1534: "Beer"

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Jun 05, 2015 9:31 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Don't get me wrong, some beers are quite enjoyable....but if not for the historical aspects of beer, I kind of doubt that we'd have hit upon this particular means of making a beverage. There's a good degree of acquired taste involved, and even if you're trying dozens of beers to find one you like...that's still slightly unusual behavior.

I guess you could make that argument, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to prove. "Nobody would care much about this if it hadn't been discovered" is arguably true of a lot of pleasant things, but that doesn't make them less pleasant for the fact.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby dg61 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:00 pm UTC

Just chipping in to note that people drinking beer because it has antibiotic properties is a widespread myth; there's not a lot of evidence people actually drank beer to avoid bacteria and as others have said the alcohol content would not sterilize it-you'd have to drink alcohol at poisonous concentrations for that. Remember that in most areas premodern population densities were far below what they are now and that most people would have lived in farmsteads, villages, or small(by our standards cities) where clean water was a non-issue because there was not a serious risk of contamination. Even in larger cities, people didn't drink water out of the cities' rivers or lakes; water was normally supplied from aqueducts or rain-fed cisterns. In the event that it was necessary to drink questionable water, in any case it would be easier to just boil the water. Medieval and other pre-modern people mostly drank alcohol for the same reasons we do today-for the calories in some cases(if one was engaged in hard labor) or simply for the pleasurable mood-altering effects.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:23 pm UTC

Whether the people doing the brewing and the drinking were correct in assuming as much or not, there has historically been a perception in this area or that that wine or beer was the safer drink. It's possible that our perception of that could be increased by colored by modern contaminated drinking water supplies and industrial production of safe bottled drinks, but I don't think we invented the notion of whole cloth in the twentieth century.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby jackal » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:36 pm UTC

david.windsor wrote:
jackal wrote:Give me a good stout or hefe any day. I actually don't drink nor crave beer too often, but sometimes nothing tastes as delicious and flavorful as a nice, smooth Guinness...

Hear! Hear!

I just finished a Donnybrook stout out of eastern Pennsylvania, which is the first stout I've had that I would say I would choose over Guinness. I'm impressed.

I'm now nursing down a Wells Banana Bread, which is very interesting but still not as delicious and easy-to-go-down as a good stout....

BTW, The Beer Factory in Pittsburgh is quite an impressive bar. I tried just now and lost count at 350, but I'd estimate they have north of 500 craft beers on their list...

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby dp2 » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:38 am UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:About the actual comic, notice that hairguy's first response is "Man, you are no fun at all.", not "can I get you something else?".

"Fun people" enjoy beer, hair guy likes "fun people" and cueball values hairguy's opinion enough to act as though he likes beer.

That's not hair; it's straw. That guy is made of it.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby armandoalvarez » Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:40 am UTC

dp2 wrote:
Quizatzhaderac wrote:About the actual comic, notice that hairguy's first response is "Man, you are no fun at all.", not "can I get you something else?".

"Fun people" enjoy beer, hair guy likes "fun people" and cueball values hairguy's opinion enough to act as though he likes beer.

That's not hair; it's straw. That guy is made of it.

I don't think he's that even really a straw man. A person who tells everyone else, "You couldn't possibly like this thing I don't like" deserves to be told "You're no fun at all." Cueball didn't say, "I'll just have a lemonade," or stop with "Any [beer] is fine." If the response to "anything is fine" is "you're no fun," then yeah, Hair Guy is a snob who looks down on people who don't enjoy what he doesn't enjoy. But here, Cueball's ragging on people for enjoying something he doesn't.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby xtifr » Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:35 am UTC

orthogon wrote:To summarise, as I see it:

There are some things that everyone likes from birth, though from what I've read, I'm reluctant to suggest any: this may in fact be an empty set.

Other things are an acquired taste. They are initially unpleasant, because there is something immediately distasteful about them that masks the desirable features in some way: they're bitter or sour, or the taste is extremely strong; if we're not talking food, then they're difficult to understand or appreciate.


You're omitting one other important factor. Tastes change as you age. Most significantly at puberty. Kids love sugar--they can eat it by the handful. Teenagers, though, are just as likely to reach for the salty chips. (And note: we're obviously not talking about health food here.) Salty and umami become more desirable, sour, and yes, even bitter, become more acceptable--almost universally. I don't think the phenomenon is entirely understood (there are multiple factors, both physiological and mental), but it's been confirmed in multiple studies, and should surprise almost no one who has actually gone through puberty, and maybe even a bit past it.

