“Ask Your Doctor if Beer is Right for You”

Most news stories about beer and health emphasize how unhealthy beer is. But for most of human history, that wasn’t the case. In fact, our ancestors used beer as medicine. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology found that before modern medications were developed, the sick were treated with beer and alcohol-containing herbal cocktails. He points out that alcohol relieves pain, stops infection, and kills bacteria and parasites in contaminated water. Alcohol also helps the digestive system break down food.

McGovern has found ancient texts that describe therapeutic cocktails. Prescriptions in ancient China and Egypt medical papyri called for wine or beer as a “dispensing agent,” with a varying mixture of herbs depending on the patient’s ailment. In addition to dissolving the herbs, alcohol made the mixture more palatable. Then, as in Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

Whether these ancient remedies actually worked is still up for debate. However, the bark of certain trees has yielded the key ingredients in aspirin, the anti-malarial drug quinine, and the cancer drug Taxol. And scientists are investigating substances in modern-day beer that might be valuable sources of medicines.

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The Friday Mash (Peanuts Edition)

Sixty-five years ago today, the Peanuts comic strip, written and illustrated by Charles Schulz, was first published. Peanuts became one of the most popular and influential comic strips in history.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Philadelphia, the final stop of Pope Francis’s American visit. Local writer Don Russell, aka “Joe Sixpack,” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the history of papal influence on brewing.

Israel now has 32 craft breweries. One of them, located in the hills of Galilee, uses chickpeas and dates in its recipe for a gluten-free beer.

Eastern Michigan University can’t win for losing. It latest effort to draw fans for its struggling football team—beer sales—resulted in a $3,000 loss. And yes, EMU lost the game.

After “some extensive field research,” Brent Nunn of the Dallas Observer has compiled a list of ten dumb things light beer drinkers say about craft beer.

Samuel Adams announced that it will introduce a series of nitro-conditioned beers early next year. The first three nitro offerings will be a white ale, an IPA, and a coffee stout.

Two Belgian scientists are making lager beers more diverse by cross-breeding yeasts. The new strains not only ferment more quickly than commercial strains, but are delicious as well.

Finally, blame global warming for pumpkin beers showing up on shelves before Labor Day. For example, persistently hot weather forced Rogue Ales to harvest its pumpkins weeks earlier than last year.

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The Friday Mash (Charlie Hustle Edition)

Thirty years ago today, Pete Rose, the Cincinnati Reds’ player-manager, broke Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits with his 4,192nd hit. Rose would play one more season, his 24th in Major League Baseball, before retiring.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Reno, Nevada, where restaurant owner Bill Wall won this year’s Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off. Wall says his secret to success is “just a lot of cold beers and a little bourbon.”

Texas’ alcohol regulators have ruled that bars and grocery stores can’t sell “crowlers” of beer to go. The 32-ounce containers are cans, and state law provides that only brewers can sell canned beer.

NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has built an empire selling everything from steaks to children’s clothes. Now he’s teaming up with South Loop Brewing Company to produce Witka beer, a witbier to be served in his restaurant chain.

Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is one of Africa’s leading beer destinations. The country’s first European settlers were Germans, and the Reinheitsgebot is still honored there.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have pinpointed the origin of Saccharomyces eubayanus, aka lager yeast. In 15th century Bavaria, ale yeasts used by the monks “intermarried” with other strains and eventually created a stabilized hybrid.

Wild hops grow in Park City, Utah. The hop plants, descendants of those brought to the town by immigrants, will be used by Wasatch Brewery in a special-release beer.

Finally, why did the Kroger Company pay $26 million for 19 cases of Miller Lite beer? The answer is Ohio’s liquor code, which requires retailers to have an “agency contract” with the state. Kroger and other chains are paying top dollar to acquire those contracts from smaller stores.

The Friday Mash (UN Edition)

Seventy years ago today, representatives of 50 countries meeting in San Francisco signed the Charter of the United Nations. The UN’s original five Security Council members were the U.S., Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China (Taiwan)–which shows up in this week’s Mash.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Goose Island Brewing Company is launching a series of beers brewed by its alumni. First up is Greg Hall, who returned 27 years after his first day on the job.

Duquesne Brewing Company is rolling out a beer honoring Joe Paterno. Part of the proceeds from the Vienna-style lager will go to charities chosen by the late coach’s family.

