Skunked Beer: Hide Your Shame

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Wired magazine had a short article today giving a basic overview about how beer gets lightstruck, entitled What’s Up With That: My Beer Tastes Like a Skunk’s Bathwater.

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It’s a fairly basic explanation of the process of a beer becoming lightstruck — often called skunky — written after interviewing Roger Barth, author of the textbook, the Chemistry of Beer. The author even takes a little thinly-veiled swipe at Corona. “This could explain why certain clear-bottled brands suggest you squeeze a lime into their beer to mask the skunk before taking a swig.” But it was the final sentence that had me in stitches. “But if you must, for reasons I will never understand, drink a Heineken, I suggest you get it on tap and hide your shame in a dark corner of the bar.”

skunked

Brewing: Love & Talent With Peter Bouckaert

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You’re probably familiar with Ted Talks, but there’s also independently organized Ted events, known as TEDx. Recently Peter Bouckaert, the brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing gave one at TEDxCSU, the Fort Collins extension of the talks. In the talk, “[h]e explains his personal journey of challenging limitations to “brew” together a life of creativity,” and the YouTube page describes Peter as having “made a career through utilizing innovation and working outside the box.”

A Belgian native, he is a Biochemistry engineer, with a specialization in Brewing and Fermentation technology from the University of Ghent, Belgium. Before joining New Belgium in 1996, and moving to the US, he worked in the Belgian brewery world in breweries with difficult to pronounce names like Zulte and the world renowned Rodenbach. He was the 2013 winner of the Russell Schehrer award for innovation in Brewing.

It’s only a little longer than fifteen minutes. I only wish it was longer. Enjoy.

A Love Story: Brewing Yeast & Fruit Flies

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There was an interesting story posted on Popular Science, specifically their BeerSci series. They did a great job of spinning the story as a love story, albeit an unusual one between fruit flies and brewer’s yeast, especially since the original title of the study they’re reporting on was The Fungal Aroma Gene ATF1 Promotes Dispersal of Yeast Cells through Insect Vectors. But it is, and in How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells, they detail how,”[i]n a series of experiments, biologists from several institutes in Belgium demonstrated that brewer’s yeast makes fruity, floral smells to attract fruit flies. In the wild, yeast might live on rotting fruit and entice flies to come to them there. Yeast and flies’ relationship benefits them both, the biologists found. Previous studies have found that eating yeast helps fruit fly larva develop faster and survive better. This new study found that fruit flies help spread yeast to new environments, like a bee spreading pollen.” In effect, their study demonstrates “the co-evolution of two species.”

Here’s the summary from the original, published in Cell Reports.

Yeast cells produce various volatile metabolites that are key contributors to the pleasing fruity and flowery aroma of fermented beverages. Several of these fruity metabolites, including isoamyl acetate and ethyl acetate, are produced by a dedicated enzyme, the alcohol acetyl transferase Atf1. However, despite much research, the physiological role of acetate ester formation in yeast remains unknown. Using a combination of molecular biology, neurobiology, and behavioral tests, we demonstrate that deletion of ATF1 alters the olfactory response in the antennal lobe of fruit flies that feed on yeast cells. The flies are much less attracted to the mutant yeast cells, and this in turn results in reduced dispersal of the mutant yeast cells by the flies. Together, our results uncover the molecular details of an intriguing aroma-based communication and mutualism between microbes and their insect vectors. Similar mechanisms may exist in other microbes, including microbes on flowering plants and pathogens.

Graphical_Abstract

You can also read the entire study as a pdf, but to get a sense of what it all means, read Francie Diep’s How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells and keep in mind her warning from the outset. “Sorry, but brewer’s yeast did not evolve for you.” Perhaps not, but at least we can still reap the benefits of the relationship between those fruit flies and the yeast used to create delicious beer.

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Brewers For Clean Water

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There was interesting article a couple of days ago on Newsweek, entitled Craft Beer Brewers Team Up to Improve Water Standard about a group of breweries partnering with the “Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York–based environmental group, to support stricter regulations on water pollution.” At least forty breweries are currently signed on as “Brewers for Clean Water,” including Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada Breweries.

According to Newsweek:

The NRDC and the brewers, including the California-based Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada brewing companies, are asking citizens to write to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a proposed rule that would give federal government more latitude to enforce the Clean Water Act. The agency is currently considering public comments until November 14, before putting the finishing touches on the fine text of the rule, known as the “Waters of the United States.”

The NRDC also created a video about the issue of water.

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How A Modern Brewery Operates

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Here’s another fascinating artifact of the 1940s, by a little-known artist, Frank Soltesz. “How a Brewery Operates” was one of around 29 cutaway illustrations he did for a client, Armstrong’s Industrial Insulations (specifically their Armstrong Cork division). The ads were produced between 1947 and 1951, and ran in the Saturday Evening Post, each one designed to show how Armstrong’s products were used in a wide variety of scenarios. Apparently you could even send away for a 21″ by 22″ print, which was, as the ad says, “suitable for framing.” “How a Brewery Operates” ran in the Post on July 3, 1948. It can viewed full size here. You can also see many more of his cutaways at Full Table or Past Print.