Of course, how it changes, and how much it changes varies greatly from person to person. But it's not just a matter of what you like at birth + acquired tastes. There are actual changes in what you like that occur during your life for a variety of reasons, and simple exposure is not the only one. For one obvious example, many adults don't care much for sweets at all. Despite having loved them as a kid. That's clearly not (or not just) a matter of acquired taste, because it's a newly-formed dislike.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby midflinx » Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:28 am UTC

If bitter flavors are good to most adults, why don't you eat more of it besides dark chocolate, arugula, and bitter melon? Where are all the bitter foods, and so why primarily drink bitter things and not eat them?

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Sprocket » Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:58 am UTC

There are many other options.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby sehkzychic » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:32 am UTC

Quercus wrote:I'm not much enamoured of either character in this comic - cueball for assuming that everyone who likes beer is "pretending" just because he doesn't like beer, and hairguy for belittling cueball for not liking beer.


I don't know.... I don't have a problem with hairguy. You could uncharitably mark him as being a douche, but all that's in the text of the comic is that he offers cueball a beer; when cueball intimates that he doesn't like beer, hairguy basically, "no worries, just drink the things you like." I don't see any interpretation of it that doesn't involve more beeer.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Quercus » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:50 am UTC

sehkzychic wrote:
Quercus wrote:I'm not much enamoured of either character in this comic - cueball for assuming that everyone who likes beer is "pretending" just because he doesn't like beer, and hairguy for belittling cueball for not liking beer.


I don't know.... I don't have a problem with hairguy. You could uncharitably mark him as being a douche, but all that's in the text of the comic is that he offers cueball a beer; when cueball intimates that he doesn't like beer, hairguy basically, "no worries, just drink the things you like." I don't see any interpretation of it that doesn't involve more beeer.


The "you are no fun at all" comment could be a comment on Cueball's beer conspiracy theory, in which case it would be fine, but it is a pretty stereotypical reaction to people who choose not to drink when other people are drinking. If it's that it's a dick move IMO.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Tevildo » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:02 am UTC

midflinx wrote:If bitter flavors are good to most adults, why don't you eat more of it besides dark chocolate, arugula, and bitter melon? Where are all the bitter foods, and so why primarily drink bitter things and not eat them?

There's no shortage of bitter flavors in various greens, root vegetables, fruits, and seasonings. I have here a cookbook full of 'em that runs to 250 pages (Bitter, by Jennifer McLagan). Nice.

Personally, I suspect that being acquainted with another person's tastes and recommending a starter-beer based on that would deter a lot of this. Grossing them out with a cheap "lager" that tastes like paraffin and soap suds and THEN expecting them to overcome the initial dislike and find their beer niche is legitimately unfriendly. Many hipsters, I imagine, secretly feel exactly how cueball does. PBR is a truly vile substance by any standard.

That said, cueball is way more of a jerk than hair guy. At worst, hair guy is uninterested in cueball's social commentary. Cueball is making all kinds of weird assertions:
-Without qualification, all beer tastes bad, including styles he has no knowledge of
-His own perception (as, we can assume, an inexperienced tippler) is valid and incontrovertible
-Anyone who doesn't agree with the above is just dishonest and a slave to peer pressure
-Enjoyment expressed by beer fans is further dishonesty
And then he embraces dishonest behavior himself despite hair guy's disavowal that it's even a thing.

The uncomfortable thing is that cueball is in the "everyman" position. The last time we saw a hair guy he was ruining the restaurant industry (1499). Before that, one was a dream-crushing insurance salesman (1494) and before that one was computer-illiterate (1479). The anti-beer remarks are positioned where a punchline should be. This strongly implies that Randall actually thinks this way, or at least thinks the reasoning is sound enough to be more absurd than annoying.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby midflinx » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:48 am UTC

There's no shortage of bitter flavors in various greens, root vegetables, fruits, and seasonings. I have here a cookbook full of 'em that runs to 250 pages.


That may be true, but notice their lack of popularity in restaurants. Plenty of people are willing to drink something bitter, but very few of them order or make bitter meals to eat. What do you make of that?

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Tova » Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:43 pm UTC

I wonder if Randall drinks coffee at all.

Yes it's a troll, yes it continues the recent unfunny trend, but it's usually at least somewhat defensible.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby rmsgrey » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:30 pm UTC

Tevildo wrote:That said, cueball is way more of a jerk than hair guy. At worst, hair guy is uninterested in cueball's social commentary. Cueball is making all kinds of weird assertions:
-Without qualification, all beer tastes bad, including styles he has no knowledge of
-His own perception (as, we can assume, an inexperienced tippler) is valid and incontrovertible
-Anyone who doesn't agree with the above is just dishonest and a slave to peer pressure
-Enjoyment expressed by beer fans is further dishonesty
And then he embraces dishonest behavior himself despite hair guy's disavowal that it's even a thing.


