In the words of the inimitable scholar, Oscar Wilde: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes,” or perhaps it was the eminent Ben Franklin who captured the true meaning of beer when he said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” Words indeed but how true both adages are.
A glimpse back through the chronicles of historical data and you will find a rich cornucopia of information relating to beer, exciting, fascinating and even on occasions mind boggling, but never dull.
Take for example possibly the oldest piece of legislation scribed – the Code of Hammurabi from Babylonia in around 1750BC whereby the regulation of drinking houses was enforced and for any proprietor found guilty of watering down beer the ultimate penalty was death.
However, life wasn’t so bad for monks in the Middle Ages. One of their responsibilities was to brew beer in the confines of the monastery. Each monk was then allowed a ration of five quarts of beer a day (around 10 pints).
Historians have found that the amount of beer you were entitled to was largely dependent on your social status; for the normal worker it would be two litres, civil servants were allowed three litres while high priests and administrators were permitted a staggering five litres per day.
Despite the apportioning of beer no longer being curtailed, there is still a dearth of beer legislation hidden in the dusty archives of solicitors’ offices around the world. None more unusual than those that can be found in America, and with more than 53 states to choose from, you’ll find some very bizarre.
First port of call is the sunny state of California where legislation depicts no alcoholic beverages be displayed within five feet of a cash register of any store that sells both motor fuel and alcohol.
And should you ever be tempted to sit on a street curb in St. Louis, Missouri and drink beer from a bucket, think again. Not only would you be pretty desperate to take such measures, but it was also made a criminal act. But in fairness to this strange law there is a rational explanation behind it which refers back to the extinct Italian celebration Hill Day, during which beer was served in buckets to all and sundry.
But if you think these are silly you are in for a surprise. Many of the following laws are actually still standing, although not strictly adhered to, and provide us with a colourful glimpse of how the world of beer drinking used to be.
Not only do some laws infringe on where one is able to drink beer but when and from where it can be purchased, as in the state of Oklahoma where citizens must go to state liquor stores if they wish to purchase any beer stronger than 3.2% ABV. Then there are regulations by which the shop owner must adhere: beer must be sold at room temperature; only between 10am to 9pm Monday through Saturday; the store must be closed on a Sunday.