You’ve got to hand it to our Neolithic ancestors. They emerged from their trees and caves around 10,000 B.C. and set about farming, forming villages, crafting tools and domesticating animals.
In their spare time, they invented beer which we can assume was responsible for their remarkable uptick in sophistication. Or perhaps after a couple of brews, they just thought they were smarter.
Whatever. We’ve not only been drinking it ever since (it ranks behind water and tea as the most popular beverages on the planet) but our fascination with the product has led to more research and study than we’ve devoted to the solar system.
Just this past week, a group of Swiss researchers pulled their heads out of their beakers long enough to notice that people who drink beer generally seem to be long on laughter and short on inhibitions.
So they designed a study to see if they could shed some light on the situation. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, they recruited 30 men and 30 women, offered them beer and subjected them to a series of psychological tests.
They discovered that people were quicker to recognize happy faces when there was alcohol in their system; that they had a greater desire to be in a “positive” social environment — such as a party — after consuming beer.
In addition, people were somewhat turned off by sexually explicit images after drinking non-alcoholic beer — they rated the pictures “less pleasant than neutral pictures” — but not after drinking regular beer.
When people had an alcoholic buzz, they found sexually explicit images “more pleasant” than they did when the buzz was absent. This effect was particularly strong among women.
The researchers concluded that alcohol’s role as a social lubricant can be traced to its ability to facilitate “sexual disinhibition.”
So if I understand this correctly, in the Year of Our Lord 2016, the Swiss have just discovered that people get frisky after a couple of brews. Maybe they just yodel when they imbibe.
Of course, these are the same people who released a highly scientific study several years ago that concluded an empty beer bottle makes a better weapon than a full beer bottle in a fight.
In a related development, researchers asked people at bars to rate their own attractiveness. They found that the higher the blood alcohol content of people, the higher they rated themselves on attractiveness. Which I guess is why they put mirrors behind bars.
But we digress.
Aside from flirting and fighting, there are a lot of reasons to enjoy beer.
After more than 20 years of research and scores of studies on the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on health, beer is being understood as a beverage that not only lifts spirits but delivers protection against major ailments such as heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and dementia.
Norman D. Kaplan, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, has studied alcohol's impact on health as part of his 40 years of research into the causes and treatment of hypertension. He told the Wall Street Journal that he has found that "the benefits of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is well beyond contention."
As for beer's specific virtues, Dr. Kaplan cites two recent large-scale studies: in one, a look at 70,000 female nurses showed that those who drank moderate amounts of beer had less hypertension than did nurses who drank either wine or spirits. He also points to a survey of 128,934 adults in the Kaiser Permanente managed-care system. It showed that male beer drinkers among the group were at a statistically significant lower risk of coronary-artery disease than were men who drank red wine, white wine or spirits.
In a declaration that exposes him as nobody’s sommelier, Dr. Kaplan says, "beer drinking has equal or perhaps more benefit" than wine or spirits. As for the wine claims: "The wine people have done a major snow job" in peddling the notion that wine is superior to beer or spirits, he says.
Without question, we are living in the Golden Age of Beer.
As of Dec. 1, 2015, the Brewers Association had counted 4,144 breweries in the United States, the most ever operating simultaneously in the history of the country. According to historians, the previous high-water mark of 4,131 was set in 1873.
So how to you tell which brew is best? Sampling some 4,000 different brands seems like a risky plan. So use my method: order the brew with the cleverest name.
There’s Deep Ellum's Dallas Blonde ("goes down easy," says the can) or AleSmith's Java the Nut or Ruckus' Hoptimus Prime or For Richer or Porter.
You might try Peter Cotton Ale (“Now With More Hops”), Audrey Hopburn, Monty Python’s Holy Ale, Muscles from Brussels , Old Lawnmower, or AlimonyAle.
To bring out the animal in you try Moose Knuckle Winter Stout, Rat Tail Ale, Damn Dirty Ape or Dogfish Head.
My personal favorite: Polygamy Porter, brewed in Utah. Its slogan is “Why Have Just One?”
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.