Sept. 13 2013 06:47 PM

Sometimes the student loans are worth it

August 23 2013-269
The word for “love” expressed in many languages
Photo by Anita Cheesman

Here's a Fun Fact™ for you: Did you know that beer, despite being invented in the Orient some 600 years ago, is actually named for Lord Alastair Beerington of Sussex? It was part of an elaborate joke among the local British gentry, designed to mock Beerington's gluten intolerance and unusually strong allergy to hops. Though their teasing was a bit cruel, it proved valuable; prior to that, the elixir was still unnamed and could be ordered only at local pubs by pantomiming the various stages of fermentation. In any case, once the moniker "beer" arrived, there was no stopping it.

Here's yet another Fun Fact™: If you were taken in by any of the above, you've not been adequately schooled in the rich and storied history of beer. Also, shame on you for believing anything spewed by the Liberal Media. You really should know our tricks by now.

If you wish to rid yourself of your woeful ignorance of beer, there are many avenues available to you. Pursuing a master's degree in hoptological studies is a popular choice, though it's an expensive one. Joining a Trappist monastery is always a viable option, too, if a smidge drastic (very few people can pull off that clean-shaven pate). However, if you're one of those people who insist on doing things the easy and logical way, there's always the BEERology exhibit at Balboa Park's Museum of Man.

BEERology is a collection of lore and artifacts that demonstrates how beer has proven to be a cultural touchstone since time immemorial. To the Inca, it was the drink of the gods (in the form of "chichi," a corn-based beer). It was represented in cuneiform (a Sumerian script) in some of the earliest writings discovered. Beer is an integral part of humankind's journey to now, and this exhibit shares it well.

Museum of Man has made BEERology interactive, though probably not as often as most visitors would prefer. On select nights through next summer, the exhibit will be expanded to include beer tastings. In some cases, it will just make an interesting backdrop to enjoy delicious beers, such as the Craft Beer, Pizza, Sausages and Cupcakes (Sept. 19) and Flavors in Harmony: Pairing Beer & Food (March 20) events. Other nights will have more of an academic tilt, including Yeast: The Smallest Ingredient in the World's Favorite Drink, which will explore the contributions yeast makes beyond the simple (but entirely critical) conversion of sugars to alcohol. 

If you'd enjoy learning a little more about the beverage that increasingly dominates San Diego culture, this exhibit will likely please. Even the most seasoned of beer historians is bound to learn something. While much of the content would be suitable for any number of museums, it's particularly interesting to see it nested in the context of learning about our emergence as a species with such incredible capacities for technical knowledge and creativity.

Write to and Ian blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter @iancheesman.


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