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Fascinating facts worth knowing about beer

Think you know everything about beer? This collection of fascinating beer-related facts might surprise you.

Do you know what the world’s most expensive beer is? Or that the heavier your wife is the more beer you could win by hauling her around an obstacle course? Yes, really.

From beer tsunamis, ancient Sumerian brewers and Egyptian architecture, beer has impacted upon all corners of the world in a variety of interesting and surprising ways. So drink in the following beery-tidbits – one of them might just win you the pot in your next pub quiz.

Click on to discover some of the most useless, yet useful, facts about beer ….

A beer ‘tsunami’ swept through London in 1814

On 17 October, 1814, an enormous wave of beer washed across London after a huge vat ruptured at the Meux and Company brewery in Tottenham Court Road. More than 323,000 imperial gallons (1,470,000 litres) of beer gushed through the streets destroying two homes and a wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub, trapping teenage employee Eleanor Cooper under the rubble. Neighbouring George Street and New Street were swamped with alcohol, killing a mother and daughter who were taking tea and reportedly surged through a room of people who had gathered for a wake. Families who lived in basement rooms were flooded, with at least eight people known to have drowned. 

The brewery was eventually taken to court over the accident, but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God by the judge and jury, leaving no one responsible.

Being a top wife carrier can win you beer

A couple in North America demonstrate the Estonian-style wife carry

Every year the Wife Carrying World Championships are held in Sonkajärvi, Finland, wherby men race each other through an obstacle course while carrying their wife over their shoulder. Several types of carrying are permitted including the piggyback, fireman’s carry or Estonian-style, in which the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist. The prize for the winner? Their wife’s bodyweight in beer.

Wife carrying is currently practiced in Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, Estonia, the UK and Finland.

George Washington loved beer

George Washington was particularly fond of beer, so much so that he brewed beer on site at his residence at Mount Vernon in Virginia. According to, beer and porter were among the beverages offered during a dinner at the residence in 1799, while a clergyman recorded that Washington would often have “a silver pint cup or mug of beer, placed by his plate, which he drank while dining.”

Martha Washington’s grandson revealed in later years that Washington generally “drank a home-made beverage” at dinner, which probably referred to the beer brewed on the estate.

On the last page of a manuscript notebook kept by Washington in the late 1750s is a recipe for a weak beer, intended to be consumed by servants and children due to its lower alcohol content.


The oldest recipe for beer is nearly 4,000 years old

Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer and brewing.

The oldest evidence of beer production dates back to about 7,000 years ago in Iran, where scientists have carried out chemical tests on ancient pottery to determine that fermentation had been used to make alcohol.

In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer can be found on a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet which shows people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl, believed to be beer.

The oldest surviving recipe for beer can be found within a 3,900 year-old Sumerian poem honouring Ninkasi – the patron goddess of brewing. The poem contains references to the production of beer, also known as kash, using barley via bread. Written in circa 1800 BC, the poem explains how grain was made into “bappir”, or bread, before being fermented with grapes and honey. The resulting mixture was drunk unfiltered, hence the need for straws.

Most expensive beer

The world’s most expensive single bottle of beer is Vieille Bon Secours’ Belgian ale which retails at £700 ($1,165) for 12-litres, making a pint cost around £33.

However the most expensive beer by volume is most likely to be BrewDog’s The End of History. The 55% abv limited edition brew was sold encased in taxidermy squirrel or stoat at £500 ($832) for a 330ml bottle. Released in 2010, only 11 bottles of the blond Belgian ale were produced.



World’s strongest beer

The title of world’s strongest beer is currently held by Scottish brewer Brewmeister, who released its 67.5% abv Snake Venom in 2013.

Brewed with smoked peat malt and two varieties of yeast, brewers Lewis Shand and John McKenzie took nine months to create the beer after some of its fans apparently said that their previous 65% attempt, “Armageddon”, wasn’t strong enough.

The beer comes with a warning on the label telling drinkers not have more than one of the beers in a sitting. A 275ml bottle costs £50.

Feeling empty?

The fear of finding yourself with an empty beer glass is an actual real-life condition known as Cenosillicaphobia.

The study of beer and beer-making meanwhile is called zythology, deriving from the Greek words “zythos” (beer) and “logos” (study).

The Macmillan dictionary describes it as: “The study of beer and beer-making, including the role particular ingredients play in the brewing process. A zythologist is a student and connoisseur of beer who possess knowledge of ingredients, pouring techniques and beer pairings.”

Beer helped to build Egypt’s pyramids

The thousands of labourers used to build Egypt’s Giza pyramids were not paid with money, but with a ration of ten loaves and a measure of beer, 1 gallon a day to be precise. Supervisors with a higher status were apparently entitled to hundreds of loaves and many jugs of beer a day, according to the BBC’s history pages.

The structures are said to have been built over a 20 year period with around 4,000 primary labourers (quarry workers, hauliers and masons) working alongside 16-20,000 secondary workers (ramp builders, tool-makers, mortar mixers and those providing back-up services such as supplying food, clothing and fuel).

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