or what?
All y’all, listen up.
Do you live in Muizenberg? No? Whatever. Do you like Muizenberg? You should.
You should also go to the Barrel and Brew Beer and Wine Festival in Muizenberg on 10/11 September, to drink much delicious beverages, eat much delicious food, buy many good-lookin’ crafts and spend some quality time with your family/lover/friends.
Bluebird Garage presents a wine and beer festival with a difference – showcasing Western Cape Boutique, Garagiste, Organic and Bio-Diversity producers, with a passion and dedication for crafting the finest tasting and quality beverages - many of which the public get to sample by appointment only. On offer will be a selection of artisanal Wines, Whiskey, Brandy, Absinthe, Gin, Cape Ruby, Beers and Ciders; including Eversons and James Mitchell Cider & Wine, Elgin Cider, Wilderer, Boston, Darling Brew, Napier, Birkenhead, Mitchells Breweries and Camelthorn Breweries from Namibia.
There will be family friendly kiddies corner too and, obviously, no alcohol will be sold to under 18’s; so there will be BOS ice-tea, ginger beer, fruit juice and spring water as well as a variety of child friendly munchies and meals on offer. For the tee-totaller or designated driver The Bluebird Pantry will also be hosting The Sweet Spot offering tea, coffee, cake, pastis, nougat and handcrafted chocolates.
Delicious vegetarian, meat dishes and pies from The Olive Station, a selection of cheese and breadboards from The Bluebird Pantry, mezze platters, chicken and chickpea stews from The Egyptian Gourmet, Dohne’s lasagnas and wraps, sandwiches, samosas, schwarmas and various other finger licking nibbly bits will be on sale.
If you don’t like the sound of that, well, I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t go to it then, because you’ll probably have a bad time.
More details can be found on the Facebook event here!
Image source from The Travel Manuel (link!)
A great article from the Wall Street Journal about pairing food with your beer. Or beer with your food, whichever catches your fancy.
Includes good pairings with burgers and ICE CREAM SUNDAES.
It’s called Snow, and it’s China’s number one beer. The Chinese drank 16.5 billion pints of Snow last year, making it about twice as popular as Bud Light, the brand from which it took the dubious mantle of being the world’s number one best-selling beer in 2008.
Snow’s been around for 15 years, beating competitors that have been in China for 110 years. It’s as if, you know, Miller Genuine Draft suddenly started outselling Castle Lager two to one. (Yes, I know Miller is also owned by SAB, but give me a break!)
As for the beer itself, it’s pale, with a big thick white head and, by most Western accounts, absolutely insipid. Good job SAB! Proud of ya!
But as much as I’d like to deride it, it isn’t quite as simple as that. One has to take into account China’s attitude to beer, and it’s very different to a European or South African perspective. I quote:
"The Chinese do not look at beer the way that you do in the UK, where people go to a pub to drink. Chinese still see beer mostly as an accompaniment to a meal," said Mr Mervis. "Half of all beer is drunk in restaurants, and with spicy food, they want a less filling and less heavy beer. The prefer low alcohol (typically between 3pc and 4pc) and a more American taste profile," he added.
Read more about this testiment to unbelievably efficient industrialised brewing here, in an exceedingly good read from The Telegraph (link).
Image source: (link)