How-Modern-Brewery-Operates

What Beer Contains, Circa 1897

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Here’s another classic. This book is entitled Applied Physiology, which is subtitled “including the effects of alcohol and narcotics.” It was published by the American Book Company in 1897. It was written by a Dr. Frank Overton and apparently was intended for primary grades, according to the title page. Today those are usually grades 1-3, and sometimes include kindergarten. But given the subject matter, I can’t imagine that was true in 1897, but who knows. But then again, in the “Preface,” they state that they’ve included “only those subjects which are directly concerned in the growth and development of children,” adding this.

The value of a primary book depends largely upon the language used. In bringing the truths within the comprehension of children, the author has made sparing use of the complex sentence. He has made the sentences short and simple in form, and logical in arrangement.

In 21 short chapters, totaling 144 pages, they tackled such subjects for children as “Living Bodies and Cells,” “Elements of the Body,” “Oxidation,” “Fermentation and Alcohol,” “Digestion of Food in the Mouth,” “Alcohol and Digestion,” “Narcotics,” “Drugs and Poisons,” and even “The Flow of Blood in the Body” and “Regulation of the Flow of Blood.”

applied-physiology

Here’s some highlights from:


CHAPTER VII

FERMENTATION

61. How yeast makes alcohol. — Yeast will grow only where sugar is. When it has grown for some time there is no more sugar, and instead of a sweet taste there is a sharp or sour taste. The yeast has changed the sugar to alcohol. All alcohol is made from sugar by yeast.

AP-yeast

64. Alcohol. — Alcohol is a clear liquid and looks like water. It has a sharp taste and smell. It burns very easily and makes a very hot flame. Its smoke cannot be seen, and its flame will not make anything black, as a match flame will do.

65. Use of alcohol. — Alcohol will dissolve more things than water will dissolve. It is used to dissolve drugs, varnishes, perfumery, and many other things. It will dissolve even oil and fat. Tailors clean grease spots from clothes with it. It takes water away from flesh and makes it dry, hard, and tough. It will keep anything from rotting. In museums we pour alcohol over pieces of flesh or [Pg 40] plants in glass jars. Then they will keep and we can look at them at any time. Thus alcohol is a very useful thing, and we could hardly do without it.

66. Strong drink. — Some men use alcohol in a wrong way. They swallow it as a drink. But men cannot drink pure alcohol, for it would burn their mouths. They always drink it mixed with some water. Alcohol in water is called strong drink.

67. Why men use strong drink. — Some men take strong drink to make themselves warm, and some to make themselves cool. Some drink to keep themselves awake, and some to make themselves sleep. Some drink to keep themselves still, and some to make themselves stir around faster. Men use strong drink really because it seems to make them feel strong for a while. It does not make them stronger, but it harms the body and the mind. Its alcohol does the harm.


CHAPTER VIII

KINDS OF STRONG DRINK

68. Wine. — All strong drink is alcohol and water. There may be other things to give it taste, but alcohol and water are always in it. No strong drink is over one half alcohol.

In olden times wine was the only strong drink. Men used to crush out the juice of grapes and let it ferment. This made wine. But very often they used the juice before it fermented. Then it had no alcohol and could do no harm, but was a good food. We read of wine in the Bible. Some of it was fresh fruit juice.

In wine, the sugar is changed to alcohol. The rest of the juice stays the same. All wine is made by the yeast plant growing in fruit juice. No yeast is put in, for there is always enough on the outside of the fruit. Wine is about one tenth alcohol.

69. Homemade wine. — Cider is a kind of wine. It is made from apple juice. It has alcohol a day or two after it is made. All homemade wines have alcohol. Any of them can make a person drunk. Using weak homemade wine and cider often makes an appetite for stronger drinks. The alcohol in any of them is enough to harm the body.

what-beer-contains

70. Beer. — After man had made wine for a long time, some one found out how to cultivate yeast. Then men could make sugar and water ferment whenever they wanted to. So men boiled grain to take out its sugar. Then they poured off the liquor and added yeast and let it ferment. This made beer and ale. Now millions of bushels of grain are used every year in making beer. Men call beer a light drink. But it has alcohol and is a strong drink, and can make men drunk.

So much misinformation, it’s starting to make me think that Doc Overton might be a prohibitionist. Beyond getting the history so utterly wrong, there are also these little judgmental statements peppered throughout the text.

74. Habit. — Some strong drinks have only a little alcohol and some have a great deal. No one begins to drink the strong liquors. He begins with wine or beer. When he has once learned, he has a hard time to stop drinking. It is dangerous to drink even weak drinks.

