Shake Shake Shake your Chibuku

Above, you see a group of rugby players attempting to try an African-produced beer-type drink called Chibuku Shake Shake.  This is technically ‘beer’, but not as we know it.  It’s a thick milky, brown-ish alcoholic beverage from Africa, made from sorghum.

As you can see in the video, it is served in a milk carton.  Interestingly, it’s alcohol content is not constant – as it is first packaged, it starts with a very low concentration, and gradually increases over time (after you buy it, if you don’t drink it right away, it gets stronger).  But, after about a week on the shelf, you wouldn’t want to drink it anymore, as it goes bad.  In fact, seeing this video, you may not want to drink it at all, as it appears pretty bad to begin with!

I learned about Chibuku from the following map:


This is from the BBC – a world map of the favorite or most commonly consumed alcohol drinks across the world.

Orange countries love beer.  Yellow colored countries prefer spirits (aka ‘hard liquor’), and red countries dig their wine.  But those green countries – they love ‘other beverages’ – which led me to discovering Chibuku and a variety of other interesting and obscure variants out there.

Follow this link to article and the BBC Booze Calculator.  This will let you plug in your own weekly consumption habits and compare to international drinkers and countries the world over.  Not sure how much Chibuku you’re chugging down, but maybe you want to check out how much beer Canadians actually consume…


Big Culture, Big Alcohol







Alcohol is part of our culture.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that in the past of number of years, the breadth of alcohol culture has increased, -its availability has widened.

It’s a lot more places than it ever used to be…

We see the possibility of booze being consumed where we get our haircut, at Starbucks, at the whole darned festival instead of just the beer tent, on the golf course, at the Farmer’s market.  We can buy it at the Supermarket.

This is in part due to market forces – economics.  Connected to economics and money as a driver, is marketing.  Marketing is the communication between corporate entities and consumer audiences, trying to entice changes in our choices and behaviour.  Marketing is a huge part of how we think, imagine, behave and define our social expectations.

For example, the diamond ring as an engagement present is a relatively new idea, perpetuated through mass marketing of diamonds by the DeBeers corporation.  Essentially, marketing convinced us as a society that diamonds are a symbol of love and commitment…and they sold a whole lot more diamonds after that.  It’s a very famous story.

The same principles hold true to alcohol marketing.  While economics have created pressure to allow alcohol to be available in more places, marketing has worked to create alcohol as a normal, everyday thing – a symbol of fun, ceremony or social exuberance.

Yet, let’s think for a second:

  • no one hands out samples of other recreational drugs at the Supermarket
  • there are no other recreational drugs that are advertised in print, or on television to make us feel we’ll be more attractive, popular, or likely to find a sexual partner if we partake…
  • no other recreational drugs have posters at the bus stop, or on huge billboards, or have hilarious commercials during sporting events
  • no other recreational drugs have massive sponsorship deals to support sports, athletes, car-racing or the arts…

Yet we have all this and much, much more for alcohol, convincing us that alcohol is a normal, fun, exciting, sexy, dynamic, funny, crazy, wonderful thing.  And while any one of us might feel this way in regards to booze for a social occasion or two, the truth is that over-consumption of alcohol is killing us, and costing us billions as a society.


The Bounds of Plausibility…


Recently, an advertisement for beer was pulled off the airwaves.  In the ad, a clutch of skiers are enticed to go off the beaten path (the main runs on the hill) by alcohol advertisers, who are pulling off a marketing stunt.

Diverging from established runs is known in the ski world as ‘going out of bounds‘.  A risky proposition, as search-and-rescue teams would have trouble finding/aiding a hurt or lost skier if they were in the unknown wilds of a mountain range.   Plus, off of established runs, the chances of a mishap are higher.

The risk the skiers take within the beer ad is of course, rewarded by the ‘discovery’ of a hidden helicopter.  The chopper promptly loads them in, and brings them to an incredible vista where they have a spectacular experience.  The leap in logic is that this particular brand of beer leads to excitement.   An amazing adventure is just a sip away!

Let’s recall a few themes from beer ad campaigns:

  • hidden bars deep inside glaciers and mountains, where amazing parties are happening right now!
  • becoming a  moving part in a life-sized video game
  • secret research institutes creating clever products to help evade hard work
  • sexy, scantily-clad persons of the opposite sex who LOVE beer drinkers
  • incredible tales of survival across breathtaking landscapes
  • instantly available beautiful beaches, materializing from the first swig
  • the funniest, most absurd, most clever situations ever
  • raucous, insanely exciting sports events
  • beers that make you wise, desirable, intelligent, or cooler than a cucumber

Maybe it’s just me, but the farther I work down this list, the more preposterous it becomes.  It’s beer, folks.  Extreme athletes, karate masters, elite mountain climbers and robot scientists probably drink a lot less of it than the rest of us…


Risky Business!

