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I find it very odd that they'll sneer at Miller Lite (which I'm sure is dreadful), yet they'll sell cans of Boddington's as though it were a foreign speciality.

It's the accent, Andrew. Fools the Yanks every time. And truthfully, even the Brits' worst beer is better than 95% of ours, barring microbrews. The only thing I can think of that's worse than Miller Lite might possibly be Pabst. And while it might all be the same at the basic fermentation level, its the art (and science) of brewers that makes beer such wonderful stuff when it's done with care.

Hops not only lend bitterness (which is indeed good!) but also aid in head retention and impart preservative qualities to the beer, good for, say, long sea voyages to India - hence the hoppy India Pale Ale style of British beer.

Adding hops during different stages of the brewing process yield different characteristics as well. Hops which are present for the entire boiling process give bitterness, while hops which are added only during the last few minutes of the boil give more hop flavor. Hops added during fermentation will impart hop aroma to the final product.

Who says you can't have beer at a cocktail party?

How do we know he didn't spit in my mug?

Actually I think that, repeatedly thwarted, I switched to gin and tonics at that point....was fun to see you in Chicago.

I'm going to have to read Chris Mooney's stuff. The bartender, on the other hand, sounds like a twit. I live a little burg in the Pacific Northwest, and I pride myself on ordering a Coors Light oinstead of one of the goofy-named "seasonals" when I go to local watering holes. I'd rather listen to pretentious wine connoisseurs prattle on than a bunch of portly, self-serious old frat boys who fancy themselves highly tuned aesthetes but are still basically gluttonous fat dudes who like to drink them some beer. Actually, both types are insufferable, and I'd like to harsh their mellows equally.

According to a beer-loving friend of mine, the main difference between good beer from microbreweries and bad beer like miller lite is as follows:

Microbrew beers are supposedly made in the usual straightforward way that we tend to assume all beers are made with. However, many of the mass-producing breweries are actually brewing up malt liquor in their vats, and then diluting it with water and artificially flavouring it.

yeast isn't the only species of bacteria that can do this.


Yeast are eukaryotes. Bacteria are prokaryotes. If you had written microorganism you would be correct.

Years ago, i went to a deli and ordered a sandwich. There were many choices for each item. What kind of break would you like? I wanted white bread. Wonder, if you have it. No white bread. Here's the list. I went with pumpernickle. What kind of cheese? Kraft singles? No. American? No. Swiss? If you have to. What kind of lettuce? Iceberg? No - this is a deli. Hey - Iceberg is organic. It's grown, not manufactured! How about Boston? OK. And on and on.

As a self-described beer geek (unfortunately, trying to make it in Alabama), the main difference between Miller Lite (and other macro products) and what we can colloquially call "good beer" isn't technical so much as artistic -- "good beer" covers an extremely wide range of flavors, colors, and textures, ranging from a light crisp Kolsch to a Strong Dark Belgian to a Russian Imperial Stout and back. Macro products are brewed to be as bland and inoffensive as possible (thus their relative popularity) and generally have an unpleasant corn aftertaste due to the cheap adjuncts used in the brewing process.

Ordering a Miller Lite at a good beer bar like the one described above is a bit like insisting on Beef-A-Roni at a nice Italian restaurant, or wanting some ketchup to go on a fine rack of ribs. It's the mark of someone completely uneducated in the culinary art, and it shouldn't be at all suprising that the bar didn't carry it. (Although something like a light Pilsner or Kolsch would be reasonably similar in color and texture to a macro beer, and I'd be shocked if a decent beer bar didn't stock something like that specifically for their macro-desiring customers.)

Then again, some people would rather have the Beef-A-Roni, I guess, than to feel like a "portly, self-serious old frat boy who fancies himself a highly tuned aesthete but is still basically a gluttonous fat dude who likes to eat him some pasta."

Re my earlier comment: I'm not implying that Mooney is necessarily "completely uneducated in the culinary art", when referring to his desiring a Miller Lite in a beer bar, but it's easy for the bartender and/or regular patrons of a really good beer bar to see it that way. Better beer bars often have to fight to stay open even in the best of areas, and seeing people wander into these places and order really crappy macro lagers is a bit of a pet peeve amongst beer geeks.

