Today in 1972, US Patent 172687 A was issued, an invention of John A. Angelbeck Jr., assigned to Pack Rite Packaging & Crating, for his “Pallet.” There’s no Abstract, but it’s described as a “pallet used for the storage and transporting of containers such as beer kegs and the like.” It’s essentially a plastic pallet, and while I’ve seen a few of them, I don’t think they’ve replaced the wooden pallet the way the inventor hoped.
Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:
Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.
There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.
The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.
His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.
They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.
And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;
‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!
Today in 1876, US Patent 172687 A was issued, an invention of Louis Baeppler, for his “Improvement in Beer-Coolers.” There’s no Abstract, but the description includes this:
My invention relates to an apparatus which maybe readily applied to a keg or barrel of any description, so as to cool the beer after it leaves the barrel.
The invention consists of an ice-chamber, provided with an opening at the bottom for the insertion of a cock to be attached to the lower end of the cooling-coil, and an opentopped slot at the top for the insertion and removal of the upper end of the coil, and a cover for closing said chamber, as hereinafter described and shown.
Today in 1966, US Patent 3231384 A was issued, an invention of William Ernest Parker and Francis Lloyd Rigby, assigned to Canadian Breweries Ltd., for their “Continuous Boiling and Hopping of Brewers’ Wort.” There’s no Abstract, but partway down in the description is this:
The method of the present invention generally comprises forming a continuously flowing stream of hot brewers wort, causing said stream to flow in a substantially horizontal path, continuously introducing a predetermined mass of hops to said stream, heating said flowing wort, venting said stream of undesirable volatiles above said path of flow and controlling the time flow ratio of said wort and hops as to hop said wort to desired degree, and finally continuously discharging spent and hopped wort from said stream. This may be carried out with the wort and hops flowing counter-current to one another, discharging spent hops at one end of the path and hopped wort at the other. Alternatively, it may be carried out in a co-current flow.
The method may be carried out in particularly simple apparatus which may take the form, for counter-current flow, of a substantially horizontally disposed tubular vessel with provision for introducing wort towards one end thereof and hops in the other end thereof and which includes a perforated auger moving the hops in countercurrent flow to the continuously flowing wort as to cause spent hops to discharge at one end of the apparatus and hopped wort at the other, and which is a preferred type of apparatus proposed although such counter-current flow might be achieved by apparatus of other design. For cocurrent flow, the wort is introduced at one end while the hops are introduced adjacent that end and/or selectively along the length of the vessel.
Today in 2001, US Patent 1070116 A1 was issued, an invention of Matthew L. Tripp, assigned to the Green Bay Beer Company, for his “Beer Flavor Concentrate.” Here’s the short Abstract. “A beer flavor concentrate and a method for making and using the beer flavor concentrate to produce a final beer product through the addition of carbonated water and alcohol.”
While I’m not sure if this was ever marketed as, or as part of, a product, more recently concentrated beer has become available on the market. For example, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages was made primarily for camping. Over the last couple of years, both Popular Science and Gizmodo have been taken a look at how it works and if the reconstituted beer is any good.
Below is an article I wrote about beer cans nine years ago telling the story of their history.
The beer can debuted in 1935, when an otherwise obscure brewery from New Jersey — Gottfried Krueger Brewing Co. — test-marketed them in Virginia, as far from their home market as possible. Breweries may have been initially reluctant, but the public loved cans — they were an overnight sensation. By the end of that first year, Schlitz (then one of America’s biggest brewers) had their beer in cans and every other brewery quickly followed suit.
The beer can was invented by American Can, who patented “Vinylite,” a plastic lining for cans marketed under the brand name “Keglined.” Over the years, the technology continued to improve, from tin to all-aluminum, from cone tops to flat tops, from clumsy openers to pull tops, yet one seemingly intractable problem remained: metal turbity. That’s the technical term for metal leeching into the beer, and consumers increasingly complained about the tainted metallic flavor in canned beer.
But then craft beer became popular, and with it better beer evangelists preached that canned beer could never be good. And that remained conventional wisdom for decades, made virtually dogma. During that same time, however, research by the can companies solved the metal turbidity problem. Using an organic polymer — really a water-based epoxy acrylic — that was sprayed inside each can during manufacturing, it could now honestly be said that the beer never touched the metal.
Unfortunately, the only beer in cans was not the type that most beer geeks would willingly quaff. The other great hurdle to getting craft beer in a can was the cost. You could buy a cheap, used bottling line but canning lines were quite massive and very expensive. And the people who made cans were used to selling them to big breweries, and so the minimum run for a can was something on the order of a full railroad car, too many and too expensive for even the biggest microbreweries.
But then the bottom fell out of microbrewing, and by the late-1990s equipment suppliers were also feeling the pinch. Hoping to survive the economic downturn, Canada’s Cask Brewing Systems created an affordable solution. They designed a small manual canning line that was cheaper than the average bottling line and persuaded Ball Corporation (a leading can manufacturer) to significantly reduce their minimum orders. All they had to do was convince someone to try canning their beer.
And so Cask started appearing at trade shows and repeatedly sending literature to breweries. When Dale Katechis, of Oskar Blues, in Lyons, Colorado, first read the pitch, he “just laughed and laughed,” thinking there’s “no way this can be done.” But the more he looked into it, the less he laughed. A few months later — in 2002 — Dale’s Pale Ale was released, the first craft beer to be hand-canned. By 2005, Oskar Blues was the biggest brewpub in the U.S. and Dale’s was declared by the New York Times to be the best pale ale in America.
The Oskar Blues team became evangelists for canned beer with the slogan “the canned-beer apocalypse.” Other small breweries noticed Dale’s success and he was only too happy to show them the light. Today, there are nearly forty [in 2006] craft brewers hand-canning their beer.
