Ninety years ago today, the first numbering system for U.S. highways was approved. The 21 numbered highways in the initial group included U.S. 60, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles; it was later renumbered and became the famous “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66.
And now…The Mash!
We begin at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, where hundreds of fans lined up to buy bottles of limited-edition “Big Hapi” beer, brewed to honor now-retired Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Beer aficionados reacted furiously to TV food and travel personality Anthony Bourdain’s comments likening the clientele at a San Francisco beer bar to the “(expletive deleted) Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
A court in Stuttgart, Germany, ruled that breweries can’t use the word “bekömmlich”—“wholesome” in English—in their advertising because European Union regulations prohibit health claims in alcohol ads.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will start canning its beers later this month. Brewery CEO Sam Calagione is now convinced that canning technology can deliver a consistent, high-quality product.
The YouTube channel Celebrities in Golf Carts is trying to bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials with a new sport called Beer Pong Golf.
Dissatisfied with local distributors, Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing created its own distributorship. It’s offering breweries friendlier contracts, more personal attention, and deliveries of fresher beer.
Finally, in 1987, a Heineken retailer spread the untrue rumor that Mexican brewery workers urinated in containers of Corona Extra beer. That resulted in a lawsuit, and a public statement denying the rumor. Ten years later, Corona surpassed Heineken as America’s number-one imported beer.
Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, reminds us of Christianity’s role in bringing us beer. Catholic monks didn’t invent beer or create beer culture, but out of necessity they brewed superb ales—including Westvletern 12, which has been rated the world’s best. Centuries ago, St. Benedict instructed monks to be good hosts, and to support themselves from the fruit of their labor. Brewing beer was a way to comply with both. Originally the monks made beer as a way to avoid contracting dangerous water-borne illnesses. But in the 17th century, the Paulaner monks of Bavaria starting brewing beer especially for consumption during the Lenten fast, when eating was prohibited. The monks’ tradition lives on in the form of Starkbierzeit, Munich’s Lenten festival.
Moss adds that Christianity deserves credit for the concept of the hospital as an independent institution. Here again, the monks get credit; they started caring for the sick at their monasteries; and in Egypt, they make the health care available to monks available to all. In addition, Moss traces the Anglo-American legal concept of “double jeopardy” to the Church. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England tried to pass a law allowing his courts to try members of the clergy who had already been tried in ecclesiastical courts. Thomas a Becket, who was later made a saint, argued that there could be only one judgment for the same act. Henry took exception, and his knights murdered Becket. Afterward, the pope not only condemned Henry but also his effort to inflict double punishment on the clergy.
One hundred and seventy years ago today, astronomers Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, John Couch Adams and Johann Gottfried Galle collaborated on the discovery of Neptune. Now that Pluto has been demoted, Neptune is the most distant planet in our solar system.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Jacksonville, Florida, where an over-eager liquor control officer charged a 17-year-old girl with the crime of underage possession of alcohol. Her offense? Moving a cup of beer on a beer pong table at a Jaguars tailgate party.
Terrorist attacks in Europe have forced Oktoberfest organizers to beef up security this year, and many would-be attendees are avoiding the celebration out of fear of an attack in Munich.
Rutgers University ended its school-sponsored football tailgate parties after athletics director Pat Hobbs was seen chugging a beer onstage. Drinking on the job is a no-no at RU.
The new season of Shark Tank begins tonight. Leading off are the inventors of Fizzics, an in-home tap that re-creates the mouthfeel and aroma of freshly-poured draft beer.
Long Island’s Blue Point Brewery is serving up history in the form of Colonial Ale. It was made using a recipe written by George Washington in a military journal in 1757.
Are you seeing less pumpkin beer on the shelves this fall? It’s because breweries overproduced it last year and demand for the style fell off. Unseasonably warm weather also hurt sales.
Finally, scientists have figured out why the foam on top keeps your beer from sloshing. The answer is “capillary action”, the same phenomenon that enables paper towel to soak up spilled milk and plants to suck up water from their roots.
Humans domesticated yeasts long before they figured that yeasts even existed. Now a team of geneticists created the first family tree of those yeasts. They did so by examining samples collected from nearly 100 breweries around the world.
