May 16, 2008

Blogging Science Friday's episode about the science of brewing


Neighborhood grocery, Claremont Avenue, Berkeley, CA

An essential ingredient for (good) beer is "happy yeast." How fortuitous that I was listening to today's Science Friday on the day that I wanted to post here! Here's a highlight of the discussion. Click here for show details.

The general beer making process is as follows: 'malted barley is ground and mixed with water to produce an infusion or mash which is treated with several temperature steps that break down complex substances into simpler compounds that yeast can eat.'

Yeast is important. The difference between an ale and a lager is yeast but grains are also important. Roasted or caramelized grains produce darker beer. Another component are hops. Hops were first used for its antimicrobial properties but it also imparts flavor, "mouthfeel," bitterness, and aroma.

Did you know that malt liquor is a U.S. government designation?!

One guest said that liquid calories don't count in answer to Ira's question about the value of reduced calories in "light" beers.

Culture is also important. One-third of the population in the nineteenth century was foreign born of which one-half were Irish. There was also a significant German population. Both these nationalities have a strong beer heritage. The landscape also played a role. Wisconsin was one of the largest growers of barley and was the leading state for hops production before Prohibition.

Of course, the issue of organic beer was raised; originally, all beer was organic!

That "widget" in Guinness cans delivers nitrogen, rather than carbon dioxide, to the beer which creates smooth, creamy, "tight" foam.

If reading about beer puts you in a celebratory mood, join beer fans in honoring craft brewers during American Craft Beer Week.

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