Carlsberg Brewing, with 8 percent of the world beer market, is pitching a line of grooming products to the men who drink its beer. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion.

Beer has been linked to “man boobs”. But even though hops contain phytoestrogen, it’s found in many other foods. The real culprit is calories, not beer itself.

Chestnuts aren’t just for roasting on an open fire. Dennis Fulbright, professor emeritus at Michigan State University, says they make for sweeter, smoother beers—which are also gluten-free.

A Portland, Oregon, a beer hall that opens next month will pay its workers at least $15 an hour, and will enforce a no-tipping policy. Beers, sandwiches, and sausages will cost $6 apiece.

Finally, the Wunderman Taiwan brewery gave a new meaning to starting a “buzz.” It dressed up drones as bees to deliver its new Honey Beer to office workers.

The Friday Mash (Juneteenth Edition)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom–which actually had been granted more than two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation. The anniversary, known as “Juneteenth,” is officially celebrated in 42 states.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Mystic, Connecticut, where members of the StoneRidge retirement community are brewing their own beer. Why not? It’s educational, it’s fun, and it’s beer!

Massachusetts has strange liquor laws, one of which bans breweries from donating beer to charity events. Oddly, the ban—enacted by the legislature in 1997—doesn’t apply to wine donations.

“Sweet Baby Jesus” is DuClaw Brewing Company’s flagship beer. However, an Ohio grocery chain has pulled the beer from its shelves after customers complained about the name.

The New York State Brewers Association has created Statewide Pale Ale. The beer, made entirely with in-state ingredients, is projected to raise $20,000 for the association.

What is the link between Magna Carta and the English pint? According to Britain’s Communities Minister, the “London quarter” mentioned in the 800-year-old document is equivalent to two imperial pints.

There are hard-to-find beers, and there are truly rare beers, which make “Pappy Van Winkle seem as easy to find as a can of Coke.” Esquire magazine’s Aaron Goldfarb acquaints you with ten of them.

Finally, DNA meets IPA. Gianpaolo Rando, a European chemist who loves beer, wants to sequence the DNA more than 100 different beers in the hopes of producing an app that will match beers to drinkers’ own hereditary makeup.

The Friday Mash (Pac-Man Edition)

Thirty-five years ago today, Namco released the classic arcade game Pac-Man, which became a staple of 1980s popular culture. Over the years, Pac-Man machines have gobbled up some 10 billion quarters, making it one of the highest-grossing video games of all time.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where the Atrapaneblina brewery relies on water collected from fog nets to make its Scottish ale. The brewery’s name is Spanish for “fog-catcher.”

Better late than never for this article. John Hendrickson of Esquire magazine had an interesting interview with Blue Moon brewmaster John Legnard at this years South by Southwest.

With summer just around the corner, Meghan Storey of CraftBeer.com has assembled a slideshow of the best seasonal beers in your part of the country.

Yet another reason to consider San Diego for a beer vacation: craft breweries are opening south of the border in Tijuana.

Kalamazoo has so many breweries that the city and a tour company have teamed up to offer downtown craft beer walking tours.

Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com says that beer ads are becoming less sexist. SABMiller and Heineken want to broaden their appeal beyond young men getting sloshed on Saturday night.

Finally, the shape of your glass can influence whether you wind up having too many. Straight glasses and those with the amounts marked are less conducive to over-indulging than curved and unmarked glasses.

Using DNA to Spot Bad Beer

The Russian River Brewing Company is famous for its Pliny IPAs. It also brews sour beers steeped in Pediococcus and Lactobacillus, which give them their funky taste. Problem is, those bacilli can destroy the taste of IPA. As a result, Russian River has gone to great lengths to make sure the equipment and people associated with the two styles are kept separate.

Tiny amounts of bacteria can ruin thousands of dollars worth of beer. Most breweries use a technique called plating, in which a small sample of beer is placed in an incubator; if the beer is infected, a bacteria colony will appear. However, plating takes time. To find bacteria faster, Russian River has bought BrewPal, a new testing technology from a Philadelphia-based company called Invisible Sentinel.

BrewPal identifies the DNA of the specific types of Pediococcus and Lactobacillus that damage batches of beer. It uses a three-step process. First, a sample of beer is run through a centrifuge, and then into the BrewPal hardware. Second, the sample is heated and then cooled for 2-1/2 hours so that the bacteria’s DNA can be amplified. Finally, the sample is dropped into a disposable plastic reader that resembles a home pregnancy test: it tells whether the bacteria are present, and whether the infection is mild or severe.

