The Surprising Mystery Of Who Invented The Beer Bong

You don’t wanna Google “beer bong.” (Or “funneling,” for that matter.) Whatever shame comes with kneeling in front of your drunk friends while a gravity-propelled river of Miller floods your throat, that’s between you and your friends. But once you start “researching” beer bong, you’re immediately immersed in the kind of “sad-naughty” basement drinking imagery that makes you glad beer bong tends to yield forgetfulness.

Not that we’re giving up. Any respectable research montage should be a minimum several hours pouring over old newspaper clippings and running simultaneous web searches on like, seven different laptops, all while some kind of tension-building EDM plays. We think we’re about halfway there. Minus the intense sense of purpose that might drive Lisbeth Salander. Also minus the dragon tattoo.

And to be unnecessarily honest, the stakes here are fairly low. We’re trying to pin down who it was who first thought it’d be fun to combine beer and gravity. It’s easy enough to get a sense of the contemporary beer bong culture. Just look at this (don’t get too impressed; Ryan Daddy Richards gets 6 down in just 9 seconds). But the “history” itself is a bit less obvious, surprising considering it’s fairly easy to get to the roots of that other storied drinking game, beer pong. Maybe it’s the rapid drunk that comes with it; people might not have been too concerned with record-keeping after the first spirited bout of group funneling.

However spotty the results, we like some of what we’re finding here, and it seemed only fair to share it with you — with the major caveat that these stories are either very likely untrue or else possibly believable but thin on evidence.

As for the “very likely untrue” version — not to mention very unlikely version — it involves an Englishman named Jack Henry, a failed developer of medical devices for women. How you get from that field to a device that exists solely for the rapid delivery of beer-buzz is a mystery. The story goes that Henry focused his work on what was known as “hysteria” in the late 19th century. If you know anything about the history— and diagnostics — of “hysteria,” you’ll know the cure was a certain device you’d more likely find in your neighborhood adult toy store than any pharmacy.

In 1896, our Englishman developed a — too aggressive? — device intended to “relieve” female hysteria. After that failed, he turned to a different contraption: using “the rubber from a straightened bicycle tire as a tube and flattened cans of beans for the funnel, the world’s first beer bong was created.” The device wasn’t intended as a beer bong. If we look to the wise men at HolyTaco.com, who were most likely high and/or giggling while writing most of this history, we’re told the device was intended to deliver a “high does of off-brand horse tranquilizer” to lady parts via a “torrent of liquid.” Our best guess is the device and its intended purpose both failed rapidly. And maybe it was tucked away for 60 or 70 years until some enterprising college students found it in Med Lab and decided to repurpose it. Maybe.

The first beer bong?, photo courtesy of
The first beer bong? Photo courtesy of Socrateas.Blogspot.com

There’s also a story online, more a photo, of what appears to be a Medieval drawing in which one person is administering some kind of fun-looking liquid to another person who is lying down below it. The photo was posted by a poli sci and history major, but the idea was also backed up by a University of Oregon history professor, Ian McNeely, in a lecture he gave to 2,000 students at Carnegie Music Hall (the one in Pennsylvania; still a big deal, though).

“Audience members seemed surprised by some activities McNeely described, such as medieval binge drinking,” according to PittNews.com. “He showed a drawing from the Middle Ages that depicted an academic laying on his back using a device that looked like a beer bong.” We’re pretty sure the picture he’s describing is the same as our poli sci student’s findings, and the style of the photo does look genuinely medieval. And, since things were so goddamn bad back in the day, we wouldn’t be surprised if a few serfs found a quicker way to get buzzed before the lord returned for daily lashings.

Whatever slim possibility there is that beer bongs found their way to college campuses via ill-conceived psycho-sexual medical equipment for misunderstood women, or the desperate efforts of some medieval dudes to get drunk before the plague hit them, we tend to agree with a guy named “Beefsteak” on Yahoo Answers. Who invented the beer bong? “Probably some frat boys.”

As for the future of the beer bong? It’s here. Witness the Knockout Beer Bong. It “turns any bottle into a beer shotgun, water pipe, gravity pipe, and a BEER gravity pipe.” And yes, the Knockout Beer Bong is indeed Snoop approved. (He really, actually seems genuinely proud. Awww.)

So yeah, the beer bong has a bright future. What phrase comes to mind? Oh yeah. Standing, or really kneeling, on the shoulders of giants.