Ingrid – October 15, 2018
I am not especially fond of beer (wine is my libation of choice), but even I can appreciate the spirit of Oktoberfest. Celebrated in the U.S., Denmark and all around the world this time of year, Oktoberfest is a rousing season of merrymaking with a pint or two or six of foaming brew in various shades of pale yellow to darkest brown. Music and food are often part of the brouhaha.
Originating with the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, Oktoberfest is still alive and well after 208 years.
At The Danish Home, residents, family and friends will celebrate with their annual Fall Fest on November 4, featuring a home-cooked frikadeller dinner, live folk music, a bakery shop, gift booth, Lucky Chances prizes, a mini-Danish deli, NFL football on TV, and (need I say?) beer, wine and other beverages.
My roommate Lindsay and I are planning to join her grandfather, “Farfar,” when the fun begins at 11:30 with those yummy Danish meatballs. Linz is daring me to wear the lederhosen and fake blonde braids I wore to a Halloween party some years back, but I’m not sure I have the nerve. Maybe I’ll stow the getup in my car in case the beer flows enough for me to work up some liquid courage.
Wearing a goofy costume to The Danish Home is tame compared to some of the things associated with beer and Scandinavia. I don’t know if it’s because so much of the year is spent in darkness in the Nordic countries or whether it’s because their citizens are some of the happiest in the world, but beer figures prominently in the Scandinavian culture.
One strange-but-true story features Stein Arvid Huseby, the first to hijack a plane in Norway in 1985. Drunk throughout most of the flight and armed with an air gun, Huseby falsely claimed to have explosives on board. His demands were to speak to then Prime Minister Kåre Willoch and Minister of Justice Mona Røkke, both members of the Norwegian Conservative Party. During the incident, he drank the plane’s entire supply of beer. In exchange for more beer, he agreed to release the hostage passengers and surrender his weapon. When the plane landed, it was swamped by police and Huseby was arrested.
Another Nordic beer tale involves Denmark’s Carlsberg, particularly its Special Brew made in honor of England’s former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was quite a fan of the drink. Before 2015, when Special Brew – nicknamed “Spesh” and “tramp juice” – became less potent in accord with a government pledge, the beer contained 9 percent alcohol by volume. No wonder it’s known as a beer that gets you very drunk, very cheaply. Perhaps it makes sense that a brew created at the behest of the Danish government for Churchill’s 1950 visit to Copenhagen would contain high contents of the stuff the British Bulldog loved so much.
From the annals of Carlsberg again comes the story of its special gift to Niels Bohr, a Danish scientist who won the Nobel Prize in 1922 for his work with atoms and quantum mechanics. Passionate about science, Carlsberg had a lab dedicated to developing better beer, principally by way of isolating the species of yeast used to brew pale lagers. I can only imagine those brewers’ excitement when a fellow countryman won the most prestigious prize in scientific discovery. To thank him, they installed a pipeline in Bohr’s home directly connected to the brewery. Free beer on tap!
Going back a few centuries – seven, to be exact – infants in a district of Norway low on water were baptized with beer. However, it didn’t take long for Pope Gregory IX to decree that baptism by beer was an invalid form of the sacrament. “Since, according to the Gospel teaching, a man must be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, those are not to be considered validly baptized who have been baptized with beer,” he said.
And to think all the beers that have been dumped on people throughout the ages might have been a blessing.