History in a Pint Glass

Happy Friday everyone! Today, we bring you the latest on how beer has changed history to prepare you all for the weekend!

The history of beer stretches back as far as humans have engaged in agriculture. Along with bread, it has been one of the most ‘basic’ foods throughout the centuries. Indeed, from ancient Mesopotamia to the spread of Christianity, the history of the world certainly has a frothy head.

And here’s a fun fact for you all… did you know that the first cargo ever to grace the German railway network was two barrels of beer?

And, of course, the British soldiers were not to be without their beer on the front line. In Down Beer Street, Mika Rissanen & Juha Tahvanainen explain that:

In the summer of 1944, just after the D-Day landings, he [Edward Turner] got a rather unusual order from the RAF and the Western brewery. They wanted him to produce some auxiliary tanks for the Spitfire Mk IX suitable for transporting beer.

In modifying the tanks, he had to pay attention to their pressure proofing and pressure balancing. When the slow cargo planes crowded the lower altitudes on the way to Normandy, pilots would fly above them, often at altitudes above 5,000 metres. As altitude increases, air pressure decreases, and when the outside air pressure is low the carbon dioxide in beer expands, and the beer either foams out of the tank or the pressure inside the tank expands.

By 1944 these tanks were being filled with beer that would soon be flown under the wings of newly serviced planes back to the Normandy airfields. Since there were so many different models and variants of Spitfires in use in the air and intelligence forces, the plans equipped with these new tanks were dubbed Mk XXX.

As summer turned to autumn, when talk changed from the Normandy bridgehead to the Western front, the Allies began supplying beer regularly, so the flights with barrels of beer beneath Spitfire wings became history.

Strictly speaking, the beer runs were not legal. Customs and Excise tried to tell the RAF they were exporting alcoholic drink without filling out the appropriate customs declaration. However, RAF top brass managed to negotiate a solution.

So, while you enjoy your cold beers over this warm summer weekend, be glad your drinks are coming straight from the tap and not from the sky!

Down Beer Street front cover


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