The Friday Mash (Razor Sharp Edition)

On this day in 1698, Tsar Peter I of Russia decided to Westernize his country by imposing a tax on beards for all men except the clergy and peasantry. That tax would have killed Russia’s craft brewing industry, had one existed at the time.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Texas, whose residents insist that everything is bigger. The Austin Beer Works lived up to that reputation by selling 99-packs of its “Peacemaker Anytime Ale.”

The remains of what appears to be a nearly 300-year-old brewery have been discovered on the campus of William and Mary. It made small beer for the college’s colonial-era faculty and students.

Are beer enthusiasts getting too fixated on ratings? CraftBeer.com’s Chris McClellan, who watched a feeding frenzy ensue when a top-rated beer arrived at a store, thinks they have.

A deconsecrated church, an ex-funeral home, and a military base are among Esquire magazine’s 14 strangest brewery locations in America.

Gizmodo.com’s Karl Smallwood explains why beer is rarely sold in plastic bottles. They contain chemicals that ruin the beer’s taste; and they allow carbon dioxide to escape, making the beer flat.

Archaeologist Alyssa Looyra has re-created a beer from a bottle found near the site of the Atlantic Beer Garden, a 19th-century New York City hangout. It’s “a light summer drink.”

Finally, the Leinenkugel Brewing Company took the high road when it discovered that Kenosha’s Rustic Road Brewing was already using the name “Helles Yeah.” CEO Dick Leinenkugel showed up and bought the name for a few cases of beer, some pizza, and an undisclosed sum of money.

To Your Health?

A copy of the 1964 book, The Drinking Man’s Diet, led New York Times food writer Mark Bittman to write a column titled The Drinker’s Manifesto. It’s a response to the inflated warnings about the effects of drinking on one’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control flatly says that drinking too much is “dangerous,” and can “lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.” Bittman responds: “Many of these dangerous effects are indirect and can be mitigated: If you don’t have sex or get into a car after drinking, you can’t possibly get pregnant or in a car accident. (One thing about drinking alcohol, though: It can cause bad judgment.) The more direct ones, like heart disease and breast cancer, have so many risk factors that drinking may perhaps be discounted, especially in moderation. And there’s evidence that drinking ‘the right amount’—which is less than “too much”—can be good for you.”

The CDC also says that excessive alcohol consumption causes 88,000 deaths a year and “costs the economy about $224 billion.” However, Bittman points out that obesity-related illnesses cause somewhere around 112,000 deaths, and cost maybe a trillion dollars—and you don’t see any health warnings on a bottle of Coke.

The Friday Mash (America’s Cup Edition)

On this day in 1851, the first America’s Cup was won by—you guessed it—the yacht America. The “Auld Mug” is currently in the possession of Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle, which will defend it in 2017. That’s quite a ways off, so Ludwig suggests that you pass the time by filling your mug.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Oslo where, according according to GoEuro’s researchers, a 12-ounce bottle of beer costs $4.50–more than four times what you’d pay in Dublin or Warsaw.

Craft beer is so popular in Michigan that the State Police created a fake brewery, with “microbrews” like “Responsible Red” and “Designated Driver Dark,” as part of their latest anti-drunk driving campaign.

The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry is 26 years old and one of the NBA’s top players, but he still got carded at the local California Pizza Kitchen. Many of us share your pain, Steph.

You might prefer a beer brand because of marketing, not because it tastes better. Participants in a recent blind taste test were only slightly better than random at distinguishing among popular lagers.

Men’s Journal magazine has compiled the ten best beer commercials, starring, among others, The Most Interesting Man in the World, the Budweiser Clydsedales, and the Red Stripe Ambassador of Wisdom.

The polls are open at CraftBeer.com’s annual Great American Beer Bars competition. Voters are asked to choose one establishment from ten nominees in five regions of the country.

Finally, it’s a Great British Beer Festival tradition to show up in costume, like the gent with a Viking hat, those guys dressed up as priests, and a man who came as Prince Harry…Wait a minute, that was Prince Harry!

What Countries Drink the Most?

At FiveThirtyEight.com, Mona Chalabi crunched the numbers from the World Health Organization to find out which countries are home to the biggest drinkers.

The WHO data confirm some stereotypes; for example, France ranks number one in per capita wine consumption, with 370 servings per year. But there were big surprises, too. Namibia ranks first in beer consumption, with 376 servings per person per year—more than 10 percent higher than Germany; and Grenada tops the list of spirits-drinking countries, with 438 servings per person per year.

Americans drink more beer—249 servings per person per year–than any other alcoholic beverage. However, American drinking preferences have fluctuated over the years. Grain shortages during World War II forced Americans to try rum from the Caribbean (fortunately, creative bartenders developed new cocktails such as the Hurricane); and after World War II, vodka became popular—and it remains the nation’s favorite hard liquor.

As for beer, it was less popular during the 19th century because innovations such as refrigeration, bottles, and cans hadn’t come into wide use, and the beverage wasn’t as easy to transport and store as it is today.

The Friday Mash (MSG Edition)

On this day in 1908, the Japanese food company Ajinomoto—“The Essence of Taste”–was founded. Ajinmoto’s founder, chemist Kikunae Ikeda, discovered that a key ingredient in kombu soup stock was monosodium glutamate, for which he was given the patent.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Marshall, Michigan, where microbrewery owner Aaron Morse and his family have landed a reality-show gig. They’ll appear on The History Channel’s “Dark Horse Nation.”

