A taste-testing tray of beer.
A taste-testing tray of beer. Contributed

You think Aussies enjoy a beer ... we weren't the first

IF you don't like all this fiddling with beer prices, blame King Henry V. He started it back in the 15th Century.

At the time the best brew was marked with an 'X' (a modern-day brewer liked the idea enough to use four of them). Henry decided the X stuff was so good it was too cheap - he passed a law that upped its price to one and a half pence a gallon and the unmarked brew to one penny a gallon, a scandalous rip-off at the time.

Henry, who seemed to be competing for Wowser of the Year, then introduced beer inspectors, some of whom stuck to the job. To test the beer they'd don leather pants, pour some on a wooden seat and sit on it. If they stayed glued to the seat, they gave the beer and their pants a black mark; if they were able to get up, they passed it as worth an 'X'.

Publicans found to be dispensing crook beer went into the stocks where they became targets for anyone wanting to improve their aim with a rotten cabbage.

It was in the 1600s that Oliver Cromwell decided to further mess around with the amber fluid. He stopped Sunday trading and introduced a law that those under the influence could be whipped in public and branded as drunks. Drinkers were allowed to bend their elbow only for an hour at a time and mine hosts who allowed them to stay in their pub any longer were just asking for a spell in the stocks.

You may think those two party poopers, Henry and Oliver, were the earliest to show an interest in beer. Not so. The Pharaohs gave their workers a daily issue of beer. And the oldest clay document, thought to date back to Babylonian days, has a scene that shows the preparation of beer for a sacrifice. People have been sacrificing themselves to the stuff ever since.

Blokes who these days would win a beer drinking Olympics, would be no match for the early imbibers who trained from an early age. Four thousand years ago the daily average intake was eight pints for every person. The booze bus would have had a field day.