Interesting interpretations:

- How do you know there are styles of which he has no knowledge? And, as a discussion topic in its own right, how many beers should you sample before it's legitimate to conclude that all beer tastes bad to you?
- We can assume inexperience, or we can assume wide experience and universal disappointment.
- While bizarre, it's no more bizarre than the assumption that there's something wrong with someone who dislikes beer, which is common in some circles.
- Or the position that someone who claims to dislike beer is lying about their preference

And there are times when people refuse to admit that the emperor is naked, in which case it's probably best to pretend you see the clothes too...

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby ucim » Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:37 pm UTC

To me, "Man, you're no fun at all" implies that the fun is in discussing the various kinds of beers, what flavors they have, what they go with, what's good and what's not... and a discussion like that with somebody who doesn't care would be no fun. That is all.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby stianhat » Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:23 pm UTC

I vote we should all socially stigmatize peer pressure.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby truenorth » Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:23 pm UTC

For me it was childhood trauma that prevents me from drinking (let alone enjoying) beer - too much time spent in a granary shovelling the last bit of grain from around the edge, after it had spent the winter getting soaked and fermented. As soon as I bring a beer up to my mouth, the smell of it instantly returns me to that dreadful place.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby jc » Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:52 pm UTC

dg61 wrote:Just chipping in to note that people drinking beer because it has antibiotic properties is a widespread myth; there's not a lot of evidence people actually drank beer to avoid bacteria and as others have said the alcohol content would not sterilize it-you'd have to drink alcohol at poisonous concentrations for that. ... Medieval and other pre-modern people mostly drank alcohol for the same reasons we do today-for the calories in some cases(if one was engaged in hard labor) or simply for the pleasurable mood-altering effects.


All pretty much correct. But understanding of the (relative) safety of fermented beverages, and also pickled foods, goes way back, even among people with no concept of micro-organisms. People also recognized the possibility of spoilage, and in many areas learned ways of decreasing it. This was one of the documented reasons for distillation. Yeasts can get the alcohol content up to around 12%, but there are things that can live at that level. But if you've learned how to distill off the alcohol, you can add it to other things, including batches of wine or beer, and get an even higher alcohol level that won't spoil. Thus, sherry is made by distilling part of the wine and mixing the resulting brandy with the remaining wine, to get around 18% alcohol.

And part of the evidence that this is what was going on is all the historical comments about diluting fermented beverages, often with boiled water or freshly-pressed fruit juices, before drinking. This can be interpreted as evidence that many people weren't trying to get drunk; they'd just learned that the results tasted good and didn't make you sick.

In cold areas, e.g. Scandinavia and Russia, they didn't even have to distill their booze. People have long used freezing to remove part of the water, raising the alcohol percentage in the resulting liquids. This has been especially common with ciders, but has been done with anything that can be left outside overnight to form a layer of ice on top. This works well, but also concentrates the flavor, and the result can be too strong for most people's taste. So they look for safe ways to dilute the results. Such concentrates have also been widely used in cooking. As someone else pointed out, this does typically drive off most of the alcohol, but then it's in the air and everyone is breathing it, especially the cooks. ;-)

Some of my acquaintances who brewed beer have commented that it's no surprise that beer (and the distilled form, whisk(e)y) are among the safest drinkables. They usually comment on how they have to be fanatics about cleanliness, boil the juices thoroughly, keep the containers sealed, etc. If they screw this up, they don't get beer; they get disgusting slop that nobody will drink. It's a lot more difficult than distilling fruit juices, and has historically been done by beer-brewing specialists. The result is that home-brewed wine is usually safe, but not always, while home-brewed beer not done right is simply discarded as undrinkable.

OTOH, I grew up in the Seattle area, which like most of the US west coast is a natural wine-producing area. Lots of people there get some very good (if highly carbonated) cider by buying gallon jugs of fresh apple juice (without preservatives), and putting them in a closet for a week or two. You can drink it at any time, of course, but people wait until it fizzes well when you loosen the lid. I never knew anyone who got sick from it. Then I moved "out east", and when I tried it, I just got disgusting slop that I wasn't about to drink. So now I have to buy cider, and most of it's too sweet. ;-)

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby billyswong » Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:16 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:For me, the problem with most non-alcoholic drinks is sweetness (I agree with Quercus). I wish there were more savoury/bitter soft drinks available. The closest I've got is tomato juice, but it's quite heavy and you can't drink more than a couple. The alcohol-free beers are getting better: I wish all pubs sold them; possibly there should even be legislation to compel it.

