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The Belgian Plan to Give Beer to Schoolchildren

In 2001, Belgian schools waged a new front in the war against childhood obesity. In an effort to keep kids away from sugary drinks, a plan emerged to swap soda and lemonade for a healthy alternative: beer.

In this unique scheme, the school would serve up a relatively weak brew called tafelbier, which contains 1.5-2.5% alcohol (a regular Budweiser has 5.5%). Kids would choose between lager and bitter. The brewsky came in 25 or 33 centiliter bottles—a bit less than the amount of beer in standard 12-oz cans.

The plan was the brainchild of a Belgian beer society, the Limburg Beer Friends. The club’s president, Rony Langenaeken, came up with the idea after hearing about a Belgian study linking childhood consumption of sugary drinks to obesity and breast cancer. At the time, Langenaeken told reporters, “It's good for their figure and very healthy as well.”

The program was aimed at kids from ages 3 to 15. While some adults expressed concern at the idea of 5-year-olds chugging cold ones at lunch, Langenaeken tried to assure skeptics that kids wouldn't actually get drunk off such small portions. “Beer is for the whole family," he said. “I used to drink it when I was just six years old.”

The Lagere Gemengde School in Hasselt decided to give the plan a test-run, and it certainly went over well with students. According to a 2001 story in the Akron Beacon Journal, 75% of the pupils surveyed preferred the new brews to other soft drinks.

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While kids were psyched about the suds, parents had a harder time swallowing the idea. “The word ‘alcohol’ was and is still a difficult notion,” said Langenaeken. Some adults were concerned the brews would affect children’s concentration in the classroom, making them rowdy or sleepy. Unfortunately for all the eight-year-old Belgian beer enthusiasts, no other schools agreed to test the program, and the idea never caught on.

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The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
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James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
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Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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