A full BrewPal system retails for around $5,000, so it’s affordable for many craft breweries.

What Does 170-Year-Old Beer Taste Like?

Five years ago, divers off the coast of Finland found beer and Champagne preserved underwater inside a 170-year-old shipwreck. Being naturally curious, scientists wanted to know what the beer tasted like. When they sampled the beer, they found it foul-smelling and sour—so sour they couldn’t tell how it was originally meant to taste.

So the scientists subjected the beer to chemical analysis using the latest technology. The machinery cut through their the beers’ awful taste and revealed their molecular structure.

A56 and C49 turned out to clearly be different beers. C49 was much hoppier and thus more bitter. An analysis of yeast-derived flavor compounds—basically the stuff that gives beers its fruity and floral notes—also revealed rose and sweet apples flavors that were high in A56. C49 had a higher concentration of flavor compounds for green tea.

Some flavor differences may be because of how beer was brewed differently in the 19th century. For example, A56 contained much more of a compound called furfural, which is possibly the result of mash being heated over an open fire. Both beers, even when they were fresh, were also more sour than your average modern brew. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that brewers learned how to keep acid-producing bacteria out of beer. Until that breakthrough, pretty much all beer, including A56 and C49, was sour beer.

It’s only a matter of time—far less than another 170 years—before some brewery tries to reverse-engineer these beers and put them on the market.

The Friday Mash (ASCAP Edition)

On this day in 1914, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers was formed. This performance-rights organization takes in close to $1 billion in licensing fees, most of which it distributes to artists as royalties.

And now (cue the music)…The Mash!

We begin in the Verizon Center in Washington, where the Brooklyn Nets’ Mason Plumlee committed the ultimate party foul. He crashed into a courtside vendor, sending $200 worth of beer flying.

Researchers have found that if you’re seen holding a glass of beer, you will be perceived as less intelligent. It’s called “the imbibing idiot bias”: we closely associate drinking and dumb behavior.

The Louisville Courier-Journal asked local brewers how they name their beers. Just as they brew their beers differently, they follow different processes for naming them.

One beer trend that’s taking off this year is grocery store growlers. For example, several Kroger locations in Virginia are offering 32- and 64-ouncers with a choice of eight different taps.

China’s anti-corruption campaign has been a drag on the brewing indsutry. Government officials are refusing invitations to go drinking out of fear of being accused of taking bribes.

Drinking beer out of cans might endanger your health. Cans are lined with epoxy that contains bisphenol-A, a chemical that’s been linked to a number of serious ailments.

Finally, Scottish brewery Innis & Gunn has released a Fifty Shades of Grey-inspired beer. It’s fortified with ginseng to boost the sex drive, ginkgo biloba to get the blood pumping, and a mild nerve stimulant called damiana.

The Friday Mash (Railroad Tycoon Edition)

Two hundred years ago today, the state of New Jersey awarded the first-ever railroad franchise to Colonel John Stevens III, the inventor who constructed America’s first steam locomotive.

And the bar car is open!

Fore! We begin at the 16th hole of the Phoenix Open, where rowdy spectators celebrated Francesco Molinari’s hole-in-one by showering him with beer and other flying objects.

A Minnesota brewery found out that it can’t sell “Rated R” beer. Not because of violence or sex, but because the Motion Picture Association of America trademarked the phrase. Molson’s XXX is, presumably, still in the clear.

MillerCoors has installed 10,000 solar panels at its Irwindale, California, brewery. The new system will generate enough electricity to brew seven million cases of beer each year.

Blank Slate Brewing Company joined forces with Oskar Blues Brewery to brew “Cincy 3-Way Porter.” The beer contains cumin, coriander, allspice and cinnamon, which are found in Cincinnati-style chili.

Researchers in China have discovered that xanthohumol, a substance found in hops, contains anti-oxidants that may delay or even prevent the onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

Ontario’s government plans some changes to its relationship with The Beer Store, the province’s quasi-monopoly. However, those changes won’t bring beer into convenience stores.

Finally, Yeti Coolers has invented a super-luxury koozie. The Colster, which retails for $30, wraps a beer in a stainless steel, double-walled, vacuum-insulated enclosure; and its “No Sweat” design prevents condensation from forming.

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