Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The German Beer Purity Law

Back in the halcyon days of 1996, I was eager to go and live in Germany.
I was studying the language at the time and a brief sojourn was deemed necessary that I might perfect die sprache.
“Sure, why not?” thought I, perks a-popping in my brain.
A friend who had previously lived in Munich had once promised that the beer is so pure, hangovers are unknown.
Now, whilst even then doubtful that this could be the case, I was eager to put the German Beer Purity Law to the test via my own volition.
The first night I arrived, the family I was staying with conveniently hosted a dinner/session in my honour; the concept of living with a German family was considered the best way to improve my Deutsche in the shortest space of time. Anyway…
At the dinner on the first night I was introduced to asparagus for the first time and also, Riesling.
I was game for anything if I’m honest and Kalbitzers were generous hosts, almost to a fault.
They would hardly let my beer glass go half empty before someone was over with a top up.
As you might imagine, as a newbie to all this der, die und das malarkey, I was struggling a little on the socialising front (although it’s amazing how alcohol helps break down Hiberno-Teutonic barriers, linguistic or otherwise).
I could field short queries as to my heritage, age or preference for Oasis over Blur (you wouldn’t believe how many times I was asked that question towards the end of the ‘90s when abroad), but as for my ability with dissecting the legacy of the Troubles auf Deutsche, I was found sadly lacking.
As you can also imagine, I was therefore a long ways away from regaling my hosts and their friends with long-winded and wildly funny anecdotes about my student antics in Coleraine.
Although there was one sentence I uttered which caused quite a uproar, unintentional though it was.
This was surprising for a number of reasons. My hosts had not been prone to titters of laughter when there was nothing to laugh about (for a time I had been mentally compiling a list of most affective ways to make a German laugh. Number one on said list was: Hold a gun to their head and say, “laugh!”).
Someone at the table asked me if I had had enough or if I wanted seconds.
With the best German accent I would muster I said, “Nein danke. Ich bin voll.”
Translated that means, “No thanks, I’m full,” which was what I had intended to say, as I had eaten way too much grub.
Immediately though, the whole table went into hysterics although initially, I had no idea why.
It wasn’t until the hilarity subsided that a helpful chap beside who spoke some patchy English explained that instead of saying, “I was full,” ie my appetite was sated, when I said “Ich bin voll,” I had relayed, “I’m full drunk.”
The joys of language barriers and drinking beer!
It is only latterly that I learned that the Ich bin voll thing is something of an ongoing joke, Germans laughing when an Auslander says as much. Those crazy Germans! They’d laugh at anything. Not.
And lo it came to pass that Auslander Devlin and the Kalbitzers drank beer into the wee hours.
However as a friend of mine often describes his sessions, it was classy drinking.
No-one was falling around the place making a show of themselves (not even the young Irish fella who thought he was voll after his first glass of beer) but rather, it was all very civilised.
And yet, upon waking the next morning, the sunlight slanting in through the blinds I’d neglected to close the night before, I realised in the blink of a bloodshot eye, that something was very wrong.
It felt as though there was a large animal, possibly a yak, sitting on my forehead.
Was my head connected to my neck at all? In short, I was dyen with a hangover.
The moral of this story, dear reader, is that the German Beer Purity Law makes no difference whatsoever when it comes to being affected adversely the following day.
Therefore, with New Year’s Eve on the horizon and with so many of us considering imbibing as a celebration of 2018 in all it’s glory, remember, that no matter what you drink, if there’s enough of it, you’ll know about it on New Year’s Day.
As Mr Wilde once said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Have a Happy New Year, folks but one last thing… Oasis or Blur?

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