In Hong Kong, we got coffee and milk tea. Some like them sugar'd and some not. And some even like coffee and milk tea mixed in one drink - it's called 鴛鴦 here.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby neremanth » Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:26 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
neremanth wrote: What I would really love to be able to drink is iced tea, but unsweetened. So easy to find in Japan, not a thing over here.
That's very much a thing down here to. (although I'd assume very much a different kind of tea in Japan) Thought you might have trouble getting "hot" tea in restaurants.

Really? That's great! I had no idea - I thought all iced tea for sale in the West was sweetened. Maybe in the fullness of time it will eventually spread out and become a thing here as well.

(I'm assuming you're talking about Terrestrial Florida, because it would seem a little odd to refer to Space Florida as "down here", but I might be wrong, in which case I salute the fearless and dynamic citizens of Space Florida for picking some of the right Earth things to take with them into their community of the future, but urge them to reconsider their position on hot tea. Space can be very chilly, and there's nothing like a good cuppa to warm you up! Or to provide comfort when a momentary bout of angst at having come so far from your erstwhile home sets in.)

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby WontonSoup » Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:40 pm UTC

The amount of people in here getting upset that someone DOESN'T like beer is hilarious. Like they think that they can objectively prove someone's opinion wrong.

I'm in agreement with the bald guy in the comic - all beer tastes kind of bad, and I've tried a lot. And I don't get the idea of eating food with wine or beer, either. To me, it just ruins the flavour of the food. I'll drink when I have to - because of, as Randall said, social pressure - but don't try and convince me that I should enjoy beer, because all evidence so far points to the contrary.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Quercus » Sat Jun 06, 2015 8:01 pm UTC

WontonSoup wrote:The amount of people in here getting upset that someone DOESN'T like beer is hilarious. Like they think that they can objectively prove someone's opinion wrong.

I'm in agreement with the bald guy in the comic - all beer tastes kind of bad, and I've tried a lot. And I don't get the idea of eating food with wine or beer, either. To me, it just ruins the flavour of the food.


Hardly anyone is getting upset because Cueball doesn't like beer. They're disagreeing with the notion that because Cueball doesn't like beer that means that "everyone's just pretending" to like beer. No - all beer tastes kind of bad to you. Most beer tastes really great to me, and wine and beer, to me, considerably enhance food if paired well. People have different experiences of and opinions on subjective stuff, and that's, as you say, fine.

I'll drink when I have to - because of, as Randall said, social pressure

If that's the solution that works for you, okay I guess. As I've said before in this thread, putting someone under social pressure to drink is kind of a dick move, and personally I wouldn't stand for it. There's plenty of times I don't want to drink for various reasons and if someone's still getting at me to drink after I've told them firmly that I'm not drinking tonight, well, they won't find me spending too many more evenings with them.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:02 pm UTC

I am of the opinion that all beer tastes at least kinda bad, and I have encountered the kind of "you're no fun if you don't drink beer" type — though really, it's more of the "'fun' = 'being drunk', so if you don't drink you're no fun" type in my experience — so I sympathize more with Cueball in this than Hairdo, although the last panel starts to reverse it (Hairdo taking the reasonable "just don't drink if you don't like it" and Cueball caving in to social pressure). I can understand that tastes differ and that some people somehow like the taste of beer, like people somehow like the taste of coffee — I just can't rightly imagine how or why, but it appears to be so. It's mostly the "you're no fun" that makes me dislike Hairdo here, because of the common equivocation of fun with drunkenness.

One thing I personally enjoy about not being able to get drunk (without mixing with caffeine at least) is there's an easy way for me to shut up people pressuring me to drink. Tell them to line up a bunch of shots, at their expense. Everyone usually gets really excited to see the "teetotaler" drink. Then I down them all instantly like it's nothing, because it is nothing, and continue being a boring sober stick-in-the-mud all night (at least, to the kind of people who can't find any fun while sober), thus proving that consuming alcohol doesn't make you fun, and beating them at their own game.

If it weren't for the discovery that mixing alcohol with caffeine actually does do something to me, I'd be halfway of the opinion that most of "drunkenness" is pure placebo effect: people think having consumed alcohol gives them an excuse to be uninhibited, and that belief lets them become uninhibited.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Sprocket » Sat Jun 06, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

I mean the other guy clearly said "if you don't like it, don't drink it.."
So I am not sure what today's comic even thinks it is about…

Moreover, I'm pretty sure Randy likes beer. Maybe he doesn't…maybe this is his coming out. Maybe he did feel social pressure to like beer and now he's broken free of his chains!

