Here’s an interesting scientific development, where a team of scientists “used a process called X-ray crystallography to figure out the exact structure of [hop] acids, humulone molecules, and some of their derivatives, produced from hops in the brewing process.” According to the story in Futurity, they already knew that “beer and its bittering acids, in moderation, have beneficial effects on diabetes, some forms of cancer, inflammation, and perhaps even weight loss.”
The science and art of making beer, likely the oldest liquid fermented by humans, stretches over millennia. Production typically involves boiling beer wort together with hops, which acts as a natural preservative, but the generated iso-α-acids are known to be prone to decomposition, and consequently, more stable reduced hops extracts, such as the tetrahydro-iso-α-acids, have been developed. These latter compounds are separately produced and frequently added to beer to achieve a consistent level of bitter taste. Scheme 1 gives an overview of the iso-α-acids formed by heat-induced isomerization.
The rest of the story talks about how they isolated the hops in such a way that they might be able to be extracted to use in medicine to take advantage of their healthful properties, that you couldn’t really get just by drinking beer because the amounts in beer were too small to be effective.
The press release from the University of Washington, where the study was conducted, explains the study in layman’s terms.
Humulone molecules are rearranged during the brewing process to contain a ring with five carbon atoms instead of six. At the end of the process two side groups are formed that can be configured in four different ways—both groups can be above the ring or below, or they can be on opposite sides.
Which of the forms the molecule takes determines its “handedness,” Kaminsky says, and that is important for understanding how a particular humulone will react with another substance. If they are paired correctly, they will fit together like a nut and bolt.
If paired incorrectly, they might not fit together at all or it could be like placing a right hand into a left-handed glove. That could produce disastrous results in pharmaceuticals.
Kaminsky cites thalidomide, which has a number of safe uses but was famously used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s before it was discovered to cause birth defects. Molecule “handedness” in one form of the drug was responsible for the birth defects, while the orientation of molecules in another form did not appear to have the negative effects.
To determine the configuration of humulones formed in the brewing process, coauthors from KinDex Therapeutics, a Seattle pharmaceutical firm that funded the research, recovered acids from the brewing process and purified them.
They converted the humulones to salt crystals and sent them to Kaminsky, who used X-ray crystallography to determine the exact configuration of the molecules.
“Now that we know which hand belongs to which molecule, we can determine which molecule goes to which bitterness taste in beer,” Kaminsky says.
The authors point out that while “excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health, isolated humulones and their derivatives can be prescribed with documented health benefits.”
Some of the compounds have been shown to affect specific illnesses, Kaminsky says, while some with a slight difference in the arrangement of carbon atoms have been ineffective.
The new research sets the stage for finding which of those humulones might be useful in new compounds to be used as medical treatments.
Today is Ralph Olson’s 62nd birthday. He was the general manager/co-owner of HopUnion, a co-op that supplies hops to many of the craft breweries. Ralph’s pretty much retired but can still be seen at occasional beer events throughout the country. He’s been a great friend to and very supportive of the craft beer industry. Join me in wishing Ralph a very happy birthday.
Dave Keene, from the Toronado, Dave Pyle, Ralph and Becky Pyle, who are also with HopUnion, along with my friend Dave Suurballe.
I know next to nothing about Farmville, the popular farm simulation game played on Facebook, apart from the fact that it appears to be a time suck of epic proportions, with something on the order of 76 million active users every month. I know the company that created the game, Zynga, is in San Francisco. I remember passing by their offices with a huge screen outside the building on the way to the annual Christmas party at Anchor Brewing last month.
So maybe this is old hat, but here’s something I didn’t now. Searching for a graphic of hops yesterday, I discovered that in 2011, FarmVille added hop farming to their English Countryside Farm module, and it’s apparently available beginning with level 20, whatever that means. According to the wonderfully geeky FarmViller:
The Hops is a seed on the English Countryside Farm, available from level 20. It became available with the introduction of the English Countryside Farm beginning March 22, 2011.
It is available from the Market for 150 coins after reaching level 20. When bought and placed on the farm, the player receives 2 XP. It can be harvested every ten hours for 220 coins. The seed itself can be sold for 8 coins.