It’s been a while since we’ve showed the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines and one of those cool, slightly accelerated Sharpie videos.  This one talks about how to conceptualize drinks.  How to count, really.

We can limit the damage from alcohol upon our lives, our health and our culture, if we simply become more conscious of our consumption.

We’ve been convinced by big media that drinking is sexy, fun, cool…and we see these images in movies, television commercials and in print media. But when we look at alcohol more objectively, we discover that intoxication and drunkenness are very far from those things.    Think about how big drinkers handle themselves in social situations, or within periods of stress.

Tragically, when we look at big consumers of alcohol we may discover aggression, slovenliness, habitual escapism, emotional instability.   We discover chronic illness, ravaged immune systems and worn-out livers and kidneys.  Sadly, we commonly discover pain.

More hopefully, if we learn to manage our consumption, and not pair it with our vulnerabilities, we can help ourselves.  We can create habits grounded in reality, instead of images fabricated to sell booze.  We can enjoy it, truly, and find that reasonable limits actually help to polish the good times.

#R2BT Kicks Off !!


If you’ve been following along on here on the Thirst blog site, or on Facebook as part of the Ready to be Thirsty Community…or you’ve gone even farther and committed to #R2BT challenge, you’ll know that February has kicked off with a boom!  Or, perhaps more accurately, the absence of…

Akin to the non-explosion of fireworks, we’ve begun to hold back from alcohol, to abstain, to withhold, to withdraw.  To use a fancy old word, we’ve begun an abeyance.

And yes, some of us are actually enjoying this non-event, as a time to reflect, dry-out, learn about ourselves, do something different.

But we know there are many temptations to come.  Maybe you like a glass of wine after work.  Maybe you party it up on Fridays with the neighbours.   Maybe you have a dinner party to attend and the company is better when drenched in a little booze.  Or, perhaps you have a concert or sporting event to go to, where excitement and enthusiasm is key.

Certainly the Superbowl comes to mind.  Heck, you don’t have to like or even comprehend Football to enjoy food, drink, merriment and frivolous excess. That’s why they throw parties!  And even here in Canada where hockey is still king, there are still thousands upon thousands who will take in the game, drink gallons of beer, and rejoice in the biggest single-game sporting event in the world.

Beyond liquid excitement is the pressure of others, drinking alongside us in social situations.  There is still often social leverage to drink up, and everyone feels it, whether we are so very conscious because we are going without alcohol for a month, or just within the circles of our everyday living.

Photo by Ralf Κλενγελ, via Flickr, Creative Commons license, no changes. 

Methinks we doth drink…too much?

conditions-disorders_mood_depression_alcoholTempting or terrible?

Cool or caustic?

Daring or dangerous?

I can’t make up my mind.  The more I read on the subject, the more I understand that alcohol is all those things.

Many famous writers of the 19th and 20th century were big-time consumers of booze.  I was reading an interesting breakdown of their habits, from Stephen King to F. Scott Fitzgerald.    These were/are some of the greatest creative minds of our time, and recognized as some of the most committed drinkers.

Looking online I was doing a tad of research as to whether alcohol spurs creative juices.  There seems to be contrary notions on the theory.  Instead, at least one modern day journalist speculates that writers, perhaps insightful and emotional creatures as a group, were not provoking their minds but instead self-medicating various symptoms of anxiety, angst and depression.

Then of course, they were human beings, with all the flaws and good qualities that we possess.  They would be prone to the same factors that spur us to drink, be they good reasons or bad:  popularity, social acceptance, availability.

Furthering the research, there is a recognized connection between drinking and mental health symptoms.  Not as a treatment, but actually something that can cause depression, or make it worse.

The literature also reveals that some of these negative symptoms can be eliminated or minimized by drinking lower quantities when we do drink, tracking our consumption, and/or having non-drinking days.

And of course, the greatest of all English writers knew much of the effects of too much drinking….

From Shakespeare’s  Macbeth [Act 2 Scene 3]:

Macduff:  What three things does drink especially provoke?

Porter:  Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.

Telling the Whole Story

alcohol story infographic

This is a fascinating document  

Essentially, we gathered the perspectives of people who live and work in Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka, as they perceived alcohol use and alcohol culture.

This was the good, the bad and all points in between.  We simply wanted honesty.

Once all the stories were gathered together, we noticed intriguing patterns, and insightful common themes.  This is a chance to understand how people really see alcohol in our communities, from law enforcement, to medical services, to your neighbour.  Take a few minutes and look it over and you’ll likely find many ideas and thoughts that reach you.

Any which way, we hope this document creates discussion and the opportunity for positive change.