75. Strong drink and thirst. — When a man is thirsty, water will satisfy him but strong drink will not. Sometimes the mouth is dry and dirty and then a man feels thirsty. Rinsing the mouth [Pg 45] with water, and rubbing the tongue and teeth clean will help the dryness and stop the thirst. At any rate, strong drink will only make the mouth dryer.

Some men drink only when they are tired. Then a cup of strong and hot tea or coffee will make them feel much better than a glass of strong drink, and will not harm them so much.

When strong drink is swallowed, its alcohol takes water from the mouth. When your mouth is dry, you feel thirsty. Strong drink makes the mouth dry, and so a drink makes a man more thirsty. The alcohol also makes the mouth smart. Men need another drink to cool the mouth after the first one. So one drink leads to another. All the while a person drinks water with the alcohol until he has too much water. But his mouth is dry and he feels as thirsty as ever.


CHAPTER X

BREATHING, HEAT, AND CLOTHING

117. What becomes of alcohol in the body. — When alcohol is taken up by the blood, it is carried to the liver. The liver tries to get rid of it by taking some air from the blood and burning it up, just as it burns the real food of the body. But this takes some air from the cells of the body. Then they do not burn as they should.

When a stove gets too little air through its draft, it makes an unpleasant smoke, and cools off. Just so, when the cells of the body do not burn as they should, they produce the wrong kind of smoke and ashes. This poisons the body and makes men sick. The most of the poisoning of alcohol is due to these new poisons.

When alcohol takes air from the cells of the body, they do not get enough air. Then they are like a short-winded boy, and do not do their work well. In this way alcohol makes the body weak.

Alcohol does not cease to be harmful because it is burned up in the body. It is harmful just because it burns so quickly. Using alcohol in the body is like trying to burn kerosene in a coal stove. The body is not made to burn alcohol any more than a coal stove is made to burn kerosene. You can burn a little kerosene in a coal stove if you are very careful. Just so, men can burn alcohol in their bodies. But kerosene will always smoke and clog up the stove, and may explode and kill some one. So alcohol in the body burns quickly and forms poisons. It always harms the body and may destroy life at once.

AP-inside-body

118. Alcohol and the lungs. — If you run a long race, your lungs will need a great deal of air. If you take strong drink, the alcohol will use up much of the air, and you will not have enough to use on your run. So you will feel short of breath, and will surely lose the race. You cannot drink and be long-winded.

Two drinks of whisky will use up as much air as the body uses in an hour. It would be easy to smother a person with strong drink. Drunken persons are really smothered; they often die because of the failure of their breathing, even while their heart is able to beat well.

Alcohol often causes the lungs to become thickened. Then air cannot easily pass through their sides, and a person suffers from shortness of breath. Sometimes these persons cannot lie down at all, but must sit up to catch their breath.

119. Drinking and taking cold. — A strong, healthy man can stand a great deal of cold and wet. If he breathes deeply in his work, all the cells of his body get plenty of air, and if he eats good food, the cells get plenty to eat. Then it will take a great deal to harm them. But alcohol hinders the digestion of their food, and also takes away their air. So the cells are both starved and smothered, and are easily hurt. Then a little cold and wet may do great harm to his body, for a drinker cannot stand bad weather or hard work so well as he could if he should leave drink alone.

Men often drink to keep themselves from taking cold. The alcohol really makes them more liable to take cold. It causes the blood to flow near the surface of the skin; there it is easily cooled, and the drinker soon becomes chilled; then he feels colder than ever. The cold harms the cells of his body, and then the white blood cells cannot easily fight disease germs. For this reason a drinker easily takes cold and other diseases.

120. Alcohol lessens the warmth of the body. — Alcohol causes the blood tubes in the skin to become larger. Then more blood will touch the cool air, and the body will become cooler. But because more warm blood flows through the skin, a man feels warmer. But he is really colder. Alcohol makes men less able to stand the cold. Travelers in cold lands know this and do not use it.


CHAPTER XI

THE SKIN AND KIDNEYS

135. Alcohol and the skin. — Alcohol interferes with digestion and causes biliousness. This makes the skin rough and pimply. A drinker seldom has a clear skin.

Alcohol causes the arteries of the face to become enlarged. Then the face is red. A red nose is one of the signs of drinking. When a person uses strong drink he is often uncleanly. He does not care for the bad looks of his clothes and skin, and so he lets them stay dirty. This harms the skin and makes it look bad. The dirt also poisons the skin and may itself be a cause of sickness.

Because alcohol poisons the whole body and often produces kidney diseases, the drinker is apt to catch other diseases. Drinkers are the first to catch such diseases as smallpox and yellow fever. Where there are great numbers of cases, the drinkers are the first and often the only persons to die. This is because their skin and kidneys [Pg 82] have been harmed by the alcohol and cannot throw off the poisons of the disease. Any kind of sickness will be worse in a drinker. Surgeons do not like to operate on drinkers, for their wounds do not heal so quickly as in other people.

