Reflections on ale and sex

At Gomer’s in Midtown recently, there was (briefly) a warning about “Brewer’s Droop,” a sexual malfunction apparently exacerbated by hoppy beers and ales. The Midtown KC Post went looking for the story behind the warning.

Posted by Joe Lambe

A recent trip to Gomer’s liquor store in Midtown found an alarming article taped on the beer cooler that told of Brewer’s Droop — impotence in old age caused by years of drinking highly hopped ales and beers.

This would be brews like the India Pale Ales many have quaffed for decades, the hoppy, estrogen-containing ales and brews that are now so popular nationwide.

An Internet search confirmed the problem and raises many philosophical questions for a guy on a trip to buy a six-pack of IPA.

If one is approaching what used to be called retirement age, does it really matter, since sex is less frequent anymore? But would amour be more common among older couples without this? And if it were, would that be a good thing or a health threat?

And how is it that this happened — was it some kind of puritanical plot to limit earthly pleasures? Religion was, in fact, among the factors involved.

The use of hops alone to preserve ales and beers generally occurred throughout Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries, Wikipedia states.

Before today’s beers or ales, brewers used an herb mixture called gruit to flavor and preserve the brew. The herbs were often mildly to moderately narcotic and sometimes included hops. They also sometimes included aphrodisiacs or even small amounts of poisons like deadly nightshade and henbane.

Wikipedia states that experts partly link the switch to hops alone with the Reformation in the 15th century and its Protestant attack on lavish Catholic living. They wanted to replace aphrodisiacs and stimulating gruit ales with hops, which tend to put people to sleep.

But the battle started centuries before then and continued for many more years, pitting economic and religious interests against each other. Church edicts and Royal proclamations slammed away with threats of hell or prison.

Hops did seem to make the brew last longer, and India Pale Ale came along in the late 19th century, with its higher hops and alcohol content enabling it to make the trip from England to India.

But author and herb expert Stephen Harrod Buhner writes that herbs in gruit could also have preserved the brew and made for centuries of healthy and interesting inebriation. The victory of hops was the result of a puritanical anti-drug effort like that against marijuana, he wrote in a 2003 article.

Once hops won, he wrote, “the vast majority of men throughout the western world were still being drugged by their beer, only now they were being drugged into dull, flaccid sleepiness.”

A Saturday article in the Wall Street Journal tells of breweries that are starting to make varieties of gruit in the United States, flavored with things like rosemary, yarrow or redwood twigs.

Another Sunday trip to the Gomer’s liquor store in Midtown found the disturbing article removed.  Asked why the store had ever put it up, a worker said they found it amusing. He was a young worker.

While it made one wonder, maybe the whole issue can be sidestepped.

These days, a certain blue pill can probably counter the flaccid harmful hops effect. That is, if a guy can stay awake.

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