Scholars and culture experts have highlighted the role of beer in the sustenance of the socio-cultural cohesion of people across ages. They made the submission experts at the 3rd Nigerian Beer Symposium in Lagos on Thursday.
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, explained that In all societies, beer plays an important role not only in major life-cycle events, such as birth and death, but also in minor everyday transitions. According to him, in studies conducted in various parts of the world, 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 drinks are a symbolic vehicle for identifying, describing, constructing and manipulating cultural values and interpersonal relationships. In all cultures, he remarked, different alcoholic beverages are classified in terms of their social meaning. Every drink therefore connotes a symbolic meaning and conveys 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, who chaired the occasion, 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.
Duke also added that beer is a lot safer 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.
According to him, beer is not just a social lubricant, but 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.
Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde also stressed that the objective of the Nigerian Beer Symposium has been to highlight and share contemporary knowledge on the wonderful product called beer.
Also speaking at the occasion, Ted Mukoro, a veteran advertising expert maintained that beer is certainly the least alcoholic of all alcoholic drinks, and also the healthiest and most nutritious. 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.