When there is too little air, a fire burns slower, and makes a blacker smoke and more ashes. Alcohol takes some air from the cells of the body. So they burn with smoke and ashes of the wrong kind. The skin has to work harder to get rid of these, and sometimes it cannot do it well. Then the body is poisoned. The alcohol is burned and cannot poison the body any more. But it causes the body to make poisons, and so it is to blame. The poisons do great harm to the skin and kidneys. Alcohol causes more kidney disease than all other things put together.


CHAPTER XII

THE NERVES, SPINAL CORD, AND BRAIN

154. Alcohol takes away thought. — Alcohol affects and weakens the cells of the brain sooner than it does those of any other part of the body. It first makes the thought cells weak. Then a person does not think how he acts. He lights his pipe in the barn and throws the match in the hay. He drives his horse on a run through a crowded street. He swears and uses bad language. He gets angry at little things and wants to fight. He seems to think of himself, and of no one else. He is happy, for he does not think of the bad effects of the drink. He has a good time, and does not care for its cost. He likes to drink, because it makes him feel happy.

155. Alcohol spoils motion. — Some cells of the brain cause the arms and legs, and all other parts of the body, to move. Alcohol next makes these weak. Then a person cannot move his legs right, but he staggers when he walks. He cannot carry a full cup to his lips. His hands tremble, and he cannot take care of himself. He is now really drunk.

156. Alcohol takes away feeling. — After a man is drunk, he loses the sense of feeling. He does not [Pg 96] feel cuts and blows. Because he does not feel tired, he feels very strong. He often sees two things for one, and hears strange noises. The whole brain at last gets weak, and cannot act. Then the drinker lies down in a drunken sleep, and cannot be waked up. Some die in this state.

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157. Insanity. — When the brain is misused by alcohol for some time, it cannot get over it. Then the person becomes insane. Drink sends more persons to the insane asylum than all other causes put together.

158. Delirium tremens. — If a drinker gets hurt, or becomes sick, he sometimes has terrible dreams. In them he sees dirty and savage animals coming to harm him. These dreams seem very real to him, and he cries out in his fright. This is called delirium tremens. A person is liable to die from it.

159. Alcohol harms a drinker’s children.—The children of drinkers are apt to be weak in body and mind. A drinker hurts his children even more than he hurts himself. They are liable to catch diseases, and are often cross and nervous, or weak-minded. It is a terrible thing for a man to make his children weak and nervous.

160. Other bad things about drink. — There are many other terrible things about drink, besides the harm it does a man’s body. Many a man has made himself drunk so as to steal or kill. No man can drink long without becoming a worse man for it. Men will not trust him, and he loses the respect of his friends.

Making strong drink takes thousands of men away from good work. They might work at building houses, or raising grain, or teaching school. As it is, their work is wasted.

A great deal of money is wasted on strong drink. All the mines of the world cannot produce enough gold and silver to pay the drink bill. The people of the United States pay more for strong drink than for bread.

The price of two or three drinks a day would amount to enough, in ten years, to buy a small home.

The cost of strong drink is made much greater if we count the cost of jails and insane asylums. Over one half of all crimes and cases of insanity are caused by strong drink.

We must also add the misery and suffering of most children of drunken fathers. This loss cannot be counted in money. Numbers of children become truants from school and learn theft and falsehoods from lack of a father’s care. When all the cost is counted, nothing will be found so expensive as strong drink.

On the other hand, what do people get for their money and suffering? They get only a little pleasure, and then they are ashamed of it. Men use strong drink only because they like it more than they dislike its bad effects.

Since drink does a great deal of harm, with no good to any one, it is right to make laws to control its sale.


CHAPTER XIII

THE SENSES

171. Alcohol and the eyes. — Alcohol makes the eyes red. It weakens the eyes and may produce blindness. A drunken person often sees double.

179. Taste. — We taste with the tongue. Dry food has no taste, but it must first dissolve in the mouth. Spoiled food tastes bad. Bad-tasting food is not fit to eat. Taste tells us whether food is good or bad.

We can learn to like the taste of harmful things. At first no one likes tobacco or strong drink, but the liking is formed the more one uses these. We ought to be careful not to begin to use such things.

Alcohol and tobacco burn the mouth and harm the taste. Food does not taste so good and we may eat spoiled food and not know it.


CHAPTER XV

MUSCLES

194. Alcohol and the muscles. — Men use alcohol to make themselves strong. It dulls their weak feelings, and then they think themselves strong. They are really weaker. The alcohol hinders digestion and keeps food from the cells. Then the fires in the body burn low, and there is little strength.

Alcohol sometimes causes muscle cells to change to fat. This weakens the muscles.

