What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

POINT OF BREW Michael J. Lewis

Rate this item
(0 votes)
POINT OF BREW   Michael J. Lewis Photo: Welsh Rugby Union

As a young man I played rugby and beer was an essential part of after-game activities. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Rugby was my game and I was quite good at it. It is a game that could be described as “hearty,” some might say “brutal” because it does include a good deal of physical contact that almost never has good intensions.

Much of this contact is quite low impact but vigorous pushing and shoving is essential in the scrummaging aspects of the game in the contest for possession of the ball; that can be a very rewarding part of the game for many players, but it is a demanding and muscular and wearing activity. Open field tackling is also part of the game, almost always one-on-one, and both players usually land on the deck slightly the worse for wear.

Some describe rugby as (American) football without the pads and helmet. Except for how points are scored, that is not really true.

Although it is true that football evolved from rugby a century or more ago, that evolution eventually made protection seem like a good and necessary idea. In rugby there is no blocking (we call that obstruction) and only the man carrying the ball may be tackled (wrapped up with both arms and below the neck). He (or she, these days) can avoid a tackle by passing the ball to another player and, because the game does not depend on yardage for possession, it is not necessary to drive the ball carrier backwards.

In all, this makes the game much safer than football.

On the other hand, the game is continuous and stops only if the ball is kicked off the field or one of the laws of the game is broken. Theoretically it could run without interruption for all 40 minutes of each half. Very exhausting.

I recall playing as a guest with several other visitors in a local game in Wales. One guest turned out with full-blown football gear. The referee made him take it off because they were a danger to other players.

After that game, in which we guests were given a fairly thorough drubbing by the local team, we returned to the clubhouse for showers and drinks to follow.

Now here is the odd thing. We did not drink beer we drank shandy by the several pints and quite quickly. In my day (the 1950s) that was the common practice of all players in strenuous games: after cross country runs, tennis, soccer games, and it was always interesting to see a group of hikers work their way across the moor or mountainside in Snowdonia, the Lakes or the Highlands, to where I was sitting on the deck of a country pub and hear them all, sweaty and tired, order shandy by the pint upon arrival.

Shandy is a simple mixture of roughly one-half traditional draught ale and one-half lemonade. It was (and I suppose still is) a great thirst-quencher and putting down the prescribed couple of pints in quite short order is a sure fire way to rapidly re-hydrate and relax and to be ready for civilized conversation and bonhomie.

We did not drink beer straight. That came later of course. I always assumed it was just the rather sweet low-alcohol character of shandy that made it so effective after a game. In addition, there was no need to pay attention to the nuances of the brewer’s art in a shandy as that is pretty much destroyed by the added lemonade.

And of course shandy was cheap.

I never thought that shandy might have pharmacological effects, that it might have healing and recovery and anti-inflammatory properties. That it might be in fact be a wellness beer for athletes. That it might be the forerunner of Gatorade and all its conceptual clones. Wish I had thought of that in 1950.

Turns out that reduced-gluten beers (which I knew all about because I introduced a workable strategy for that technology many years ago and have mentioned that occasionally in this column), now with the additional twist of a low-alcohol content, are being promoted as a wellness after-exercise drinks. Other beers with a low or no alcohol content but with added goodies such a salts (electrolytes) and chia and even bee pollen have been developed for this market. My friend Daniel brought a recent article entitled “Turns Out Beer is Good for You?” (duh! - of course it is!) by Esther Mobley in the SF Chronicle that explores these new products and mentions some brand names available in the Bay Area. You can Google that.

It is true that beer contains some polyphenols derived from the malt and hops and apparently these have some pharmacological effects of reducing inflammation. These elements, along with some proteins, cause hazes in beers and they are generally much reduced by normal brewing processes. Beers with high polyphenols might well therefore be hazy.

Beers also contain plenty of inorganic salts (electrolytes) especially potassium, that arise from the malts and hops, and brewing water; in addition, British style ales are generally brewed with Burton Salts that add a significant level of calcium and magnesium ions to the beer as well traces of other ions. There is plenty of sulfate and phosphate and silicate too.

I also have much faith in the pharmacological effect of alcohol in moderation: I think raising one’s blood alcohol on a regular basis is a bit like the preventative use of Drano on home plumbing. And of course hops are botanically related to hemp.

Esther Mobley’s column makes interesting reading. However, I did object to her gratuitous identification of beer as giving your Uncle that big belly. That’s bullshit and she should know better. But I much admired her accurate conclusion that all the benefits of beer as a wellness drink can be acquired by eating a banana.

The question is, of course, why would anyone make that choice when there is shandy?

Michael J Lewis MUG Picmonkey

Michael J. Lewis, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California, Davis, and the academic director and lead instructor of UC Davis Extension’s Professional Brewing Programs. Lewis has been honored with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Award of Merit and the Brewers Association’s Recognition Award. He is an elected fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. He is also a recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.

Copyright © 2005 - 2019. Taste California Travel. All rights reserved. | Phoenix Website Design by CitrusKiwi