Major breweries also tend to use a lot of cheaper grains like rice and such.

Also did ya know that the containers that Budweiser puts the beechwood in where originally the casings for torpedoes? And the beechwood was a rough way of filtering out the dead yeast and not intentionally a flavor additive?

I wish I would have gone to AAAS. I'm a viticulturist. People say I have a pretty sexy science career!

I loved your post on beer. However...I was a bit puzzled over one sentence.

The following statement strikes me as problematic, on several counts:

"Like fermentation, carbonation is a natural process: at high pressures underground, spring water can absorb carbon dioxide and become "effervescent." "

Here's why: First, water underground below a water table (unconfined aquifer)or potentiometric surface (confined aquifer) is normally considered to be ground water. Water that comes up to the land surface at springs is then known as spring water. That water that reaches the air/water interface is now at atmospheric pressure. When the water is at high pressure, it actually is not spring water---instead, it is at some depth below the air/water interface, as ground water.

Second, the source of carbon dioxide in most spring waters overwhelmingly comes from the soil zone, as decay from microbial activity, under conditions of low atmospheric and water pressure. Infiltrating water is in an environment in the soil with high carbon dioxide (gaseous) partial pressure. As a result, equilibrium chemical processes lead to carbon dioxide becoming dissolved in the water with a series of (primarily temperature dependent) reactions taking place and ions forming. There is CO2 (g) (very little), H2C03 (carbonic acid), H+, HCO3-, and CO3--. Such solutions are acidic and can dissolve CaCO3 (calcite, as in limestone bedrock).

Your statement seems to imply that water goes underground, reaches high pressure, and then somehow absorbs carbon dioxide [from what source?] and becomes "effervescent." But this makes no sense, because the source of the carbon dioxide is not at depth under high water pressure. And if by effervescence you mean "formation of visible gas bubbles," that would not occur until the water reached a zone in which the gas is coming out of solution.

You are, I assume, mis-applying the idea that water can be carbonated by pumping carbon dioxide at high pressure into a bottle and capping it. Uncap the bottle, and the pressure is less; the dissolved carbon dioxide is no longer at chemical equilibrium and it comes out of the solution as gas bubbles---the effervescence.

When water equilibrated with high CO2 from the soil zone passes into fractured limestone and dissolves calcite, that water can eventually reach a cave, where the water is under different geochemical conditions. Some of the CO2 comes out of solution, and CaCO3 may be precipitated as cave formations (speleothems). The amount of CO2 coming out can be considerable, but it is not in such amounts as to produce extensive gas bubbles as effervescence, as occurs when beer or sparkling wine is uncapped. Similarly, the visible "bubbles" that may appear at springs is rarely carbon dioxide. More often the roiling water at springs contains entrained air from the surface. Sometimes, abundant plant matter is present at springs, and oxygen bubbles from plants may be present. Also, chemical precipitates may be forming, of a variety of minerals.

Ah, the Hopleaf, lucky you! The broad selection of Belgian beers is tasty, though the Hopleaf has gained a reputation for their rude bartenders. We go anyway because the beers -- plus the mussels and frites! -- are well worth it. I think the waitstaff are really not so harsh, but more on the cranky, inconsiderate side. On one visit, my crime was occupying a chair, and my punishment was having mussel shells routinely dumped down my back as plates were emptied at the trash can near our table. A clattery, garlicky ambiance that was more funny than annoying.

Speaking of the Hopleaf, it's just a block away from the Women and Children First bookstore. A while back you posted that this would be a part of your book tour. Are you still planning to be there on March 15th? I hope so, I have a book that needs signing! : )

complementing what evilchemistry and Brandon said:

Yeast is a Fungus. Hops is a natural antibiotic. It kills bacteria and preserves the yeast.

Yeast is NOT a bacterium!

At first, I chose to ignore Stephen from Alabama with a beer on his knee, because what can you say to a beer geek besides "Have a nice beer gut."

But today I saw this great Fran Leibowitz quote: "Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine."

It follows, then, that infinitesimal people talk about beer.

Infinitesimal, I mean, except for the beer gut.

Oops, I meant Daniel Harper. Sorry, Stephen. You're aces, even though I don't know what you're talking about.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.