Men sometimes have to do hard work in cold countries; and at other times they must make long marches across hot deserts. Neither the Eskimos in the cold north, nor the Arabs in the hot desert, use strong drink. Alcohol does not help a man in either place. It really weakens the body. The government used to give out liquor to its soldiers; but soldiers can do more work and have better health without liquor and it is no longer given out.

A few years ago men were ashamed to refuse to drink. Even when a new church building was raised, rum was bought by the church and given to the workmen. Farmers used to give their men a jug of rum when they went to work. Farm hands would not work without it.

Now all this has changed. Men do not want drinkers to work for them. A railroad company will discharge a man at once if he is known to drink at all. A man can now refuse to drink anywhere and men will not think any less of him.

AP-skeleton

You can read the whole thing online either at Project Gutenburg or you can read a scanned version of the original at the Internet Archive.

The Chart of Brewing

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Here’s another fun infographic just published by Pop Lab Chart. They’ve done quite a few beer-themed posters and this new one, The Chart of Brewing, shows the brewing process in a great looking graph paper chart. 12 x 16 prints of the hand-illustrated poster will be available for $20 beginning on September 22, although you can preorder one now. I’m putting it on my holiday wishlist.

Chart-of-Brewing

Rules For Brewing Circa 1747

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I recently gave a talk about beer and brewing in the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, at the Mendocino Music Festival‘s Bachfest: Bach and Beer this weekend. Bach’s time was from 1685 to 1750. And while commercial breweries were a big part of the story, brewing at home was still very common, especially in larger households, as evidenced by an interesting historical source I happened upon while researching my talk. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse, was first published in 1747, originally by subscription, but later the same year in a single edition and it had 20 separate re-printings and remained in print until 1843.

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In Chapter 17, she sets out to tell her readers “Of Made Wines, Brewing, French Bread, Muffins, &c.” Here’s her instructions, or “rules,” for brewing beer.

R U L E S    f o r    B R E W I N G .

Care must be taken, in the first place, to have the malt clean; and after it is ground, it ought to stand four or five days.

For strong October [ale], five quarters of malt to three hogsheads, and twenty-four pounds of hops. This will afterwards make two hogsheads of good keeping small-beer, allowing five pounds of hops to it.

For middling beer, a quarter of malt makes a hogshead of ale, and one of small-beer. Or it will make three hogsheads of good small-beer, allowing eight pounds of hops. This will keep all the year. Or it will make twenty gallons of strong ale, and two hogsheads of small-beer that will keep all the year.

If you intend your ale to keep a great while, allow a pound of hops to every bushel; if to keep six months, five pounds to a hogshead; if for present drinking, three pounds to a hogshead, and the softest and clearest water you can get.

Observe the day before to have all your vessels very clean, and never use your tubs for any other use except to make wines.

art-of-cookery-XVII-1

Let your cask be very clean the day before with boiling water; and if your bung is big enough, scrub them well with a little birch-broom or brush ; but if they be very bad, take out the heads, and let them be scrubbed clean with a hand-brush, sand, and fullers-earth. Put on the head again, and scald them well, throw into the barrel a piece of unslacked lime, and stop the bung close.

The first copper of water, when it boils, pour into your mash-tub, and let it be cool enough to see your face in; then put in your malt, and let it be well mashed; have a copper of water boiling in the mean time, and when vour malt is well mashed, fill your mashing-tub, stir it well again, and cover it over with the sacks. Let it stand three hours, set a broad shallow tub under the cock, let it run very softly, and if it is thick throw it up again till it runs fine, then throw a handful of hops in the under tub, let the mash, run into it, and fill your rubs till all is run off. Have water boiling in the copper, and lay as much more on as you have occasion for, allowing one third for boiling and waste. Let that stand an hour, boiling more water to fill the mash-tub for small-beer; let the fire down a little, and put it into tubs enough to fill your mash. Let the second mash be run off, and fill your copper with the first wort; put in part of your hops, and make it boil quick. About an hour is long enough; when it has half boiled, throw in a handful of salt. Have a clean white wand and dip it into the copper, and if the wort feels clammy it is boiled enough; then slacken your fire, and take off your wort. Have ready a large tub, put two sticks across, and set your, straining basket over the tub on the sticks, and strain your wort through it. Put your other wort on to boil with the rest of the hops; let your mash be covered again with water, and thin your wort that is cooled in as many things as you can, for the thinner it lies, and the quicker it cools, the better. When quite cool, put it into the tunning-tub. Throw a handful of salt into every boil. When the mash has stood an hour draw it off, then fill your mash with cold water, take off the wort in the copper and order it as before. When cool, add to it the first in the tub; so soon as you empty one copper, fill the other, so boil your small-beer well. Let the last mash run off, and when both are boiled with fresh hops, order them as the two first boilings; when cool empty the mash tub, and put the smallbeer to work there. When cool enough work it, set a wooden bowl full of yeast in the beer, and it will work over with a little of the beer in the boil. Stir your tun up every twelve hours, let it stand two days, then tun it, taking off the yeast. Fill your vessels full, and save some to fill your barrels; let it stand till it has done working; then lay on your bung lightly for a fortnight, after that stop it as close as you can. Mind you have a vent-peg at the top of the vessel, in warm weather, open it; and if your drink hisses, as it often will, loosen till it has done, then stop it close again. If you can boil your ale in one boiling it is best, if your copper will allow of it; if not, boil it as conveniency serves.

