Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hollow legs in Munich

Number, numbers numbers. Like books, you can never have too many of them. Today's numbers are from the 1880's.

Bavarians. They always liked their beer. In the 19th century, to a crazy extent. Though remember that the beer they were drinking was probably around 4% ABV. Then again, ten or twelve litres of beer even that strength wouldn't have me on my knees. It'd have me unconscious.

"There are (in 1882) five thousand four hundred and eighty-two breweries in Bavaria, or a little more than one to each thousand inhabitants, which proves that a "long felt want" is not allowed to exist here. We have about two thousand five hundred breweries in the United States, so that some twenty thousand or more thirsty people have to depend on each for their beer. In Munich the smaller breweries have been gradually swallowed up by the larger establishments, and there are at present twenty-nine breweries, the largest of these using one hundred and thirty thousand hectolitres (three hundred and sixty-four thousand bushels) of malt, and producing about seven million gallons of beer per annum.

In all Europe there are about forty thousand breweries, producing about one hundred and two million hectolitres (seventy-four million eight hundred thousand barrels) of beer. Of this quantity Bavaria produces twelve million two hundred and thirty thousand hectolitres (eight million nine hundred and seventy thousand barrels.)*

Munich consumes nearly one million hectolitres (seven hundred and thirty-three thousand barrels), of a value of nearly six million dollars annually.

In Europe, the least beer is drunk, of course, in those countries where they either have good cheap wines, or where a great deal of spirituous liquors are drunk. France, Spain, Italy, and Russia consume but comparatively little beer. In the United States the quantity of beer consumed per year by each man, woman, and child of the entire population is about thirty-five quarts, or less than one-tenth of a quart per day,— scarcely a thimbleful. The Dutchmen and the Danes are ahead of us, drinking annually forty and sixty-three quarts per capita respectively. England rushes up the number to one hundred and thirty quarts, and then comes Belgium with one hundred and sixty-five quarts, and the German Empire with one hundred and thirtyfive quarts. But certain parts of Germany are thirstier than others, for the little kingdom of Würtemberg has the respectable showing of two hundred and twentyfive quarts to each of its inhabitants, while if we take only the countries of North Germany, the average is only sixty-five quarts. Bavaria still overreaches Würtemberg, for in Bavaria each person consumes two hundred and sixty-one quarts in the course of the year, showing that where one of our citizens drinks one glass of beer the Bavarian drinks seven and a half. Bavaria thus takes the lead of all countries in its beer-consuming capacities.

But if the last given amount of two hundred and sixty-one quarts seems large, just see what Munich does as a capital to keep up its reputation. The annual quantity of beer consumed per head of the population amounts to four hundred and seventy-three quarts, or one and three-tenths quart per day; more than thirteen times as much as the average amount for the American citizen.

Although, as I have said, the very babes begin drinking beer almost as soon as they do milk, yet the quantities consumed by them are comparatively small. Then again, if one takes half the population as being females, who, of course, are moderate (according to their ideas) in the use of beer, I suppose it would leave a showing of three and a half or four quarts to each male over the age of sixteen years. Now, four quarts in the course of twenty-four hours is a small amount to a Munich man. If I give the figures of the capacity of an ordinary drinker, and of an accomplished drinker on extra occasions, they will appear startling. I venture to say that there are thousands of men in Munich who drink their eight quarts every day of their lives, —there are many who drink ten and twelve quarts. I knew one man who told me he had been drinking sixteen quarts daily for many years. When I looked at him I believed him. I knew another who drank six litres (nearly six and a half quarts) regularly every evening, besides what he had stowed away during the day. I am almost afraid to write how many quarts a full-fledged student when put upon his mettle can pack away, my fear being that my readers might think I am an expander. It is a well-established fact, however, that a student can drink, and does drink at times, ten to twelve quarts at a sitting. In order to get some idea of this quantity, suppose it were put into our ordinary five-cent glasses, filled as they usually are (for it must be remembered our glasses are one-half foam), and we would have a row of about sixty glasses waiting to be emptied.

Recently at an evening festival held at one of the Munich breweries, which was attended by about eight hundred persons, twenty-nine hectolitres of beer passed their lips in about four hours. This averages about three and six-tenths quarts to each participant. It was a congress of scientific men from all parts of Germany; steady, staid old fellows, the most of them.

* I have not thought it necessary to trouble my readers with ragged figures, but have rounded them off, to make them more sightly, and the amounts thus given are sufficiently accurate for a work of this kind.
"Consular Reminiscences" by By G. Henry Horstmann, pages 335-337.

Maybe there will be some more about drinking babies tomorrow. Or perhaps about the deterioration of hops in storage.


Matt said...

I'm not sure how much heavy industry Munich had in the nineteenth century but if it was anything like the Midlands and North of England the amount of beer drunk might have been to slake the thirst produced by manual labour, the effects of which would then be worked off by more physical exertion.

As for the effect of that level of alcohol consumption on health, it may have been that industrial workers' life expectancy was so short that drinking twenty four pints a day didn't make much difference. You still get that "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" attitude in some Northern towns with low working-class life expectancy like Barrow.

Ron Pattinson said...

Matt, some of the groups mentioned - students, academics - wouldn't have been up to much manual labour.

mrbowenz said...

A bit off topic, but this reminded me of a story my friend and I had about 10 or 12 years ago , after splitting a whole case of Spaten Optimater dopplebock one long evening, my friend called me the next day about noon , to say he discovered why Spaten Dopplebock had TWO shovels on the label , he said " this first shovel is to wack you on the head , and the second shovel is to bury you with "