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Of Uganda’s decadent beer culture

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd December 2009 03:00 AM

THE airport’s bright security lights bounced back in reflection from his bold head as he stepped out of the first class cabin door of the plane clutching to his briefcase and camel skin camera pouch.

THE airport’s bright security lights bounced back in reflection from his bold head as he stepped out of the first class cabin door of the plane clutching to his briefcase and camel skin camera pouch.

THE airport’s bright security lights bounced back in reflection from his bold head as he stepped out of the first class cabin door of the plane clutching to his briefcase and camel skin camera pouch.

After a quick clearance of his immigration formalities, Peter Claus, the greatly sung official photographer of the former East Germany leader Eric Honecker walked into the lounge pulling his suitcase.

“Hi, I see that Entebbe airport has changed greatly and the air is totally refreshing,” he said as he handed forth his hand for a heavy handshake.
“Man, I am thirsty I have had nothing to drink for the past twelve hours,” he continued.

I knew Peter as both the man and the Bavarian . In his later capacity, he has grown into the culture of regarding the taking of anything less than a beer not worthy of the term a drink.

As a man, he had retired from taking water in 1975. This was after while he was in India, he saw how water could be at its dirtiest as naked beggars waded in a murky pool of water, which was also being drunk by some people. Everybody who knew Peter knows that whenever he is thirsty he goes for a beer.

I led him to the bar where he instantly called for a cold beer. The barman brought two beers and emptied the contents of my bottle into a medium-size glass.

“May I have a bigger glass?” said Peter as his Bavarian instinct let out. He looked wound as if to confirm whether he was truly out of Germany and he confirmed it when the people around him were not only black but also took their beers from the bottle using plastic straws.

“Tell me, is that how a beer is drunk here” he asked excitedly as he got out his camera and snapped at some people around us who used straws to take beer.

Whether pouring beer into a glass, drinking directly from the bottle spout or using a straw, all are acceptable ways of drinking a beer.

However, one thing is clear: while eating, there must be regard for hygienical practice that not only gives self esteem to the consumer but also respect for whatever is being eaten or drunk.

Another important regard should be given to acceptable mannerism and cultural practices that do not embarrass others.

Like any other kind of social behaviour, beer culture has developed over a long period of time. Despite the advertisements by Ugandan brewers which caution: “only to be sold to persons above 18” and “excessive taking of alcohol is harmful to your health”, Uganda’s beer culture is headed in the wrong direction.

The development of a positive beer the norm, Did the use of straws become part of the beer culture?

Many Ugandans, especially those from the affluent class resort to beer thinking there is a lot to be desired in our drinking habits which is going from bad to worst.

Such deplorable habits like that of pouring beer into the glass until it overflows and over crowding the table with bottles (darkening) as it was called are very debasing indeed.

If one does not know how to pour beer in a glass, and then ask the barman or maid to do it for you- most of them are trained for that.

Whereas if it is praise worthy practice to use a glass to drink a beer, it is totally unhygienic not to use glass covers to cover the beer.

Most Ugandans have been embarrassed by flies falling into their full glass of beers. Many people have simply picked out the fly and continued to drink the beer with little regard to its health implications.

Another hazardous drinking habit is taking a beer without checking its alcoholic content. This is especially common when a new brand hits the market.

For reasons of social esteem, many Ugandans like to over indulge themselves into beer drinking thinking it is a prestigious practice but its negative repercussions such as brokenness, hangovers and domestic squabbles are well understood arid documented.

If straws can embarrass consumers because the culture in Uganda took a nose dive in the 1970’s and early 1980’s when beers became rare.

Beer was hidden under the beds and only sold to known clients who hurriedly drunk it from the bottles to either avoid being caught or being asked to share with a friend.

Ugandans who were in the sixties known for sitting over a beer and enjoying its taste to the fullest soon resorted to un-beerly cultures such as mixing beer with spirits so as to increase its potency.

Others took narcotics, opium and cigarettes to achieve the same effects.
As it is with many other commodities, Ugandans left the habit of checking expiry dates of beers with the detriment effect that many have suffered stomach ailments after taking stale beers.

Due to the production of various beer brands, many Ugandans have found themselves mixing the different brands with resultant heavy hangovers.

In 1986 when the national Resistance Movement /Army took over government, a new phenomenon of straws crept into the beer culture. Most soldiers in the NRA were from ankole and the Banyankole drunk their beer from gourds using stick straws.

To the Banyankole, this practice was not only a matter of convenience but a cultural practice. As habits of those who are powerful become making the beer bubble out of the bottle and the glass, allowing flies to fall in and the bottle colour hiding the dirt that may be in the beer them which method is unhygienic and less embarrassing?

In most developed countries, the brewers take a leading role in developing a desirable positive culture. Most brewers have made glasses emblazoned with the brands of their different beers.

This s not only aimed at increasing sales but also making people to appreciate the practice of drinking from a glass.
Other Companies have designed glass covers to stop flies from falling into beers.

While in Uganda and indeed East Africa the manufacture of glass cups may be expensive for the brewers, they can never the less do with plastic cups and paper glass covers and invest in the improvement f beer culture in the region for beer if taken in moderation of a culture can be very entertaining, refreshing and nutritious. `

Of Uganda’s decadent beer culture

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