Here are the stages of growing hops in FarmVille:
Freshly Planted Hops
Hops at 33% Growth
Hops at 66% Growth
Hops Ready to Be Harvested
Hops Treated with Crop Fertilizer
Hops After Having Withered
A quick search reveals that you can also grow barley, but there appears to be no way to malt it or put all the ingredients together to brew beer. Oh, well, just when it was starting to look interesting. Perhaps I dodged a bullet there, after all.
The Geeks of the Industry blog, under his “Creative Strategist” tag, lists Craft Beer and the Thank You Economy as number 16. Here’s what the University of Oregon advertising student blogger had to say, presumably interpreted through his burgeoning education.
The craft brew industry is a prime example of a 21st century customer-brand dynamic. As you may know if you’ve been reading my blog, I am a bit obsessed with the philosophy of Gary Vaynerchuk and his views on what social media means to the present and future of branding. Microbrews and their cult-like support from many walks of life is a perfect example of the power of word of mouth in the 21st century. The village ecosystem of commerce is returning with the powerful viral capability of the passionate few.
Those sentiments are illustrated nicely with this clever infographic, created by Column Five Media for Visual.ly, under the title How Indie Brewers Are Outpacing Beer Industry Growth. I just love the proliferation of infographics, they are my Kryptonite. I am powerless to resist them. Enjoy.
One of my favorite authors is Henry David Thoreau, who in 1843 wrote A Walk to Wachusetts, which later became chapter 3 of Excursions. In it, he recounts a long walk taken with a friend, during which part of their journey included waking through hop fields. Here’s the passage:
This part of our route lay through the country of hops, which plant perhaps supplies the want of the vine in American scenery, and may remind the traveller of Italy, and the South of France, whether he traverses the country when the hop-fields, as then, present solid and regular masses of verdure, hanging in graceful festoons from pole to pole; the cool coverts where lurk the gales which refresh the wayfarer; or in September, when the women and children, and the neighbors from far and near, are gathered to pick the hops into long troughs; or later still, when the poles stand piled in vast pyramids in the yards, or lie in heaps by the roadside.
The culture of the hop, with the processes of picking, drying in the kiln, and packing for the market, as well as the uses to which it is applied, so analogous to the culture and uses of the grape, may afford a theme for future poets.
So today is the second IPA Day, fun new holiday celebrating beer that showcases hops. For several years, IPAs have been the fastest growing style in mainstream outlets, and have been doing very well everywhere else, too. Very few breweries don’t have an IPA or a similar hoppy beer these days, though as recently as a decade, or a decade and a half, ago that was not the case. Being on the west coast, and relatively close to the hops, it’s hard not to get caught up in hop fever. As much as I love malty beers, sour beers and most other styles, an aromatic hoppy IPA is pretty hard to beat. I find myself gravitating toward a hoppy choice, especially if I just want to enjoy the aromas and flavors of what I’m drinking.
Harkening back to that earlier time, Moonlight Brewing in Santa Rosa has a 1/4-acre of hops that owner Brian Hunt uses for his fresh hop beer each year and invites friends and family to come up the brewery and help pick hops, just like in the old days when it was a community effort.
Ashley Routson, who co-founded IPA Day (and works for Bison Brewing), had an interesting piece today at CraftBeer.com, The Ever-Emerging Sub-Categories of India Pale Ale, in which she identifies a multitude of shades and variations of IPAs.
- American-style India Pale Ale
- Belgian / Belgo IPA
- Black IPA
- Brettanomyces/ Wild /Traditional IPA
- English-style India Pale Ale
- Farmhouse IPA
- Fresh Hop IPA
- Imperial Black IPA
- Imperial (Double) India Pale Ale
- India Pale Lager (IPA-style, but fermented with lager yeast)
- Red IPA
- Rye IPA
- Session IPA (IPA flavor at lower than average ABV)
- Spiced/ Herbed IPA
- White IPA
I’m sure some people will quibble with her list, but I love the broader idea that IPAs are not just one thing, but are different things to different people. The only real common thread is that they’re generally beers that emphasize the hop aromas and flavors possible in a beer. To some they’re unbalanced, while still others find that enamel-scraping, ginormous hop character what makes them so delightful. I can see both sides of the coin, and under the right circumstances like both subtle hop beers and the bigger hit-you-over-the-head variety, too. There’s a time and place for both. And they’re all worth celebrating. Happy IPA Day.