FRABJOUS DAY! Freedom from Hops (more hops for me)! I'm still not sure what this comic is about.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby sehkzychic » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:53 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I am of the opinion that all beer tastes at least kinda bad, and I have encountered the kind of "you're no fun if you don't drink beer" type — though really, it's more of the "'fun' = 'being drunk', so if you don't drink you're no fun" type in my experience — so I sympathize more with Cueball in this than Hairdo, although the last panel starts to reverse it (Hairdo taking the reasonable "just don't drink if you don't like it" and Cueball caving in to social pressure). I can understand that tastes differ and that some people somehow like the taste of beer, like people somehow like the taste of coffee — I just can't rightly imagine how or why, but it appears to be so. It's mostly the "you're no fun" that makes me dislike Hairdo here, because of the common equivocation of fun with drunkenness.


I didn't get a "drinking = fun" vibe off Hairguy. I think he's just saying, "Dude, not this again. Just because you don't like something, you don't need to act like other people can't genuinely like it." Cueball is basically calling Hairguy (and by extension, all beer-drinkers) hypocrites--saying we like something, not because we like it, but because we're sycophants who pretend to like what we're told is good.

Fun Hobby: try making an analogous conversation about sexual orientation.
Spoiler:
[Hairguy is gay and inquires after Cueball's orientation.]
CB: Anything's fine.
[They're making out.]
CB: ...Do you ever think maybe we should just admit that being gay is kinda weird and everyone who claims to be gay is just pretending?
HG: Wtf? Why would you say something like that?
CB: Okay, got it. Keep up the charade.
HG: If you're straight just date girls.
CB: No, no. Gotta do my part. Mmmm!

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby commodorejohn » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:00 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:If it weren't for the discovery that mixing alcohol with caffeine actually does do something to me, I'd be halfway of the opinion that most of "drunkenness" is pure placebo effect: people think having consumed alcohol gives them an excuse to be uninhibited, and that belief lets them become uninhibited.

I suspect that quite a bit of it is - having been raised in an alcohol-free environment and without any of the "you have to be drunk to be fun" social conditioning and only getting into it later in life, it's been my experience that, while too much is certainly capable of impairing my motor skills, spatial judgement, and enunciation, it really doesn't seem to make me behave any differently.

Then again, maybe that's just the vagaries of the effects of chemicals on a specific individual...
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Ego » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:08 am UTC

I used to be like that when started to drink beer. Then one day I tried some locally made unfiltered beer and it was surprisingly good. Good enough to drink it for it taste, not just for alcohol. I wonder what would my experience be, if I started from that beer from very beginning.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby jackal » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:34 am UTC

commodorejohn wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:If it weren't for the discovery that mixing alcohol with caffeine actually does do something to me, I'd be halfway of the opinion that most of "drunkenness" is pure placebo effect: people think having consumed alcohol gives them an excuse to be uninhibited, and that belief lets them become uninhibited.

I suspect that quite a bit of it is - having been raised in an alcohol-free environment and without any of the "you have to be drunk to be fun" social conditioning and only getting into it later in life, it's been my experience that, while too much is certainly capable of impairing my motor skills, spatial judgement, and enunciation, it really doesn't seem to make me behave any differently.

Then again, maybe that's just the vagaries of the effects of chemicals on a specific individual...

Nah, I think you've got something here. I came from the same situation you did, and in the fairly rare event that I imbibe too much, the worst that happens to me is that I get tired. I've been accused of using numerous friends' dogs as pillows. it doesn't make me "have more fun" or anything, though.

That said, it does have some minor behavioral effects on some people. I have one friend who is über-rational to the point of annoyance (if something doesn't make strict logical sense, then we as a group are not doing it even if it'd be "fun" to do). A couple of beers in him makes him much easier to hang around. I have another friend who is horribly indecisive. After a night of consuming a few adult beverages, he gets...even more indecisive (to the point of hilarity). Those aren't behaviors I think either of those individuals would desire alcohol to bring out in them, but it does, although those are relatively minor shifts. I don't hang out with people who become entirely different animals when drunk.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby dg61 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 1:52 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Whether the people doing the brewing and the drinking were correct in assuming as much or not, there has historically been a perception in this area or that that wine or beer was the safer drink. It's possible that our perception of that could be increased by colored by modern contaminated drinking water supplies and industrial production of safe bottled drinks, but I don't think we invented the notion of whole cloth in the twentieth century.