There are almost as many kinds of beer in cans as there are styles these days, too, from extreme, strong offerings like Surly’s Furious (a 100-IBU Imperial IPA) and Old Chubb (a Scotch Ale) to more unusual beers like Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut Porter and 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon to lighter lagers like Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils and Steamwoks Steam Engine Lager. And now that New Belgium Brewing, one of the largest American craft brewers, is canning their popular Fat Tire Amber Ale, expect to see many more beers in cans in the future.
The biggest challenge is unmaking the dogmatic perception of beer in cans as an evil. It’s a persistent prejudice, but is slowly beginning to change as the advantages to canned beer become more widely known. They keep out all UV light, avoiding the skunky taste of clear and green glass. Cans have lower oxygen levels, meaning longer shelf life. They won’t break; they chill faster and can be taken more places, especially where glass is prohibited. And they’re more environmentally friendly, using less packaging plus more of the can is recyclable, with more used in manufacturing recycled cans. Cans are also lighter, resulting in lower transportation costs and fewer fossil fuels needed.
But in the end, the only thing that matters is how the beer tastes. Side-by-side can vs. draft taste tests reveal that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference. That, coupled with the real advantages of the packaging, means that craft beer in cans is where the future of craft beer is heading.
When I originally wrote that article, around two dozen small breweries were canning their beer, and when I first posted this in 2011 that number had quadrupled, with over 100 small brewers canning their beer. In 2015, the Canned Beer Database lists 480 breweries offering their beer in cans. It’s great to see good beer in cans become more and more common, and we should continue to see more canned beer from craft brewers in the future. Why not pick up some today and see for yourself how good it now is from a can, especially as we celebrate “Beer Can Appreciation Day.”
Today in 2003, US Patent 3712820 A was issued, an invention of Joe Owades, for their “Mediating the Effects of Alcohol Consumption by Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast.” Here’s the short Abstract. “A process for lowering blood alcohol levels in humans after they imbibe alcoholic beverages by administering active dry yeast before or concomitantly with the imbibing of the beverages.”
This is most likely the origin of the hangover prevention that Jim Koch, from the Boston Beer Co., has popularized over the years, but especially after Esquire magazine ran an article about it last April, How to Drink All Night Without Getting Drunk.
But I’d actually heard Jim tell the story a couple of times at various events, most recently at a beer dinner last year at the Jamaica Plain brewery in Boston celebrating the 30th anniversary of Samuel Adams.
In telling the story, Jim did, of course, mention that the idea came from Joe Owades, who had worked as a consultant with the Boston Beer Co. since the very beginning, and off and on thereafter. But I don’t think I’d realized before now that Joe had actually patented the idea.
The claim in the patent application describes it in a nutshell. “A method of mediating the effect of alcohol consumption by a person which comprises orally administering active dry yeast containing alcohol dehydrogenase to said person prior to or simultaneously with consumption of an alcohol-containing beverage, whereby to oxidize a portion of the alcohol while still in the stomach of said person.” His own testing of the method, shown in the figures below, found that “blood alcohol level-min. was reduced by 38% by the yeast.”
Today in 1973, US Patent 3712820 A was issued, an invention of Martin F. Walmsley and John Valentine Cross, and assigned to John Labatt Ltd., for their “Process for Making a Brewers’ Wort Beer.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description they explain that the “invention provides a process for producing a brewers wort in which an aqueous slurry of a raw starch containing material, preferably a cereal grain such as barley, is heated to 40 55 C. at which temperature it is subjected to the action of a discrete proteolytic enzyme and, optionally, a discrete ot-amylase enzyme, then heated to 65-90 C. at which temperature it is subjected to the action of a discrete a-amylase enzyme to solubilise the starch, after which it is cooled to 40-65 C. at which temperature it is subjected to the action of a discrete amylase enzyme or source thereof to produce fermentable sugars.”
Today in 1912, US Patent 1015443 A was issued, an invention of Robert Hoffmann, for his “Apparatus for Macerating Wort.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description he explains the problem and his solution:
In macerating they wort in making beer the sparging water has hitherto been poured on to the wort by means of a rotary sprayer spraying over or sparging the wort. As the sparging water falls from a certain height on to the surface of the wort it is not only impossible to avoid unintentionally mixing the wort with the sparging water,’but the latter is also undesirably cooled. Both disadvantages thus involve a loss of yield from the grain and thus mean an incomplete’ working.
Now as compared with the ordinary apparatus for maceration this invention consists in the sparging water not being, allowed to fall from a height on to the surface of the wort but being introduced in layers on to the surface of the wort, so that the grain during maceration is slowly compressed by the sparging water and does not mix therewith.
This improved apparatus consists in other’ words in the sparging water being allowed to flow on to the wort in a continuous stream without first having to fall through the air — on to the surface of the wort.
Today in 1985, US Patent 4494451 A was issued, an invention of John F. Hickey, for his “Brewing Apparatus.” Here’s the Abstract:
Brewing apparatus which comprises a first vessel including heating means, a second vessel including strainer means, a third vessel, and a valve means and pump arrangement by means of which the three vessels can be coupled as necessary for fluid transfer purposes so that the first vessel can be used firstly as a hot liquor tank to produce hot liquor which is transferred to the third vessel which serves firstly as a hot liquor container, from which in use the hot liquor is transferred to the second vessel wherein it is mashed with malt to produce a wort and which serves firstly as a mash tun, from which the wort is transferred to the first vessel therein to be heated with hops whereby the first vessel serves secondly as a brewing kettle from which the resultant brew is transferred to the third vessel which serves secondly as a fermenting vessel.