Tin Man Brewing of Terre Haute has released Klingon Warnog. This officially-licensed beer follows the Prime Directive: “to unite both Star Trek and Craft Beer fans.”

Dogfish Head Artisan Ales is the most famous brewery in the Delmarva Peninsula, but it now has plenty of company, and that’s good news for local beer drinkers.

A new California law will allow students younger than 21 to sample alcohol as part of their beer and wine studies. Oregon and Washington have passed similar laws.

The Jurassic Park of beer? Probably not, but Jason Osborne of Paleo Quest and microbiologist Jasper Akerboom of the Lost Rhino Brewing Company are working with a 45-million-year-old yeast strain found in a fly entrapped in fossilized amber.

Philadelphians are upset at state legislators who want to close a loophole which allows pop-up beer gardens to operate without having to shell out six figures for a liquor license.

Finally, Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, says we’re not in a craft beer bubble. The nation’s 3,000 breweries is well below the saturation level; and besides, factors such as the variety and quality of local beer determine whether a market is saturated.

Hangover Cure? Scientists Are Working on It

Did you know that scientists have formed an Alcohol Hangover Research Group? A few weeks ago, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic sat down with Richard Stephens, a member of the group and a professor of psychology at Keele University in the U.K.

Professor Stephens had a number of interesting observations. Alcoholics, who ought to have the most experience warding off hangovers, actually suffer the worst ones. One big contributor to hangovers is the production of formaldehyde and formic acid, which happens about ten hours after drinking—which is why the proverbial “hair of the dog” can make hangovers less painful. There’s no cure for hangovers—yet—but a big fried breakfast can help because it’s rich in carbohydrates, which replace depleted sugar levels. And finally, more than 20 percent of drinkers aren’t susceptible to hangovers. Lucky them.

The Friday Mash (Sultan of Swat Edition)

A century ago today, George Herman “Babe” Ruth made his major-league debut. Starting on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, he defeated Cleveland, 4-3. By 1919, Ruth was moved to the outfield so he—and his potent bat—could be in the lineup every day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Lewes, Delaware, where Dogfish Head Artisan Ales has opened a beer-themed motel. The Dogfish Inn offers beer-infused soaps, logo glassware, and pickles for snacking.

Fans attending next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis can buy self-serve beer. New Draft-Serv machines will offer a choice not only of brands but also the number of ounces in a pour.

Moody Tongue Brewing, a brand-new micro in Chicago, offers a beer made with rare black truffles. A 22-ounce bottle of the 5-percent lager carries a hefty retail price of $120.

Fast Company magazine caught up with Jill Vaughn, head brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch’s Research Pilot Brewery. She’s experimented with offbeat ingredients ranging from pretzels to ghost peppers.

Entrepreneur Steve Young has developed beer’s answer to Keurig. His Synek draft system uses cartridges of concentrated beer which, when refrigerated, keep for 30 days.

Brewbound magazine caught up with Russian River Brewing Company’s owner Vinnie Cilurzo, who talked about Pliny the Elder, quality control, and possible future expansion of the brewery.

Finally, cue up the “final gravity” puns. Amateur rocketeers in Portland, Oregon, will launch a full keg of beer to an altitude of 20,000 feet. Their beer of choice? A pale ale from Portland’s Burnside Brewery.

One Beer, Two Beers, Red Beer, Blue Beer

Your political beliefs probably influence your beer preferences. Researchers have found that residents of counties that vote heavily Republican and/or have a high percentage of church-goers tend to buy established brands rather than generics or new products. Conservatives are less comfortable with uncertainty, and one purpose of branding is to reduce uncertainty and simplify decision-making. Thus conservatives seem to like domestic beers more than imports such as Guinness or Heineken. They might also have mentioned Coors, for many years run by Joseph Coors, who gave generously to conservative causes.

Beer Choices and Anthropology

Humans have enjoyed beer since the days before recorded history. But when humans have their pick of beers, what influences their choice?

Anthropologist Donald Lende has identified six criteria: “sensorial”, “corporal”, “experiential” “decision engaging,” “social,” and “meaningful.” To make more sense of Lende’s terms, Russell Edwards of Plos Blogs recruited eight subjects, who tasted a dozen cans of beer served in five different vessels, ranging red Solo cups to the cans themselves covered in a paper bag.

One of Edwards’s findings was that craft brewers did a better job wth the “meaningful” criterion: they not only brewed more flavorful beers, but they also provided tasting notes and associated themselves with local history.

Genetics and Beer Yeast

It’s a development that Nobel laureate Dr. Randy Schekman, a yeast geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, calls “long overdue.” The brewing community is finally studying the molecular basis of differences in yeast strains. Researchers at California’s White Labs and at a Belgian laboratory are creating the first genetic “family tree” for brewing yeasts and the beers they make. They’ve sequenced the DNA—some 12 million molecules–of more than 240 yeast strains from around the world. Differences among those molecules translate into differences in flavor and aroma.

However, it may take time for this knowledge to be put to use making new and better yeast strains. Brewing yeasts are so specialized that cross-breeding rarely results in a strain that makes for good beer. And while genetic modification is possible–the Belgian team has several hundred such strains in storage—genetically-modified food carries such a stigma that brewers are unlikely to use them anytime soon. That said, the Belgian scientists hold out the possibility that with more comprehensive knowledge of yeast genetics, non-GM cross-breeding will become feasible.

Powered by WordPress