For most of history, people made beer at home. Because beer kept for a long time, it was necessary to brew only once a month or so. The long interval gave the wild yeasts in the beer enough time to interbreed with other strains and stay feral. But with the rise of commercial brewing some 400 years ago, brewers made beer on a continuous basis. In an effort to make the beer consistent, they inadvertently changed the yeasts’ genetic makeup. Brewers “backslopped”—that is, they took the sediment at the end of the brewing process and used it to inoculate the next batch. Over time, the yeasts lost the ability to sexually reproduce and acquired genes that helped them digest maltose, a type of sugar found in backslop.
It turns out that brewing yeasts were domesticated in two separate lineages. “Beer 1” emerged in Germany and Belgium around the turn of the 17th century. Those yeasts spread to the United Kingdom and, from there, to North America. Most of the yeasts used in brewing today belong to the Beer 1 branch of the family tree.
About 50 years later, another branch of beer yeasts, “Beer 2,” arose independently. The geneticists who studied them are unable to identify their place of origin. Beer 2 yeasts evolved from yeasts found in wineries, and generally result in beers with higher alcohol content.
It is almost impossible to distinguish a Beer 1 yeast from a Beer 2 yeast based on flavor alone. Beer yeasts can create such a variety of flavors that even two closely related-yeasts can create beer with vastly different tastes.
In the early 2000s Maureen Ogle, a professor at the University of South Alabama, set out to write a history of American brewing. She was surprised by how little had been written about the subject. That has begun to change. The spread of craft beer has led a number of American universities to make brewing studies part of their course offerings.
Meanwhile, other professors are exploring beer’s relationship with American culture, economics, labor relations, and even gender.
Randolph College professor J. Nikol Beckham brewed beer before turning her scholarly attention to it. The only African American woman in her community of homebrewers and enthusiasts, Beckham became interested in the relationship between beer and race. She discovered that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some temperance advocates used ugly stereotypes of German immigrants and African-Americans to attack saloon culture. Drinking was portrayed as an affront to America’s dominant culture: white, Protestant, and sober.
Beckham contends that after the repeal of Prohibition, scholars lost sight of the ties between beer and American history. That trend might be reversing itself. One example is the Smithsonian Institution’s search for a scholar. His or her job will include helping the National Museum of American History collect artifacts, and conducting field research for a project on brewing in the U.S., especially during the last 50 years.
Today is the sixth annual World Elephant Day, an observance created by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark. Its purpose is to increase awareness of these animals’ urgent plight.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where local officials want to stop a restaurant from selling beer-infused waffles. The restaurant has a license to sell beer, but some believe the waffles abuse the privilege.
Oh no! A shortage of pumpkin puree might endanger this year’s pumpkin beer releases. The culprits are unprecedented demand and drought conditions in pumpkin-growing regions.
Vice.com’s Ilkka Siren, who grew up in Finland, went home to get better acquainted with sahti, a temperamental—and much-misunterstood style—that Finns have homebrewed for centuries.
History buffs in Golden, Colorado, want to convert the Astor House hotel into a beer museum with brewing classes, tastings, food and beer pairings, and a look at Colorado brewing history.
Defying the Standells’ song “Dirty Water”, six Massachusetts and brewing beer from the banks of the River Charles. The water is treated, of course.
Craft beer is getting more expensive, for a variety of reasons: costlier raw materials, such as hops and water; higher wages; and bigger utility bills.
Finally, Alabama’s craft brewers are crying foul over a proposed regulation that would require brewers to collect the name, address, age, and phone number from anyone who buys carry-out beer. The rule is aimed at enforcing the state’s limit on purchases.
On this date in 1907, Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp on the south coast of England. That nine-day event—we assume that no beer was served to campers—was the foundation of the Scouting movement.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Scotland, where the Innis & Gunn brewery has released a “Vintage” beer that is meant to be aged. One bottle has been put inside a time capsule, which is not to be opened until 2116.
Old Style beer will return to its La Crosse, Wisconsin, birthplace. The brewery will make an Oktoberfest-style version of the 114-year-old brand for the city’s annual Oktoberfest U.S.A.
