Maureen Ogle

Higher Zymurgical Education

In the early 2000s Maureen Ogle, a professor at the University of South Alabama, set out to write a history of American brewing. She was surprised by how little had been written about the subject. That has begun to change. The spread of craft beer has led a number of American universities to make brewing studies part of their course offerings.

Meanwhile, other professors are exploring beer’s relationship with American culture, economics, labor relations, and even gender.

Randolph College professor J. Nikol Beckham brewed beer before turning her scholarly attention to it. The only African American woman in her community of homebrewers and enthusiasts, Beckham became interested in the relationship between beer and race. She discovered that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some temperance advocates used ugly stereotypes of German immigrants and African-Americans to attack saloon culture. Drinking was portrayed as an affront to America’s dominant culture: white, Protestant, and sober.

Beckham contends that after the repeal of Prohibition, scholars lost sight of the ties between beer and American history. That trend might be reversing itself. One example is the Smithsonian Institution’s search for a scholar. His or her job will include helping the National Museum of American History collect artifacts, and conducting field research for a project on brewing in the U.S., especially during the last 50 years.

Fighting Bad Science

A hundred years ago, one of the lies spread by prohibitionists was that alcoholic beverages were laced with poisons. According to historian and author Maureen Ogle, neo-prohibitionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest are circulating similar claims.

In a blog post, Ogle fired back. Among her salient points:

  • She knows of no brewer who uses MSG in beer.
  • Proplene glycol is a food-grade substance, and an improvement over the highly-toxic ethylene glycol.
  • Sulfite preservatives generally aren’t added to beer.
  • Consumers aren’t drinking “corn syrup.”
  • She knows of no brewer that uses dyes in its beer.
  • For well over 100 years, Isinglass and gelatin have been used as clarifying agents.
  • Repeal of Prohibition: Are We There Yet?

    Seventy-nine years ago today the 21st Amendment became part of the Constitution. But did it really undo the damage wrought by Prohibition, and the forces that made the “Great Experiment” possible?

    In 2008, historian Maureen Ogle wrote an op-ed in USA Today in which she contended that Americans never stopped demonizing alcohol. Here’s her take on what happened after 1933:

    States, counties, and municipalities burdened manufacturers and retailers with complicated licensing requirements. Lawmakers separated manufacturers from the public by inserting distributors between the two. A welter of laws restricted the hours and days that people could buy drink. New state-owned liquor stores oozed the “alcohol is evil” message….Children who accompanied their parents on those trips got the intended message: This stuff is bad!

    She concludes, “Put another way, repeal institutionalized the demonization of alcohol.”

    The Friday Mash (Model T Edition)

    On this day in 1863, Henry Ford I was born. Among other things, he pioneered the assembly line for building cars. Mr. Ford was a sworn enemy of alcohol, so don’t let him know that Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum, which he built during the 1920s, now serve locally-brewed craft beer.

    And now…The Mash!

    This is the last day to vote in’s Best IPA Poll. Currently in the lead: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.

    Iowa has upped its ABV limit on beer to 12 percent. Ryan Van Velzer of Draft magazine tells us what’s on tap and what’s in the tank in the Hawkeye State.

    Don Russell, a/k/a “Joe Sixpack,” takes note of the latest fresh-beer technology–namely, home draft kegs.

    Trying to convert a wine lover to beer? Evan Benn offers style-by-style recommendations.

    Sean Norquist, who blogs at The Hop Press, is beer hunting in Hawaii. You can find his first three posts from the Aloha State here, here, and here.

    Madonna’s ex-husband Guy Ritchie plans to open his own brewery.

    Finally, Maureen Ogle, the author of Ambitious Brew interviewed Beer Robot. Her “boxers or briefs” question didn’t compute.

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