Beer Legend #8: Drinking beer through a straw gets you drunker.
Truth: Surprise! This one seems to be true, bearing out the beliefs of countless college students trying to court inebriation on a budget—and who don’t have much concern about actually tasting what they drink. Turns out that sucking beer through a straw vaporizes a portion of the alcohol, allowing it to be absorbed through the lungs. (And legislators are worried about outlawing the alcohol-inhaling machines…)
Now we’ll have to reassess those ancient pictures of Egyptians drinking beer from a communal pot through long straws. Seems that they weren’t filtering out detritus; they were catching a buzz.
Beer Legend #9: Beer is a man’s drink.
Truth: Well, only if you’re looking at the numbers. True, more men drink beer than women, but women should reassert their claims to the beverage for three primary reasons. First, women were traditionally the brewers (or “brewsters,” as female brewers were called) in many cultures, where beer making was a domestic duty, like baking bread. Next, hops (the plant used to flavor and preserve beer) contain plant estrogens that might be more congenial to women. Finally, in our culture, women are typically still taught to be more attuned to flavor than men, and the modern microbrewing movement is all about flavorful beers.
Beer Legend #10: The “hair of the dog” will cure a hangover.
Truth: This is based on the old-time aphorism that the best cure for a dog’s bite is an application of “the hair of the dog that bit you.” Of course, none of us would rely on that to cure rabies, and the application of more booze to cure too much booze is about as credible.
If you’ve had too much to drink, more alcohol when you wake up may indeed make you feel better, because it maintains the buzz a little longer. It forestalls, but does not prevent, the inevitable.
Beer Legend #11: Coffee will sober you up.
Truth: No, your body metabolizes alcohol at a rate that is unaffected by whatever other substances you ingest afterwards. Nothing speeds up liver function, which processes about one ounce of alcohol per hour. The only thing that coffee—or a shower—will do is keep you from drinking more alcohol, which may give you time to sober up.
Beer Legend #12: The order of consumption of alcoholic beverages matters.
Truth: “Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear.” It’s a treasured truism, passed from booze-seasoned granddad to naïve youngster, but it’s probably wrong. As individuals, we may treat beer, wine and spirits differently—do we toss down shots early in the evening and mellow out with beer later; or warm up with beer, and then get crazy with spirits?—but in the end, the sequence doesn’t matter. If you consume a lot of alcohol, you’ll get hammered.
There’s no better proof that the above advice is suspect than the equally beloved variation: “Beer on whiskey, rather risky. Whiskey on beer, never fear.”
Beer Legend #13: Ale is stronger than lager.
Truth: (See “Dark beer is strong.”). No, there are weak ales and strong ales, weak lagers and strong lagers. The ale/lager divide has nothing to do with alcohol strength, but with fermentation temperature. The world of beer can be divided into two great families: ales, where the yeast performs best at warm temperatures; and lagers, in which the yeast thrives at colder temperatures. This sounds terribly arcane, but it has important consequences for flavor: cold fermentation is very tidy, producing a very clean beverage; warm fermentation allows for more odd esters—fruity and spicy notes—that are the hallmark of ales.