Stakeholders Reveal How Beer Breeds Social and Cultural Unity

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Mary Ekah
Interestingly, the focus of deliberation at a recent symposium organised by the Nigerian Breweries in Lagos, which had beer exponents from various walks of life, was on how beer as a beverage has been able breed cultural unity as well as increase social bonding across the ages.

Tagged, ‘Beer and Culture’, the one-day symposium, which was chaired by former governor of Cross River, Mr. Donald Duke, also had a lineup of experts and scholars in health, food and nutrition sciences such as Professor Innocent Ujah, a Fellow of the Medical College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and current Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba-Lagos; Professor Bartholomew Okolo, OFR, a professor of Applied Microbiology and former Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, amongst others as discussants to dissect the topic.

Duke who during the event said not only is beer low in carbohydrates but is as all-natural as orange juice and milk, noted, “You see, beer has no need for preservatives because of the alcohol and hops- both of which are natural preservatives. The only processing beer undergoes is the same as with bread – it is cooked and fermented, filtered and packaged.”

He held that it was most astounding that beer has no fat or cholesterol and when taken in moderation, beer can tilt high- density lipoprotein levels (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol rations in the right direction. “HDL are the good cholesterols that protect your veins while LDL is the bad kind that builds up in your veins. Beer actually flushes the system and can boost the HDL by up to four per cent with just a single beer a day,” the former governor noted.

Speaking further, “I have always wondered about the French. You see, their diet consist of rich, highly fatty foods, wine and those cigarettes. Yet, their rate of heart disease is significantly less than the rest of the world. This has been credited to red wine and the antioxidants it contains, which helps prevent heart attacks. Interestingly, beer just has as many antioxidants as red wine.”

According to Nigerian Breweries, the symposium promises to be knowledge-packed and would provide an exciting insight into the global brewing industry, especially as it relates to beer, health and culture. Not a few historians agree that beer is one of the world’s oldest recorded alcoholic beverages, with many positive qualities and benefits.

However, these benefits are little appreciated or understood by audiences who are daily overwhelmed by many unsubstantiated misconceptions about beer. To address these wrong perceptions, Nigerian Breweries, two years ago, launched a programme – The Positive Story of Beer (PSoB) – to change the conversation and improve the reputation of the beer category by sharing what is wonderful about beer. Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde said the objective of the Nigerian Beer Symposium has been to highlight and share contemporary knowledge on the wonderful product called beer. Despite the very strong ties between beer and culture, Vervelde emphasised that the wrong use or abuse of beer can indeed have undesirable consequences.

Also Professor Bartholomew Okolo, a Professor of Applied Microbiology and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who spoke on the social and cultural roles of beer, maintained that alcoholic drinks are a symbolic vehicle for identifying, describing, constructing and manipulating cultural values and interpersonal relationships.“In all cultures, different alcoholic beverages are classified in terms of their social meaning. Every drink therefore connotes a symbolic meaning and conveys a message. Thus the choice of alcoholic beverage to be presented and consumed at certain occasions is rarely a matter of personal preference,” he said.