Well no, that's not what I am saying-what I was saying is that if you look at the extant literary evidence from the middle ages, you actually do see a lot of discussion of drinking water as a regular practice and of for example how to find and locate good potable water(for example, that it is best to drink water from a clear stream or spring), the utility of boiling water as a means of improving iffy water, the circumstances under which water is healthier, and so on. Not to mention literary and archaeological evidence of technologies for providing the cleanest possible drinking water to cities such as conduits and cisterns.
jc wrote:
dg61 wrote:Just chipping in to note that people drinking beer because it has antibiotic properties is a widespread myth; there's not a lot of evidence people actually drank beer to avoid bacteria and as others have said the alcohol content would not sterilize it-you'd have to drink alcohol at poisonous concentrations for that. ... Medieval and other pre-modern people mostly drank alcohol for the same reasons we do today-for the calories in some cases(if one was engaged in hard labor) or simply for the pleasurable mood-altering effects.


All pretty much correct. But understanding of the (relative) safety of fermented beverages, and also pickled foods, goes way back, even among people with no concept of micro-organisms. People also recognized the possibility of spoilage, and in many areas learned ways of decreasing it. This was one of the documented reasons for distillation. Yeasts can get the alcohol content up to around 12%, but there are things that can live at that level. But if you've learned how to distill off the alcohol, you can add it to other things, including batches of wine or beer, and get an even higher alcohol level that won't spoil. Thus, sherry is made by distilling part of the wine and mixing the resulting brandy with the remaining wine, to get around 18% alcohol.

And part of the evidence that this is what was going on is all the historical comments about diluting fermented beverages, often with boiled water or freshly-pressed fruit juices, before drinking. This can be interpreted as evidence that many people weren't trying to get drunk; they'd just learned that the results tasted good and didn't make you sick.

In cold areas, e.g. Scandinavia and Russia, they didn't even have to distill their booze. People have long used freezing to remove part of the water, raising the alcohol percentage in the resulting liquids. This has been especially common with ciders, but has been done with anything that can be left outside overnight to form a layer of ice on top. This works well, but also concentrates the flavor, and the result can be too strong for most people's taste. So they look for safe ways to dilute the results. Such concentrates have also been widely used in cooking. As someone else pointed out, this does typically drive off most of the alcohol, but then it's in the air and everyone is breathing it, especially the cooks. ;-)

Some of my acquaintances who brewed beer have commented that it's no surprise that beer (and the distilled form, whisk(e)y) are among the safest drinkables. They usually comment on how they have to be fanatics about cleanliness, boil the juices thoroughly, keep the containers sealed, etc. If they screw this up, they don't get beer; they get disgusting slop that nobody will drink. It's a lot more difficult than distilling fruit juices, and has historically been done by beer-brewing specialists. The result is that home-brewed wine is usually safe, but not always, while home-brewed beer not done right is simply discarded as undrinkable.

OTOH, I grew up in the Seattle area, which like most of the US west coast is a natural wine-producing area. Lots of people there get some very good (if highly carbonated) cider by buying gallon jugs of fresh apple juice (without preservatives), and putting them in a closet for a week or two. You can drink it at any time, of course, but people wait until it fizzes well when you loosen the lid. I never knew anyone who got sick from it. Then I moved "out east", and when I tried it, I just got disgusting slop that I wasn't about to drink. So now I have to buy cider, and most of it's too sweet. ;-)


Right, but that's different-you're not brewing or making wine as a substitute for water but as a means of preventing the spoilage of perishable grains and fruits so they can be consumed or stored more easily(or sold as a cash crop-we have very extensive evidence of wine for instance as a trade good in the ancient world, and if you remember your American History classes you'll learn that one of the reasons for the Whiskey Rebellion was that distillation was a more efficient was of making money off wheat than taking it all to market). I'd also be very cautious about extrapolating from modern brewing and distillation methods, as they differ greatly from most historical methods since they have industrially-made equipment available, different strains of barley and wheat, different kinds of plants(hops are actually a late medieval introduction to beer-making), and different outputs(ancient beer for instance was a great deal thicker than its modern counterpart, or at least seems to have had a certain amount of sediment in it).

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Turing Machine » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:23 am UTC

Derpetologist wrote:It kind of bothers me that there are some people who legitimately can't understand how someone else might enjoy something that they don't.


Randall in a nutshell.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby da Doctah » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:57 am UTC

jc wrote:Some of my acquaintances who brewed beer have commented that it's no surprise that beer (and the distilled form, whisk(e)y) are among the safest drinkables. They usually comment on how they have to be fanatics about cleanliness, boil the juices thoroughly, keep the containers sealed, etc. If they screw this up, they don't get beer; they get disgusting slop that nobody will drink

Keep in mind that fermentation is, at its core, "desirable rot". All your hygienic procedures are not there to prevent the product from spoiling, but to ensure that it spoils in the precise manner intended.

(BTW, I've had conversations analogous to this with Chinese people on the concept of cheesemaking.)