When you come to draw your beer and find it is not fine, draw off a gallon, and set it on the fire, with two ounces of isinglass cut small and beat. Dissolve it in the beer over the fire: when it is all melted, let it-stand till it is cold, and pour it in at the bung, which must lay loose on till it has done fermenting, then stop it close for a month.

Take great care your casks are not musty, or have any ill taste; if they have, it is a hard thing to sweeten them.

You are to wash your casks with cold water before you scald them, and they should lie a day or two soaking, and clean them well, then scald them.

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The New Yellow Journalism

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While to a certain extent it’s easy to understand the reaction of the big brewers, it’s still just sad. It’s the equivalent of negotiating with terrorists, in this case the food terrorists, so to speak. If you haven’t figured out what I’m talking about yet, it’s the so-called Food Babe, and her weird crusade against beer, among many other foodstuffs. She’s the modern version of yellow journalism, all sensationalism and almost no substance. It’s described as “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism.”

Her first salvo was last year when she sensationally claimed to expose The Shocking Ingredients in Beer. Almost every one was as un-shocking as it gets, especially if you understand the brewing process. But that’s the new yellow journalism, and unfortunately you see it all over the internet. A provocative headline to grab page views, link bait or something just overly sensational is all you need. It’s happened so many times since I’ve been writing online that I’ve lost count. And it works. The beer community rushes in to correct egregious mistakes, faulty reasoning, uninformed opinion while the hit count spikes, advertisers smile and websites raise their advertising rates. It rarely matters that what’s written is often wrong, sometimes so utterly wrong that it should be embarrassing for not only the author, but the publication, too. And yet curiously, it’s not. And for me, that’s why it’s yellow journalism. It’s not intended to be factual, or well-researched or reasoned. It’s sole purpose is to get eyeballs on the page. And facts apparently are boring. The truth is somnambulistic. Controversy, even the manufactured kind, is what brings the traffic.

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The “Food Babe” with her comically large magnifying glass.

I don’t need to rehash all that was wrong with the original missive by the Food Babe, The Shocking Ingredients in Beer. Plenty of people dissected it at the time, though none better than Ambitious Brew author Maureen Ogle, who enlisted the help of several respected brewers in her lengthy, comprehensive denunciation What’s In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery, which she later summarized in All About Beer Magazine as Don’t Be A Knee-Jerk, Research the Facts. As Ogle notes, the Food Babe started her “research” with a “baseline list of ‘legal’ additives allowed in beer from the book ‘Chemicals Additives in Beer’ by the Center of Science and Public Interest.” Despite its name, the CSPI is a prohibitionist organization that rarely has anything to do with actual science. It’s one of the most egregiously dishonest of the bunch, in my opinion, an opinion assembled from following them for many years. They’re hardly a good place to begin an honest attempt to look at the ingredients in beer. Plus she begins by stating she’s not even a beer drinker, but prefers wine, even though many of the process chemicals she accuses beer of being composed of are also used in making wine.

A close second, there was also Thomas Cizauskas’ take in Beer Wars: The Calumny of The Food Babe. But others, before and since, have noted that Vani Hari (the Food Babe’s given name) has zero credentials in food sciences, or any other science, apparently. See, for example the RationalWiki or Joe Schwarcz: The Food Babe is anything but an expert on GMOs, writing in the Montreal Gazette. There’s no shortage of people writing about what she’s saying — pro and con — and that, of course, is the point. She’s so out there that people can’t help it; the Ann Coulter of food punditry. Despite so many people crying foul, it’s had no effect whatsoever, which is exactly what you’d expect if truth was never really the goal.

So yesterday, she doubled down and penned an open letter and petition: Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors: Tell Us What’s In Your Beer! This, despite the fact that beer is hardly a mystery, and its ingredients and processes are not only well know, but readily available to anyone who wants to learn about them. But learning about what’s really in beer has apparently no interest to Hari whatsoever. There’s no angle she can sell in that. But ignorance is indeed blissful, and over 40,000 possibly well-meaning but similarly misguided people signed her petition, despite not really understanding the current law regarding alcohol is different for most other food products.

