At the Third Annual Nigerian Beer Symposium sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc and held at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday, scholars and culture experts noted the role of beer in the sustenance of the socio-cultural cohesion of people across ages.
Professor Bartholomew Okolo, a Professor of Applied Microbiology and a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in his paper on the Social and Cultural Roles of Beer in Society, noted that beer plays an important societal role in major life-cycle events, such as birth and deaths and minor everyday transitions. According to him, studies conducted in various parts of the world have shown that beer drinking venues have been identified as the most important venues for promoting interactions and friendships between people from diverse backgrounds.
“The Nigerian beer parlour is an example of such an institution where you could find a lawyer having a beer next to a plumber or a doctor having a beer next to a tailor. You could also find a professor having a beer next to a banker. In such circumstances, people can offer all sorts of support and even professional advice at no cost. It is possible to explore such settings for other benefits including security and commerce, for example in the creation of cooperatives societies,” he said.
Okolo added that alcoholic beverages are a symbolic vehicle for identifying, describing, constructing and manipulating cultural values and interpersonal relationships. In all cultures, he remarked, different alcoholic beverages serve different social meaning. Everyday drink therefore, has a symbolic meaning and carries a message.
“In the present day African tradition, beer is a regular feature on the list of items that must be presented at various stages of the marriage process. It must also be present during such other ceremonies as funeral rites, coronations, peace missions, special invitations, among others.”
Mr. Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State and Chairman 3rd Nigerian Beer Symposium, Mr. Nicolaas Velverde, MD/CEO, Nigerian Breweries Plc and Ted Mukoro, Veteran advertising expert at the 3rd Nigerian Beer Symposium in Lagos Last Thursday
Mr. Donald Duke a former governor of Cross River State, who chaired the event, noted that research shows that beer contains Xanthohumol that inhibit cancer causing enzymes.
“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 has just as many antioxidants as red wine,” he said.
The former governor added that beer is a lot safer to drink than the local bottled water.
“If you find yourself someplace where you are advised not to drink the local water, the local beer is always a safer bet. It is a lot safer than the local bottled water. So just follow the rules of beer drinking and you will be fine,” he advised.
Mr. Duke noted that besides being a social lubricant, beer is also a cultural spice that brings the right taste out of all celebrations.
“Beer is a drink that has become part of our culture. It has become a near impossible feat today for us as a people to have one form of celebration or the other devoid of beer.
“The ceremony will not be approved as successful if the variety of foods provided is not complemented with beer,” he said.
The Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries and host of the symposium, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde, said in both editions of the symposium as in all our communications, we continue to stress the importance of moderation and responsible consumption of the beautiful product, beer. He added that taken in moderation, beer has many defined nutritional and health benefits.
Mr. Vervelde said that he has been told that in some parts of Nigeria, no traditional bride price list is complete without the inclusion of beer. He added that he has further been informed that very often, even the beer is specified by brand name. However, out of modesty, he will not mention the brand name, but he is pretty sure we already know the brand he is referring to, he said.
Also speaking at the occasion was Ted Mukoro, a veteran advertising expert, who brought a human face to the conversation by recounting his personal experiences with beer. He gave an account of the day he got married in 1955 and how that memorable day was enlivened by the flow of beer. He also told of a different experience he had, which has two facets – the significance of beer as a social cohesion and the importance of moderation in beer consumption. It was the day after his wedding, a Sunday, when he decided to take his new bride and visit an elderly couple who had graced their wedding.
They had just settled down in the couple’s living room when the maid served them with two bottles of beer. It was just after Sunday service. Mr. Mukoro and his wife reacted saying “Beer this morning? No, no, no!” The elderly couple felt aghast, and expressed their utter dismay and embarrassment.
Mr. Mukoro noted that beer is not breakfast, not something to be taken instead of breakfast. According to him, like all enjoyable and exciting things made by nature– alcohol, sex, sports, dancing – beer can be irresponsibly abused or over-used. “Nothing enjoyable is bad until put to the wrong use,” he said