After winning his third Tour de France, Britain’s Chris Froome celebrated in style. In the Tour’s final stage, he handed out bottles of beer to his teammates.
According to the libertarian magazine Reason, state beer laws continued “a slow creep in the right direction.” However, many bad laws remain on the books.
The Smithsonian has posted a want ad for a beer historian/scholar. This three-year position, funded by the Brewers Association, will pay $64,650 plus benefits.
Some breweries try too hard to be original, and wind up giving their beers awful names. Thrillist.com calls out some of the worst offenders.
Finally, Jim Vorel of Atlanta magazine criticizes Terrapin Brewing Company for selling a majority interest to MillerCoors—and then keeping mum about the transaction on social media.
Miller Lite is an American icon but George Weissman, the man behind its creation, was suspected by the government of being a Communist. For decades, the FBI maintained a file on Weissman. Gawker’s Matt Novak filed a Freedom of Information Act request to access the Weissman file—which had been transferred to the National Archives.
The 26 pages of documents detail Weissman’s alleged associations with the Communist Party in the 1940s, both before and after he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The FBI also followed up in the 1970s when it investigated Weissman’s involvement with an organization called Executives Move For Peace in Vietnam. Novak observes, “It appears that the FBI considered protesting the war in Vietnam to be more dangerous than selling a product that killed tens of thousands of Americans every year”. That product was cigarettes; Weissman also created another American icon: the Marlboro Man.
The last page in the Weissman file suggests that the White House asked about him in October 1973. It in’t entirely clear from the file why the Nixon administration was interested in Weissman, though it was later revealed that he appeared on one of Nixon’s many political enemies lists.
On this day in 1889, the first edition of the Wall Street Journal was published. With a total of 2.4 million print and digital subscribers, the Journal is the largest newspaper in the United States by circulation.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in the Bay Area, where David Kravets of Ars Technica magazine reviews Heineken’s new “Brewlock” technology. Brewlock consists of a rubbery bladder that holds the beer inside a plastic centrifuge. Compressed air pumped into the centrifuge forces out the beer before air can mix with it.
In Ephraim, Wisconsin, beer is legal for the first time since 1853, when it was founded by Norwegian Moravians. Efforts to overturn the beer ban failed in 1934 and 1992.
The mayor of Zaragoza, Mexico, says there’s no water for consumption by its residents. He blames Constellation Brands’ brewery, which uses the water to brew Corona and brands of beer.
A Microsoft recruiter messaged a “bae intern”, inviting him or her to an Internapalooza after-party with “noms”, “dranks”, and “Yammer beer pong tables”. A company spokesperson called the message “poorly worded”.
The “world’s oldest payslip,” which dates back 5,000 years, reveals that some laborers in ancient Mesopotamia opted to be paid in beer for their work.
After Wales made it to the semifinals of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, Budweiser celebrated the team’s success by treating every Welsh adult to a beer.
Finally, Matt Cunningham is growing hops and barley on his farm, a big step toward a beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients. Sounds perfect for Ohio State football games, where beer will be sold stadium-wide this fall.
If you’re a fan of India pale ale, you can thank your medieval ancestors for introducing hops to brewing. The Greeks dismissed hops as a wild plant, and the Romans used them as an herb and a form of natural medicine. Both ancient cultures also regarded beer as the beverage of choice of barbarians.
It wasn’t until the eighth century that hops were used in brewing. During the reign of Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father, the king gave humlonariae—hop gardens, probably—to the abbey of St. Denis. The monks likely used the hops to flavor their beer, and in the process discovered that they were a preservative as well.
Still, it took centuries more for hops to become a standard ingredient in beer. The abbess Saint Hildegard of Bingen mentioned their use in beer and for medicinal purposes in the 12th century, indicating that their benefits were quite known by the High Middle Ages. In 1380, the archbishop of Cologne outlawed hopped beers from Westphalia in an effort to promote the use of his own gruit in brews. A century and a half later, King Henry VIII also tried to ban hops in order to maintain the standard of “Good old English ale.”
Today, almost all beer is hopped, but the debate is hardly over. Some members of the craft beer community have begun to rebel against highly-hopped ales.