Friday, 20 November 2009

Beer-drinking infants

Those Bavarians knew a thing or two. Especially when it came to childcare. My own attempts to bring my kids up the beer way weren't quite as successful as those of 19th-century Bavarians.

"The Bavarian could not have brought the science of beer-drinking to its present state of perfection if he did not begin at infancy. Nature teaches us that those organisms are the most perfectly developed that are of slow growth. To begin in later life to qualify oneself as a beer-drinker, would be to begin an art at its flowery extremities instead of at its source; it would be like expecting to be perfect in rhetoric without having learned to speak, to be perfect in spelling without having learned the alphabet; it would be like plunging into the water before we had learned to swim ; it would be like trying to get to the top of a ladder without starting at its bottom rounds. No; the Bavarian begins ab incunabilis. The babe at the breast is given its first sip of beer. Before it is more than a year old it is knowing in the matter of beer, and claps its hands joyfully when it sees the sparkling brown juice in the mug. Before it can walk it is generally honored with the present of a miniature beer-glass, which becomes as necessary a table equipment for it as the spoon it eats with. When the child is able to run about, it is taken by its parents to the beer-houses and the beergardens, and it there clutches the heavy mug of its father or its mother with both its fists, and immerses its beak into it like the older persons around. The magic attractions of beer already begin to work their charm, for it keeps the children from straying away. They may play around at a short distance from the table, but they do not go out of sight of it, and return to it from time to time to take a swig. As they advance in years and are put to the primary school, they become more sedentary at the beer-table; they then have a glass of their own. It is quite astonishing to see how many children are sitting quietly, with their elders, for hours, instead of romping around as children in other countries would do. Their taste begins to form; they wait expectantly for the tapping of a fresh barrel, and they are already judges of the quality of beer, and can talk about it like connoisseurs. When they get to the higher schools, the gymnasiums, the academies, and the universities, their imbibing propensities have developed to an enormous extent. The university student, in particular, becomes an adept in beer-drinking,—whatever else he studies, this art he pursues con amore."
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 324-325.

The image of primary school children sat in a beer garden with their own glass of beer. How enchanting is that?


Laurent Mousson said...

Ron, any idea of the type of beer involved here ? Like a Schankbier or something similar, i.e. low in alcohol ?
In a way, considering that, at the time beer was a life insurance against water-borne diseases, it makes perfect sense to make sure children got accustomed to its weaker forms as soon as possible.

Of course, these days, with safe tap water plentiful in the western world, our perceptions have changed a fair bit.

Tandleman said...

You can also glean from the article that beer was talked about and presumably geeked about, even then.

Ron Pattinson said...

It sounds as if its the same beer the adults were drinking. Which, in the case of Bavaria was probably a Dunkles. They had quite high OG's - 1055 or so - but were poorly attenuated and had less than 4% ABV.

Barm said...

If I had kids I'd rather they drank moderate amounts of beer than gallons of sugary fizzy pop. Could beer for children make a comeback? Maybe BrewDog would be up for marketing it.

Matt said...

Barm, maybe in Bavaria with its state-owned breweries and brewing monks but in Britain where dour Presbyterian politicians disapprove of adults drinking alcohol I think not!

Jeff Renner said...

In my state (Michigan, USA), giving alcohol to any minor under 18, even your own children, is felonious child abuse, and there are prosecutions. In Wisconsin, a nearby state with a more sensible attitude, parents can legally give their children alcohol.

Notwithstanding, my kids were introduced to good beer (brewed by me) at an age when they could appreciate it and now have good beer tastes. The statute of limitations has long since expired.

Paul Bailey said...

This excellent practice should be adopted everywhere!

zythophile said...

"… sparkling brown juice …"

Definitely a Dunkles, I'd say.