Medicine Macabre – Beer Medicine!

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Ladies and Gentlemen! Do you need an excuse to drink? Do you suffer from all manner of ailments, imaginary or otherwise? Do your children complain too much? Of course, all children do.

Well have no fear, because with the use of clever advertising and an amnesiac approach to common sense and medical understanding, you too can enjoy rejuvenation and revitalization at the hands of the most unlikely remedy. That’s right, the alcoholics have been right for years: beer can cure anything!

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"I say Rupert, you look stunning." "Thank you Cecil. It must be the huge amount of heroin I purchased from my grocery store."

“I say Rupert, you look stunning.”
“Thank you Cecil. It must be the huge amount of heroin I purchased from my grocer.”

In the 1890’s we live in glorious times; steam-ships, steam-trains, disease, colonialism, electricity, and royal inbreeding. It is also notably the time where purveyors of medicine can make absolutely any curative claim, get taken completely seriously with not a shred of evidence, and earn an awful lot of money. From electric scrotum covers to restorative tobacco bellows, salesmen of our age will stop at nothing, including empirical fact, to help ease us of the burden of our hard-earned dollars and pounds.

It could be said that bartenders have been doing this for many years, peddling solutions in the manner of fluid-form partially decomposed toxic plant matter, and keeping people like Mummy and Daddy in an inebriated state of marital bliss. However breweries such as Pabst, Liebman and Anheuser Busch, eager to improve sales, decided to market their miracle beverages with audacious claims of curative powers. You see, it isn’t beer, okay? It’s a malt and hops beverage (with an undisclosed quantity of alcohol).

Nothing says 'buy me' more than a child hugging a beer bottle. Sorry, I mean 'malt and hops extract'.

Nothing says ‘buy me’ more than a child drunkenly hugging a giant beer bottle.
Sorry, I mean ‘malt and hops extract’. My mistake.

Far from simply being purveyors of an addictive psychoactive beverage, trusted breweries offer a range of magnificent efficacious cures for you to try out, utilizing not only the ‘therapeutic’ ingredients of hops and malt, but an unusually high alcohol percentage. Take Pabst for example, manufacturer of the fine product Pabst’s Okay Specific, which has the bold claim of:

…giving SATISFACTORY RESULTS no matter whether used in NEW CASES or THOSE of LONG STANDING.”

Curing what, you ask? Gonorrhea for starters, and the consequent gleet, which for those who don’t know is the fluid discharge from the urethra as a result of the aforementioned marital ailment. Like many of it’s competitors, Pabst Okay Specific claims to also resolve insomnia. It also cures hangovers, providing you keep drinking it. Consequences are for the weak, and the recently sober.

I can't dismiss the symbolism of the flung bottle - i.e. when Dad has had one too many 'medicines' for the evening.

One can’t help but notice the image of the bottle that looks as though it’s been vigorously flung – i.e. when Father has imbibed one too many ‘medicines’ for the evening.

Perhaps the grand-daddy of beer-based balms is made by Liebmann’s, a German brewery located in Brooklyn and already known for the ever-popular ‘Teutonic’ beer. In a stunning display of product redesign and extensive medical research, Liebmann’s took the extraordinary measure of simply adding a lot more alcohol and exchanging out the word ‘beer’ for ‘tonic’.

Teutonic Tonic (or just Teutonic to those pun loving folks out there) was an instant success, presumably to those who were already completely sloshed and unable to read the ingredients. Rather than claim you suffer from chronic alcoholism, you can simply and raucously exclaim that you have dyspepsia, insomnia (you just can’t shake that one, can you?) or just be an all round convalescent. As a ‘delightful table beverage’ (but not at all like beer or wine), you can cure your… whatever the hell it is, who cares – right at the source. Side effects include loud voices, sacking house-staff for no good reason and invading neighboring countries.

Refreshed = completely trashed on a Wednesday morning.

Refreshed = completely trashed on a Wednesday morning.

To conclude our trio of tonics, we come to renowned and respected brewer Anheuser Busch, who sell the appetizing yet sinisterly named Malt-Nutrine. Using the tried and tested cocktail of malt, hops and an extremely specific quantity of alcohol (i.e. lots), Malt-Nutrine claims to cure not only that dratted insomnia, but also:

“Soothes the irritated nerves, makes the blood rich and lively and greatly aids digestion. It makes buoyant health and good spirits – makes strong the weak and the strong stronger.”

Amazed? You should be, because the glorious and miraculous effects are nothing but a precursor to how it is:

“…equally nourishing to the nursing mother who takes it and the babe who gets the indirect benefit.”

Because nothing is more important during those nutritionally formative years than to have the mother consume regular quantities of booze. She’s only thinking of the children. Won’t someone think of the children?

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So there we are. It’s 1898, and you’re a modern citizen. Don’t concern yourself with regular visits to your physician or avail yourself to the glories of a society on the cusp of major medicinal developments. Nay, simply drink heavily and regularly of these fabulous elixirs and forget what it was you were complaining about to begin with as you gradually lose consciousness.

And when the government finally realize what’s going on and start asking these companies to legitimize their perfectly feasible claims, you can go back to drinking regular alcohol.

Because they’ll never ban that, will they?

(Sources available on request)


Dr. J.D.T. Pembroke – is performing his medical marvels of Eastern and Western medicine at the International Steampunk Symposium in Ohio on Friday April 8th 2016 at 10:30 PM in the Verona conference room. Come see a decidedly 18+ show as I remove tumors and make superfluous orifices in my victi- er, patients. There will be lots of blood. Weak constitutions need not attend. 

Want more to read? You can find more of Dr. Pembroke’s musings and articles HERE.

On Spotify? Dr. Pembroke invites you to listen to his collection of delightfully unsettling music in his ever-expanding playlist.

You can also find him on The Book Of Faces for his whereabouts, performances and other medically related curiosities.

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