Should children drink beer?
By Moritz Kallmeyer
Master Brewer of Drayman’s Brewery & Distillery, Silverton Pretoria, July 2003
I was listening to the TV program 3 Talk on SABC 3 about alcohol abuse and the topic of children and beer came up. One expert strongly advised that children should not drink beer. I do not agree; if you don’t mind I’ll share my own opinion with you as a fellow beer lover.
In the 16th and as late as 17th century, children in the household drank “small beer” perhaps of about 2-3% Alc per vol. The staff at the Civic Orphanage in Amsterdam gave orphans a pint each of small beer a day as a type of supplement to their usual food. Milk was considered unhealthy – infecting drinkers with tuberculosis and also leading to “spongy brains”!
Alcohol use (enjoyment) and alcohol abuse are clearly two different issues. The matter I wish to raise is the fact that today in our sometimes woefully misguided society some households still insist on denying their children even a sip of good food (beer) until they reach an arbitrarily imposed age of 16 or 18. The forbidden fruit element of an enjoyment denied often makes for abuse as independency is acquired later in life. Worse still is that by steering our children to sickly sweet soda, instead of beer, we are encouraging them to drink preservative laden, nutritive-void, carbonated sugar water rather than wholesome beer. This habit also lies the foundation for drinking alcohol- pops. Good beer is good food rich in vitamins, soluble fibre and anti-oxidants and is good for our youth in supervised, moderate amounts.
So what better to give our children at dinner than a small glass of good homebrewed mild (or sorghum beer for that matter) malty and tasty and filled with all sorts of goodness but low in alcohol? They feel grown-up and with our guidance are able to develop an appreciation for beer that goes far beyond its alcoholic content. We are able to feed them something that is good for them, secure in the knowledge that the amount of alcohol is not more than the young body can handle and society is handed a youth who has been educated in the good points of beer as well as the bad points of alcohol abuse. Winners all around!