Beer, Civilisation and Politics
Thursday, 28 January 2010 15:36

If your only sources of information were the British broadsheet newspapers and Sir Geoffrey Palmer, you could be forgiven for thinking that alcohol, particularly beer, has caused nothing by misery since the day it was invented.    In fact, a thirst for alcohol, particularly beer, may well have been the catalyst for human civilisation as we know today.

The Independent reports that noted archaeologist Dr Patrick McGovern has theorised that humans shifted from hunting and gathering to agriculture and permanent dwellings largely because they wanted to drink. 

“A main motivation for settling down and domesticating crops was probably to make an alcoholic beverage of some kind,” Dr McGovern concluded.  “People wanted to be closer to their plants so this leads to settlement.”  Earlier hypothesis held that agriculture developed primarily to produce grain for bread.  Dr McGovern disagrees saying our ancient forbearers probably wanted to make beer rather than bread because it just tasted better and they rather enjoyed the effects.

This blog is certainly not going to argue with a man described as “one of the leading experts on the study of ancient alcoholic brews.”  Once settled, people naturally began to really develop their thinking about how societies should be organised and, more importantly, who should be in control.  It was in this way that politics and politicians came into being and they have been with us ever since.

Last year, this blog literally stumbled over a media report on a British website claiming that Prime Minister John Key’s favourite beer was Bath Gem, a tasty ale from Bristol.  Always thirsty for the truth, we decided to test this theory and directly ask the Prime Minister for his favourite beer.  In the interests of balance and impartiality, the same question was put to the leaders of every political party currently represented in the New Zealand Parliament.  They all provided answers and these are reproduced in full below.

Prime Minister John Key (Leader of the National Party) – His spokesman indicated “The Prime Minister enjoys a cold, crisp traditional style golden lager, particularly on a hot summer's day.”  When asked about the Bath Gem story, he sanguinely noted “on occasion, the Prime Minister has purchased the beers listed in the item.”

Hon Phil Goff (Leader of the Labour Party) – Mr Goff replied saying “I am a big fan of Emerson's Pilsner. It's crisp and refreshing, and a great summer drink -- especially after a day spent making hay.  Plus Emerson's is a superb Kiwi niche brewery."

David Garrett MP (ACT List MP) - Mr Garrett was nominated by ACT Leader Rodney Hide to reply as Mr Hide does not drink these days.  Mr Garrett said “I have two favourite beers, both lagers. Stella Artois was the first beer that I really enjoyed.  As a young man, I drank beer because that's what one was supposed to do, but never really liked it. My first pint of Stella on tap in England changed that.  My favourite New Zealand beer is Macs Gold, a refreshing lager with good body and head.”

Hon Jim Anderton (Leader of Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party) - "I don't drink much of any alcohol but when I do I usually drink beer.  The sort I prefer depends on the circumstances.  When I've been doing a bit of gardening or mowing the lawns, say, and feel like a refresher, particularly on a hot day, I usually have a cold Speight’s.   It's got good body and I find it really refreshing.  And although ads don't influence my tastes much I think the Speight’s television ads are great.  They have a real Kiwi style of humour to them which is unique to this country.  Otherwise I drink Stella Artois, when I'm dining out, for instance.  I hardly ever drink wine but I like a light beverage with a meal and light lagers like Stella go with almost anything as well as being fairly low on alcohol content."

Hon Peter Dunne (Leader of United Future) – This is actually the third time Mr Dunne has answered this particular question and his answer is always the same.  “I remain a Guinness and Heineken fan - Guinness because of its full body, and Heineken because of its flavour - but I am also partial to Mac’s Gold Lager as a light and refreshing summer drink.”

Russel Norman (Co-leader of the Green Party) – His spokesperson relayed that Mr Norman “is a big fan of the Founders range, particularly the Tall Blonde, but due to his hair colouring he will pick the Founder's Redhead as his favourite.”

Metiria Turei (Co-Leader of the Green Party) – Her spokesperson indicated she had enjoyed the Green Man beers, particularly the Green Man Pils.

Hon Tariana Turia (Co-Leader of the Maori Party) – Mrs Turia was the first politician to reply saying “I don't drink beer sorry.” 

Hon Dr Pita Sharples (Co-Leader of the Maori Party) – His spokesperson said that “Dr Sharples prefers not to endorse commercial products, and he certainly would not speak for the Maori Party on their favourite beer without a full discussion beforehand, which is unlikely to reach consensus!“

Given the breadth of answers and the variety of beers selected, Parliament truly is a House of Representatives. *

In beer news, it seems appropriate to note that the new arrivals in the Malthouse fridges include Hook Norton Double Stout, Hook Norton Old Hooky, Bath Wild Hare and, the beer that started this all, Bath Gem.

* Apologies to former Speaker Rt Hon Doug Kidd for mangling one of his best witticisms here.

Cheers


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Links

The Independent “Did a thirst for beer spark civilisation?” -http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/features/did-a-thirst-for-beer-spark-civilization-

1869187.html
John Key like Bath Ales article -http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/warmley/Kiwi-leader-likes-pint-Bath-Ales-finest/article-1033239-detail/article.html
Malthouse Facebook Group - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine - http://www.beerandbrewer.com/