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:01 am UTC

commodorejohn wrote:Then again, maybe that's just the vagaries of the effects of chemicals on a specific individual...

Combined with the fact that your own suite of psychosomatic effects are likely to be different, sure.

But yes, there are most certainly behavioral effects, which differ in kind and in degree between individuals. Almost everyone experiences some reduction of inhibition and anxiety, though, because, you know, downers do that, in the same way that coffee makes most people either 1) more alert or 2) jittery or uncomfortable.

It's a drug. It's not magic that requires a special explanation. If you feel that you're exceptionally and unusually special, I don't have a compelling argument otherwise.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby orthogon » Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:07 am UTC

Tevildo wrote:The uncomfortable thing is that cueball is in the "everyman" position. The last time we saw a hair guy he was ruining the restaurant industry (1499). Before that, one was a dream-crushing insurance salesman (1494) and before that one was computer-illiterate (1479). The anti-beer remarks are positioned where a punchline should be. This strongly implies that Randall actually thinks this way, or at least thinks the reasoning is sound enough to be more absurd than annoying.

It's possible that Randall does think this way, but that he also realises that it's absurd. Perhaps he's mocking his own cognitive behaviour by having Cueball express his inner monologue out loud and have a second character respond to it.

xtifr wrote:
orthogon wrote:To summarise, as I see it:

There are some things that everyone likes from birth, though from what I've read, I'm reluctant to suggest any: this may in fact be an empty set.

Other things are an acquired taste. They are initially unpleasant, because there is something immediately distasteful about them that masks the desirable features in some way: they're bitter or sour, or the taste is extremely strong; if we're not talking food, then they're difficult to understand or appreciate.


You're omitting one other important factor. Tastes change as you age. Most significantly at puberty. Kids love sugar--they can eat it by the handful. Teenagers, though, are just as likely to reach for the salty chips. (And note: we're obviously not talking about health food here.) Salty and umami become more desirable, sour, and yes, even bitter, become more acceptable--almost universally. I don't think the phenomenon is entirely understood (there are multiple factors, both physiological and mental), but it's been confirmed in multiple studies, and should surprise almost no one who has actually gone through puberty, and maybe even a bit past it.

Of course, how it changes, and how much it changes varies greatly from person to person. But it's not just a matter of what you like at birth + acquired tastes. There are actual changes in what you like that occur during your life for a variety of reasons, and simple exposure is not the only one. For one obvious example, many adults don't care much for sweets at all. Despite having loved them as a kid. That's clearly not (or not just) a matter of acquired taste, because it's a newly-formed dislike.


That's what I meant by my throwaway "In some cases it might not be an acquired taste so much as an age-related preference", but it didn't fit neatly with my structure, so I let it hang.

An acquired dislike fits into the same broad pattern though; in that case the thing is superficially tasty, perhaps because of a high fat or sugar content, but over time the lack of a more subtle and complex flavour means you get bored of it. Perhaps you also come to expect the unpleasant after effects of a sugar or fat fix. I remember the stages by which I stopped enjoying McDonald's food: first I loved it, then I loved it but felt bad (greasy and nauseous) afterwards, then I felt bad before I'd even finished it; finally it didn't even appeal in the first place.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
neremanth wrote: What I would really love to be able to drink is iced tea, but unsweetened. So easy to find in Japan, not a thing over here.
That's very much a thing down here to. (although I'd assume very much a different kind of tea in Japan) Thought you might have trouble getting "hot" tea in restaurants.

Somehow I completely forgot to mention tea and coffee, which are great if you want a hot drink (and tea is very refreshing even hot). And that godawful Liptonice stuff with about a kg of sugar per litre is my only experience of commercially available cold tea, so I'm delighted to hear that there's unsweetened cold tea. Of course the caffeine limits how much you can drink, so really I'm looking for decaffeinated unsweetened cold tea, which is even more niche.

ETA:
bonzombiekitty wrote:
I actually had a discussion about this with a friend of mine because, knowing that alcohol is a diuretic, I wasn't sure if it was possible to have a low enough alcohol content to result in net hydration while still effectively sterilizing the water.


Beer is perfectly fine to keep you hydrated. Your body is good at keeping enough water in your system despite your kidneys doing a little extra work.

This is something I've always wondered about. People are always saying "ya, actually tea/beer/whatever dehydrates you", and yet if that were the case then our ancestors would surely have died within weeks. I always assumed that these drinks were actually hypotonic, but it makes much more sense if the body can remain hydrated despite consuming only hypertonic substances (if that's the right term).
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Kit. » Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:55 am UTC

david.windsor wrote:
jackal wrote:Give me a good stout or hefe any day. I actually don't drink nor crave beer too often, but sometimes nothing tastes as delicious and flavorful as a nice, smooth Guinness...