Here’s an interesting old video from 1933. It’s from the British Pathe Archives, from the “Secrets of Nature” series entitled Brewster’s Magic. It was a British Instructional Film, photographed by F. Percy Smith, with Editing and Commentary by Mary Field and “Musical setting” by W. Hodgson.
The 8-minute black and white film shows time lapse photography of hops and barley growing plus microscopic images, as well. Here’s how they describe the film:
Hand pump being pulled in a pub. Hop root. The eyes are pointed out with a pencil. Time lapse photography of a hop shoot growing. C/U of the claws on the stem of the plant. Plant grows. The claws help the hop plant to twist its way around a smooth surface. Hop flowers growing on a male hop plant. Female hop plant produces flowers. We see them grow through time lapse. Comment on the voiceover about flowers being disappointed spinsters as they will not be fertilised. The flowers continue to grow. C/U of the sticky substance that grows on the petals. Lupelin (sp?) highly magnified. This is the substance that gives flavour and aroma to beer.
Hop garden. Barley ripening in the fields. C/U of barley submerged in water. Time lapse of the barley absorbing water. Barley puts out shoots in time lapse. The maltster turns them upside down to stop them from growing too quickly. Water supply is cut off and the barley withers. Graphic representation of the barley shoot. Animation. Maltster kills the barley grain when it has produced digestive fluid but not had time to use it. Grains are mashed up in hot water to make malt. Men roll barrels along in courtyard of brewery. C/U of yeast cells under a microscope beside a human hair. Moving yeast cells. Cells separate. Fermentation. Diagram of a molecule of sugar. Animated letters. Solution under the microscope. Bubbles are formed.
A pint of beer is pulled in a pub. Shot of man in flat cap drinking beer from a pewter tankard.
It’s a cool time capsule and definitely worth checking out.
My only quibble is that despite it being almost 80 years old, Pathe still asserts copyright on it. Which is fine, in and of itself, even if I generally disagree with how long copyrights now tend to run. But for some reason, they think it’s reasonable to charge you a whopping £50 ($77) to buy the 8-minute video, and that’s just for a download of it — no DVD or case or artwork, though they graciously will allow you to burn it to your own DVD. How thoughtful. Anyway, as a result, it can’t be embedded and viewed here. Fortunately, you can at least watch it at the Pathe website. Enjoy.
Matt Sweeny, from Simple Earth Hops of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, announced today that he’ll be hosting 2-hour educational “Brewing Up a Community Hops Webinars” in March, April and May of this year, on the third Saturday of each month with a morning (10 a.m. CST) and evening (9 p.b. CST) session on each day.
Accroding to the press release, “commercial hopics to be covered include marketing local hops, establishing a commercial hopyard, processing hops, how to use earth-friendly growing practices and lots of time for questions and answers. The cost for each webinar is $20, tickets are available at Eventbrite” and a full schedule is available online.
So that’s “2 Hops Webinars offered per day on Sat. 3/17, Sat., 4/21 and Sat., 5/19 for American Craft Brew Week! Morning Hops Webinar @ 10am to 12pm CST and a late night Hops Webinar @ 9pm to 11pm CST.” If you’ve ever thought about growing hops, either commercially or just for fun, this looks like it could be a great way to find out more about how to go about it and what’s really involved.
While GABF judging is done, we won’t know the results until tomorrow. But we do know one winner, the 2011 Alpha King. If you’re unfamiliar with the Alpha King Challenge, it’s a side contest during GABF week to find America’s hoppiest — but still drinkable — beer that’s been going since 1999, and was inspired by Three Floyd Brewing‘s own hop bomb, named The Alpha King. These days it’s sponsored by HopUnion and the Brewing News. After finishing GABF judging this morning, I hightailed it over to the Falling Rock to take part in the Alpha King judging.
The 2011 winner of the Alpha King Challenge was Poor Man’s IPA, brewed by Jeff Bagby at Pizza Port in San Diego. This is the second win in a row for Poor Man’s IPA and the third win by a beer brewed by Jeff.
Here’s a list of the winners: