Beverage alcohol has been central to human culture and economy for thousands of years. Archeological evidence of stills dates back to the fourth century BCE in Mesopotamia. Brewing emerged in Babylonia, in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, about the same time. Brewing and distillation were ways of preserving excess grain, turning it into currency and/or barter. Not incidentally, people liked the mellowing effects drinking alcohol produced.
Economic and Cultural Effects
Brewing and distilling had other economic and cultural effects. The first secular food purity law was the Reinheitsgebot in Bavaria in 1516 codifying the ingredients in beer. Taxes on alcohol supported the economy of a fledgling United States and have done so regularly ever since. Prohibition in the U.S. was repealed not only because it had led to a crime wave, but because the lack of Federal tax revenue from the sale of alcohol only exacerbated the Great Depression. The development of beer and spirits tourism has contributed to local and state economies. For example, the bourbon industry in Kentucky – manufacture and tourism – is currently a worth $9 billion annually.
The cultural context and economic impacts of beer and whiskey, especially bourbon, will be central to the Bourbon, Beer & Spirits course offered through Eastern Kentucky University’s online global hospitality and tourism program. Students will learn about spirits history. The processes for making beer and bourbon, and how to distinguish between styles of a variety of beers and spirits. They will study the marketing of these beverages. Especially the marketing in the context of travel and tourism, as well as industry initiatives to enjoy alcohol responsibly and manufacture them in sustainable ways.
Course content will be delivered through a variety of media including short virtual lectures and tastings, web content, books and articles. Actual tasting will be optional for those who choose not to imbibe.
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About the Author
Among award-winning writer Susan Reigler’s books are Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide (3rd ed.), The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, The Bourbon Tasting Notebook (2nd ed.), and The American Whiskey Tasting Notebook. Her latest, co-authored with Peggy Noe Stevens, is Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon? – Setting the Table for Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinner, and Cocktail Parties, was released in 2020.
From 1992 to 2005, Reigler was restaurant critic and beverage columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Currently she is a contributing writer to Bourbon+, American Whiskey Magazine (for which she writes whiskey tasting notes and ratings). She also contributes to LEO Weekly, and is bourbon columnist for Food & Dining and Covey Rise magazines.
Reigler is past president of the Bourbon Women Association. She has hosted tastings and been featured in whiskey festivals throughout the United States, including in Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Seattle, Louisville, and Smithfield, Virginia. From 2020 to 2021 she served as president of Kentucky chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an organization of women culinary professionals. She is a Certified Executive Bourbon Steward, a member of the Order of the Writ, and a graduate of Indiana and Oxford Universities.