And she even contradicts herself with the basic premise. In her ridiculous graphic, she says that we know what’s in Coca-Cola and Windex, but not beer (even though she claimed to unearth what’s in beer last year) even though anyone paying attention already knows what’s in beer, how it’s made and the process chemicals that are not in the finished product. It’s hardly the #MysteryBeer she claims it to be. That’s a joke, a lie and a very effective way to drum up visitors. There’s no mystery to end, and she knows it. But it’s a fabulous way to get more attention for herself. And boy is it working.

But worst of all, earlier today ABI quickly caved. As a public company, I presume they concluded that the publicity was bad for their image, despite the absurdity of it. Of course, if she’d done even a modicum of actual research, she would have known that since at least 2012, ABI created a website (probably in response to the watering down claims) called tapintoyourbeer.com , which lists for every product they make, the ABV, fat, energy, carbohydrates and proteins. Now they’ve begun listing the primary ingredients for some of their products. For example, for Budweiser they list: “Water, Barley Malt, Rice, Yeast, Hops (ingredient listing is consistent with the FD&C Act).” In their official statement, they say they’ll be expanding that information with additional beer ingredients.

We provide significant information about our beer and their nutritional content through both our consumer hotline (1-800-DIAL-BUD) and our global consumer-information website www.tapintoyourbeer.com, which we have expanded over the years. This exceeds what is required of alcohol producers and is beyond what many other beer, wine and hard liquor producers provide. However, as American consumer needs evolve, we want to meet their expectations. Therefore, we are working to list our beer ingredients on our website, just as you would see for other food and non-alcohol beverage producers. We are beginning immediately, having incorporated this information earlier today on www.tapintoyourbeer.com for our flagship brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, and will be listing this for our other brands in the coming days.

To which, the Food Babe is claiming victory for her and her “Food Babe Army,” which is apparently what she calls her followers or fans, and states that they have “change[d] the policies of a multi-billion dollar company overnight.” But she’s not done, not until every brewery falls in line with her demands. She’s now posted a new graphic crowing about ABI caving in to her demands and asks what MillerCoors is hiding now that they’re “drinking in the dark,” whatever that means.

FB_AnheiserBuschHappyBeer
It’s curious how she had this photo of herself in front of a wall of beer cans all ready to go.

But according to Brewbound, MillerCoors also listed their primary ingredients on their Facebook page earlier today.

At MillerCoors, we put quality and safety above all else. Our beers are regulated by the TTB and every one of our products meets all federal and state regulatory requirements.

We’re proud of the care that goes into the production of all of our beers and have been brewing great-tasting beers with the highest quality ingredients for more than 440 combined years.

From the purity of the water we use to the highest-quality hops and malted barley, our brewmasters go to great lengths to ensure the quality and consistency of our beers.

We also value transparency and are happy to comply with the request for additional information. Earlier this year, we led all alcohol companies by voluntarily placing a nutritional label on our Miller64 brand and we will be putting more ingredient information online in the days ahead.

We will be including the ingredient list starting with our most popular brands, representing the overwhelming majority of our brand volume:

Coors Light, Miller Lite, Blue Moon Belgian White, Coors Banquet, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Keystone Light and Miller Fortune.
Coors Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Lite: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller High Life: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Keystone Light: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Blue Moon Belgian White: Water, barley malt, wheat, oats, yeast, hops, orange peel and coriander
Coors Banquet: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Genuine Draft: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops
Miller Fortune: Water, barley malt, corn, yeast and hops

Maybe she didn’t have time to update her graphics again. Certainly she knows Miller Coors posted these, because she’s posted on their Facebook page, with this:

I have an email from you that says you use “corn syrup” and it’s a main ingredient in your beer – also – you said via email that bluemoon and banquet both have corn syrup. Where’s the full list of ingredients?

They replied, trying to explain that “the corn we use is a liquid corn brewing adjunct, but it is not high fructose corn syrup.” The ignorance about brewing displayed in the comments, presumably by her Food Babe Army, is as alarming as it is remarkable.

The problem is with the first expose, where the Food Babe brought up many different chemicals and items which are used in the brewing process but are not ingredients. Some are used to cool the beer through the process, some for cleaning, and some for other purposes that don’t end up in the beer you drink, some of which never touch the beer at all. For just one example, she claimed glycol was in beer. But that’s merely a coolant used to chill beer in the brewing process. It never touches the beer … ever. If it did, it would ruin the beer. But it’s still there in her list, displaying either a comic ignorance or a malicious intent to mislead. But that’s the irony. She’s claiming to be holding brewers’ feet to the fire to be truthful and transparent, while she herself is being completely dishonest. If her intent was honest, by now she would have modified her earlier attack to reflect the reality she would have, or should have, learned in the year since she first made her absurd claims about what’s in beer. If she was being honest, she’d admit some, if not all, of what she’d claimed was in beer, really wasn’t, for the simple fact that it’s not. That she appears to have learned nothing in the year since she first made her sensationalist claims, and stands by every one of her absurd statements, tells us everything we need to know about her veracity and her real intentions.