Hear! Hear!

...unless one was careless enough to drink "Guinness Original" instead of Guinness Draught.

dg61 wrote:Just chipping in to note that people drinking beer because it has antibiotic properties is a widespread myth; there's not a lot of evidence people actually drank beer to avoid bacteria and as others have said the alcohol content would not sterilize it-you'd have to drink alcohol at poisonous concentrations for that.

One should not confuse bacteriostatic with bactericidal properties.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby jc » Sun Jun 07, 2015 2:11 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:
jc wrote:Some of my acquaintances who brewed beer have commented that it's no surprise that beer (and the distilled form, whisk(e)y) are among the safest drinkables. They usually comment on how they have to be fanatics about cleanliness, boil the juices thoroughly, keep the containers sealed, etc. If they screw this up, they don't get beer; they get disgusting slop that nobody will drink

Keep in mind that fermentation is, at its core, "desirable rot". All your hygienic procedures are not there to prevent the product from spoiling, but to ensure that it spoils in the precise manner intended.

(BTW, I've had conversations analogous to this with Chinese people on the concept of cheesemaking.)


Speakers of the Chinese languages would probably understand this easily. Consider the cheese-like stuff we call "tofu" in English, which is 豆腐 (doùfu in Mandarin). It literally means "rotten/decayed/spoiled bean(s)".

This is a fun example of the Confucian principle that we shouldn't use overly complex or fancy speech; we should speak simply and call things what they are. Tofu really is rotten beans, though of course the spoilage is done in a controlled way using microorganisms that humans find edible. Somewhat bland, of course, sorta like mozarella, so we mix it with things that give it more flavor, and it's a nutritious food. Various other foodstuffs in east Asia have similar names that Westerners might find disgusting and insulting, but they're just plain-language descriptions of how the food is created.

If Westerners had adopted Confucianism, we'd probably call wine "spoiled juice" and beer "rotten grain". Very carefully spoiled and rotted, of course. ;-)

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:04 pm UTC

I tend to just get frustrated with people who tell me that 'I just haven't had the right type of beer yet'. I used to live/work/whatever in a pub that prided itself on getting good beers and ales in. My friend would make me try almost everything. We discovered that malt is the thing that I hate the most and hops are the thing that I hate the least. But still hate. I have tried quite a few beers and it has become apparent to me that when people say 'I just haven't had the right type of beer yet' they want something to taste more like beer.
Let's be clear: it is the beer taste I don't like. In fact, I prefer Carlsberg over ales because it doesn't taste quite so much like beer.

I also know a lot of avowed ale drinkers who admit that they didn't like the taste of beer to begin with but forced themselves to (it's usually guys because of the social pressure not to be drinking 'girly drinks') so this comic kind of rings true for me.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Quercus » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:28 pm UTC

Fractal_Tangent wrote:I also know a lot of avowed ale drinkers who admit that they didn't like the taste of beer to begin with but forced themselves to (it's usually guys because of the social pressure not to be drinking 'girly drinks') so this comic kind of rings true for me.

You presumably do accept though that there are at least some people who genuinely like the taste of beer? The market for non-alcoholic beer would seem to support this. Personally, as someone who likes the taste of beer, but doesn't like being drunk, I often really want another beer, because the beer i'm drinking is delicious, but abstain because I don't want to become more inebriated.

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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby Fractal_Tangent » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:42 pm UTC

I believe that they like the taste now at the very least and I'm willing to accept people who didn't have to force themselves to enjoy beer exist. I just know quite a few beer drinkers who very much disliked the taste to begin with.
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Re: 1534: "Beer"

Postby orthogon » Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:21 pm UTC

jc wrote:Speakers of the Chinese languages would probably understand this easily. Consider the cheese-like stuff we call "tofu" in English, which is 豆腐 (doùfu in Mandarin). It literally means "rotten/decayed/spoiled bean(s)".

This is a fun example of the Confucian principle that we shouldn't use overly complex or fancy speech [...] If Westerners had adopted Confucianism, we'd probably call wine "spoiled juice" and beer "rotten grain". Very carefully spoiled and rotted, of course. ;-)

I didn't know about this Confucian principle, which I'm sure is important; but isn't part of the phenomenon related to the way that the Chinese writing system (and to some extent the phonology and morphology of the language) leaves the etymology plain to see? If you subject wine to a second stage of deliberate "spoiling", you get vinegar, which just means "sour wine", but this etymology isn't obvious to English speakers (is it even obvious to native French speakers?)
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.


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