The great Greek philosopher Aristotle attempted to explain how to live a virtuous life through balancing 12 extremes of temperament. The idea of “virtue through moderation” was also present in the Pythagorean cup I took home as a souvenir from a trip I took to Greece as a gangly 11-year-old.
Aside from creating an equation that’s brutalized the minds of middle school math students for decades – Pythagoras was known for pwning his students with a wine chalice that drained through the bottom, and onto his students, if it overflowed.
He wanted to instill a lesson: have fun but in moderation — because if they didn’t listen, they’d end up with wine down their robes. And wine stains are just damn hard to get out, even in 2021.
So to put my minor in philosophy to use, I’ve come up with my own thesis: Two beers is the perfect amount.
As I write this article, I am currently two beers deep to show the latitude of skills still at one’s disposal after two beers. I can dance without paralyzing social anxiety. I can have deep and introspective conversations. And I can avoid an UberEats bill I may regret seeing on my bank statement.
So let me ask you, the reader, have you ever had two beers? Two beers could get you through anything – forget about a holy book. Get a pair of holy brews instead.
Finals? Oh yeah. A break-up? Bring it on. A Thanksgiving with your liberal aunt involved in a multi-level marketing scheme and your conservative uncle who believes Bill Gates put a microchip in the vaccine? Get ready for the political discourse!
But while the arguments about naturopathic medicine’s transcendent ability to cure illness and the Clintons drinking adrenochrome to stay young causes more damage to your inner ear than a Motörhead concert, two beers will filter the noise into a song like "Cardigan" by Taylor Swift.
Just look at the world around you. Comedy clubs, like Tempe Improv, have a two-drink minimum. Not because they want to support the consumption of alcohol, although they are a beneficiary of that, but because the amateur comedians during their open-mic nights need it!
Two beers is the perfect amount because one beer is pointless. Nobody feels a buzz after one beer; it’s just calories. It’s like ordering McDonald's. Sure, I could get some Sausage McMuffins in the morning, but they’re going to taste that much better late at night on an empty stomach fueled entirely by caramel iced coffees.
Chip Mulala, the minister of craft beer at Huss Brewery in Phoenix, said that the first beer is just an introduction with all the courteousness of a first date.
"The first beer has to be all about getting yourself acquainted with the flavor, especially with local beer," he said. "It gives you that opportunity to wet your palate and tickle your whistle. And the second beer really brings it on home."
And if the first beer sets the stage, then the second beer is the show.
"It brings you to that point where you're getting all of this great flavor, you're getting all this great balance, you're getting something new or something that you really enjoy and love," Mulala said.
And if two beers are the show, three is the messy after-party. That's not always the best thing, Mulala said.
"I do believe that to get to a point after two beers where it's beyond really kind of enjoying and appreciating the nuances of what's been happening with that beer," Mulala said.
And three beers is a quick road to four … then five … and then a text to your ex. C'mon, you’re better than that! (And they definitely don’t want you back after you called them during the early stages of a multi-beer bender).
"After that second beer we definitely start going into what I like to call the spirit world," Mulala said.
Yet even Harvard – yes, the one that produced Mark Zuckerberg – found in more than 100 studies that moderate drinking, identified as one to two drinks per day, decreased the risk of “heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes” by 25-40%.
I’m smarter than Harvard because I didn’t need 100 studies to tell me that two beers are a good thing.
More importantly, two beers make writing a 10-page paper on Ayn Rand and her moralizing of capitalism writings bearable. Scratch that. You might need more beer for a paper on Ayn Rand, but at that point, it’s just self-care.
Ideas flow unobstructed like a stream, and if you're lucky you might just write with a coherence that will give you a solid B- for that English teacher that hates you for keeping your Zoom screen off.
Even a pandemic that has destroyed the foundations of social life for our hyper-communal species can be numbed with two beers. Living inside the bubble of your own home has wreaked havoc on the mental health for millions of college students.
It's no surprise, then, that many people, at least early in the pandemic, found solace through new passions. Baking bread, at-home workouts boasting "6-pack abs in 30 days," and making a cloud coffee recipe from Pinterest all proved to help keep us sane.
It also corresponded with a sharp increase in the consumption of alcohol. According to a study by the RAND corporation, there was a 54% spike in alcohol sales the week of March 21 compared to the previous year.
But if you're Mulala, you know that more alcohol doesn't necessarily mean a better experience.
"If you really want to enjoy it and be a connoisseur of it, two beers should be the perfect amount," Mulala said. "But I'm still fighting the good fight."