Feb 27, 2020
Dr. Jeffrey Pilcher gives a talk on beer history to students in the Henry Madden Library on May 2, 2017.

All “hopped” up on beer history

Many beer drinkers may have a glass at the end of the day to unwind, at an event to celebrate or at a bar to socialize.


What many people don’t think about is the history of beer and how it’s evolved. Dr.Jeffrey Pilcher gave a lecture on May 2 about the evolution of Mexican beer from an Aztec beverage called pulque.


The talk “Dos Equis or Five Rabbit? Beer and Taste in Greater Mexico,” which was a part of the Chicano/Latin America Studies Speaker Series, was held in the Henry Madden Library and attracted students and professors of all ages.


“Pilsner beer is not the way beer has always tasted,” Pilcher said. “It’s a product of history.”


Pilcher, who has published several books on food history, explained why learning the history of beer and taste is important.


“History of taste is one of the most exciting areas of history,” he said. “It’s more than a cool refreshing drink. It’s a way of showing your lifestyle.”


After years of tasting different beers and researching their origins and fermenting process, Pilcher said he still doesn’t knock mainstream American beers. He said his advice to new beer drinkers is to try new things – but if you like Bud Light, there is no shame in that.


Pilcher’s presentation focused on one lingering question: “Can we really taste the past?” He explained the best way to document taste is to change the way we talk about it.


“Let’s reconstruct the vocabularies that people use and try to interpret them,” he said.


Malarie Martinez, senior history major, said she had never learned about anything like this in her history classes.


“It was very interesting,” Martinez said. “History is in everything. It’s very important, and it’s relevant everywhere and to everything we do in our daily lives.”

Joshua Gorham, senior history major, said he wasn’t too interested in beer history before the lecture.


“When they first said food history I wasn’t really excited to come, but I really enjoyed it,” Gorham said. “We have an entire aisle dedicated to beer [in grocery stores], but to think that at some point that beer was a national symbol and has developed into a giant global beer market was very interesting.”


Gorham’s classmate, Brandon Duval, also a senior history major, has been a bartender for the last 15 years. He said the history of Mexican beer presented in the lecture as familiar to him.
“He’s taken the history thing and made it more modern – it’s taste, it’s food, it’s beer,” Duval said. “It’s neat to know the origins of these things.”

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