Beers to Your Health

Rheinheitsgebot, the German purity law defining water,
hops, malt, and yeast as the only ingredients to be
used in the brewing of beer, was written by lawmakers
who must have had the health of the German
population in mind. Even today we are urged to drink
eight glasses of water daily, and sleep on pillows stuffed
with hops in order to clear the sinuses. There’s no
question that barley malt is a tonic and magazine ads in
the 1930’s were advising readers to eat several cakes of
Fleischmann’s yeast a day in order to regulate the
bowels. In addition, the most commonly used brewing
adjuncts, corn, rice and various fruits all promote good
nutrition. It would stand to reason, therefore, that the
health benefits of those individual ingredients would
extend to the conglomeration of them all: BEER!

In the nineteenth century, noted brewer and third
President, Thomas Jefferson, is quoted: “beer, if drunk
in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit,
and promotes health”. In the twenty first century,
studies have shown that beer, which contains no fat or
cholesterol, decreases the chance of blood clots,
promotes higher levels of HDL ( “good” cholesterol), and
reduces stress. (But we really don’t need a study to
prove that. Anyone who has undergone a stressful day
at work already knows that a few cold ones are second
to none at helping one to unwind.

Beer is an excellent source of vitamin B6, and in
moderation reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack and
vascular disease. The positive effects of beer
consumption are especially important to the elderly.
Several publications have alluded to the sleep-inducing
quality of beer for senior citizens, and adults over 65
who drink six beers a week have a much lower risk of
dementia, although it must be noted that six beers a
day might well cause the senior citizen to act demented
if he doesn’t react to the sedative aspect of beer and fall
asleep in mid-sentence. The same study, which found
that beer improves blood vessel dilation, also reported
that beer is invaluable in promoting urination for older
people, although personal experience has determined
that this positive is not limited to seniors, as evidenced
by the long lines of twenty and thirty year- olds for the
men’s room at beer festivals.

Hopped malt extract, which is beer minus the water and
yeast was promoted unabashedly by brewers, not only
for it’s restorative powers, but, with prohibition
looming, also because with the addition of water and
yeast could be used for home brewing. According to it’s
advertising, Rheingold’s Teutonic Malt Extract contained
“a greater amount of nutritious matter than any other
and was heartily recommended for convalescents,
nursing mothers, insomniacs and sufferers of
dyspepsia. Schlitz malt extract also offered relief from
those disorders, but included “nervous instability” and
“stomach troubles” in it’s curative promises. Pabst
advertising from the late nineteenth century was
inspirational in it’s efforts to sell Pabst Malt Extract.

An ad from 1896 advised that by taking PME “you will
drop off to restful slumber the minute your head
touches the pillow…….it brings strength, quiets the
nerves, rounds the form, and builds, braces and lifts the
body and brain from weakness to power…gives youthful
vigor…to win back your health Take PME, which is
vivifying, and gives vim and bounce” .In October of
1905, Mr. and Mrs. F.T. Allen of Salem, Ohio, sent a
photo of their eleven month old son to Pabst with a
note on the back: ”This baby has been nourished by
Pabst since birth and we consider it invaluable to
nursing mothers”.

Malt extract aside, the real thing was heavily promoted
as healthful in pre-prohibition ads. Weidenmayer’s
brewery of Newark hyped it’s product as a digestive aid
in an ad which featured a stocking-capped toddler on a
chamber pot grinning like Jon Corzine after dreaming up
a new tax, saying “I drank George Weidenmayer’s beer”.
The next photo showed the same kid grimacing like
Chuck Schumer after finding out there wasn’t a TV
camera within 500 miles. The kid says “I didn’t”.
Beer…better than Ex-lax.

The German-American Brewing Company of Buffalo
called their Maltosia brand “the pure food beer”, and
Park Brewing of Providence claimed that their product
was “clean and pure”. Philadelphia ’s Hohenadel was
acclaimed as “the health beer” and Gowdy’s was “the
medicated beer”. Beadleston and Woerz Imperial Beer
was “healthful, invigorating and refreshing and should
be considered for it’s digestive properties. Because of it’
s proximity to Waukesha Imperial Spring, Waukesha
Brewing’s product was called “Imperial Health Beer”,
similar to Harvard Brewing Company’s beer being touted
as “America’s Health Beverage” (sold in dining cars,
steamships and first class grocers).

New Jersey ’s own Peter Doelger, proud brewer of “First
Prize Beer” was hailed (by them) as “A pure beer for the
whole family(toddlers included?), a natural food product,
every drop laden with body building, healthful food
substances”. Doelger’s was certified as “veritable bottled
energy, absolutely free from germ life”. Not quite so
verbose were the Mueller Brothers of Owassa, Michigan
whose embossed bottles simply stated that their beer
contained no drugs or poison.

Both Greenway’s IPA of Syracuse and Muhlenberg Beer
of Reading were recommended by leading physicians,
one of whom must have been Charles H. Porter, M.D.,
who, in testifying to the quality of the beers brewed by
Albany’s McKnight’s Brewing, was quoted as saying
“…as such I can confidently recommend it to the public
as an agreeable beverage and to physicians as a
desirable article for medicinal use”. My kind of doctor!

If, after all the restorative, digestive, preventative and
curative  qualities of beer had failed and one found
himself ill enough to be hospitalized, Alexian Brothers’
Hospital of Elizabeth , N.J. was the place to be for beer
lovers. This medical facility had a brewery in the
basement, headed by brewmaster Karl Feichter, which
produced 600 gallons of beer every three weeks.

According to Donna Dahl, (for her prompt response to
my request for information, she’s definitely a doll),
Director of Alexian Brothers provincial archives, the
German order of monks who ran the hospital produced
this beer for their own consumption and also for the
patients, who, if their doctors gave the nod, were
served beer with lunch and dinner. Mostly because of
religious tradition but possibly because of the healthful
properties of beer, the Federal Government granted
permission to the brothers to keep brewing all during
prohibition. ( Surprising that Al Capone, Dutch Schultz,
Joe Kennedy and the like didn’t just open up hospitals
and staff them with monks!)

The brewery also produced bock beer in the spring and
an interesting note is that this brewery, which operated
until 1949, used water from it’s own well and also
supplied water to the commercial Rising Sun Brewery a
couple of blocks away. According to Brewmaster
Feichter, he made better beer than Rising Sun,
accounting for the  Alexian  Brothers’ brewery
outlasting the former by eleven years.

I’d better stop here. I feel a little dyspepsia coming on
and my home brewed doppelbock sounds like exactly
the right remedy.

Beers to your health,


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