Along with finding a cure for the common cold the rush to find a cure for hangovers has been a time honoured battle. The Ancient Greeks wolfed down fried sheep’s lungs, the Romans with drank more wine along with lashings of garlic and present day Scots opt for a can of Irn Bru and a full Scottish breakfast: but have a team of scientist working at the Hanover Institute for Brain Studies (HIBS) in Northern Germany come up with a cure that most will find harder to swallow than a plate full of sheep lungs or the finest Scottish cuisine?
In a recent visit to Germany I met with a student of HIBS who, being a massive fan of British Beer, recognised me from my British Guild of Beer writers photo. He approached me in a bar and in a desperate need to confess he disclosed, with some embarrassment, some of the details of the HIBS experiments. Due to genuine fears of being hounded by animal rights protesters he asked for anonymity and will be referred to as Hans throughout (other names will be changed too).
Hans told me that just like some of the greatest scientific discoveries the hangover cure was found by accident. “We keep rodents mostly Rattus rattus (Rats), we don’t like to use them, it seems barbaric and we often let them loose when the bosses and professors are out. Giving them a touch of freedom makes us feel better about handling them”. I noticed that Hans was shaking as he told me and staring into the distance with a thousand yard stare. He was either a very good actor or his story had to be true.
He gulped down his Wheat beer and gravely said, “We didn’t realise that one had fallen into our water cooler, we’d been experimenting on him with a chemical that we use to simulate degenerative brain disorders. It slowly breaks down the tissues of the rat and leaves dust particles it acts very slowly, over the lifetime of a rat. However, water acts like a catalyst and will speed up the process a hundred fold”.
“The trouble is rats can act like ants leaving a pheromone trail that they all follow in search of food. It’s how the Pied Piper might have managed to drive the rats out of Hamelin, by dragging the sent of a rat along a pathway then “herding” the rest of the rats along it. It’s a well known phenomenon. One rat in the water cooler must have turned to hundreds as when we returned we noticed the rats had all gone. We thought perhaps some water had leaked in and turned the rats to dust.
“One of our team had left the night before so we had all been out celebrating the night before, in hindsight this must have been why we didn’t worry too much about the rats. We all started to use the water cooler being very dehydrated. We noticed that after just a few sips we were feeling better. Even Olga (not real name), who was being violently sick, had perked up and was even singing David Hasselhoff songs with renewed vigour”.
“Franz then called us all over to the water cooler. We’d put collars on all of the rats with their names, somehow it made us feel more humane. Floating in the top of the water cooler was an amass of tiny collars. Due to the structure of the cooler the top of the water when filled was obscured, we couldn’t see the collars until half of the water was drank. We were all pretty disgusted with ourselves, we’d drank our friends.
“After the initial shock, we all started to ponder if the lack of hangover symptoms was due to the presence of the rats in our water supply. We found out that Black Rat cider, which hails from the UK was once made using Black Rats. I tracked down someone who remembered the cider when it was still made with rats, a woman called April Dizzard from Somerset. She told him the Somerset secret. That it was well known to be a hangover cure, one sip of rat and you won’t look back. I seem to remember her saying”.
“I love to drink and now I do so every night and every morning I drink rats,” he told me, staring down at the floor in shame unable to look me in the eye. “It works it really works. It’s a miracle hangover cure. When rats decompose very quickly they release a chemical known as cysteine along with traces of the B vitamin Thiamine. Together they both stop alcohol being released into the blood stream and thus, stop a hangover. We’ve turned the rat powder into pill form and we hope to go into production in early 2015. We know that the general public won’t be happy if they find out and I don’t want any part of it. Which is why I called you”. With that he left, running out the door and leaving his pint. The mobile phone number, the only source of contact I had for him no longer worked. “Dieses Handy ist nicht mehr in Betrieb legen Sie bitte, legen Sie bitte, legen Sie bitte …..”.