Most brewers I know don’t have a problem rattling off their beers’ ingredients nor would they probably mind listing them on the bottle or can, if they were required to do so. It’s not a conspiracy that they don’t have to currently. They do have to list them when they submit each beer for approval to the TTB, who regulate beer and other alcohol at the federal level. There’s already been discussions about listing nutritional information and/or alcohol and servings information. So nobody’s getting away with anything, or trying to poison you with chemicals, as the Food Babe suggests. That’s just bullshit. Whether or not you like the beers made by the big brewers, they’re very well made and modern breweries are industrial and technological marvels. For the most part, they’ve perfected the science of brewing. It’s too bad the fizzy yellow color of their beer is now the same color of the journalism attacking the beer industry.


UPDATE (6.13): To further prove my point, throughout the day, several people have commented that the Food Babe does not allow any dissenting opinions on her Facebook page, removing and banning anything challenging her point of view. And I’m not talking about anything insulting or harassing, I’m talking about science that refutes her. For example, the gentleman who writes the Facebook page Science Corner told me he was “blocked when I pointed out her inconsistencies and lack of fact checking. As a scientist I referenced my comments with actual facts taken from peer reviewed scientific journals.” Nothing says “honesty” like not allowing any debate. To makes matters worse, apparently her minions are now attacking me personally. Not my arguments, mind you, just my character. For example, one Food Babe Army soldier asked me if I was “bought & sold by Monsanto” or speculated that perhaps “Most of [my] investments [are] in big AG.” Hilarious, they really know me so well. I’m not exactly sure why dissent is so assiduously forbidden, if — as her followers insist — she’s just trying to get at the truth. As one commenter claims, “she’s trying to help WE THE PEOPLE make better decisions so we don’t become sick.” Apparently her plan to help these people with their decision-making will be accomplished by not allowing honest debate. Yet I’m the one who is “the YELLOW JOURNALIST,” as one of her wingnuts spat at me. It’s simply amazing.

Big Chin Superhero

UPDATE 2 (6.17): Several other rants about how dishonest Hari is being with her anti-beer campaign are worth taking a look at. First, Maureen Ogle wrote some new observations in Beware the Dangers of [Profit-Driven] Dumbassery. A couple more include Trevor Butterworth writing in Forbes, Quackmail: Why You Shouldn’t Fall For The Internet’s Newest Fool, The Food Babe, and Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe): The Jenny McCarthy of Food by David Gorski, writing in Science-Based Medicine. We’re all continuing to get trolled by the Food Babe Army, which is almost funny. One interesting troll tried to find fault with my take on glycol as a coolant, but mistook propylene glycol for another similar-sounding food safe compound used in salad dressing, among other things. For him it was a “gotcha” moment and (despite being wrong) he then declared (again) that I was “the yellow journalist.” This brings up two points in my mind. First, what the hell is wrong with these people? Why are they even using the term “the yellow journalist,” as if that’s a thing? They clearly don’t understand what yellow journalism is. I helpfully included a link to an overview of yellow journalism so that anyone unfamiliar with the more than 100-year-old term (almost everybody, one presumes) could see what I was talking about. The second point, and the more troubling of the two, is the idea that if Vani’s Army found one mistake in what I’ve written then that invalidates my entire argument and means that I’m the one engaging in yellow journalism. It’s a curious argument. They’re holding Vani’s critics to a standard of perfection that they’re not willing to impose on her. As far as I can tell, this has become about emotions and belief, and the facts no longer seem to matter, if indeed they ever did. That’s a scary prospect, but how else to explain why so many people seem to believe what she’s saying so uncritically and continue to do so when faced with numerous refutations disproving what she’s saying, and which are actually backed up with real science or expertise or experience. And speaking of being uncritical, it’s quite remarkable how many mainstream media outlets have given Hari a forum, and are passing on her misinformation without ever doing any fact-checking or maybe getting a second or contrary opinion. So much for being fair and balanced. But again it comes down to sensationalism, and the fact that controversy is what people what to see, the truth be damned.

UPDATE (7.14): Maureen Ogle today mentioned a new piece about the Food Babe in the Charlotte Observer, ostensibly the Food Babe’s home paper, Charlotte’s Food Babe has lots of fans – and some critics. Unsurprisingly, it’s mostly a fluff piece although at least it does address some of the criticisms leveled at Vani Hari. But it lets her get away with more than a few howlers, such as “Hari says she is simply trying to help people understand what’s in their food and hold companies accountable. She says she has researched her critics and that they attack anyone who opposes alternative nutrition.” Really, she’s “researched her critics?” I’d feel a lot better if she’d research their arguments and the science behind her original absurd claims.

Interestingly, the article mentions that she, and her husband, left lucrative “six-figure incomes” to run the website full-time, one that’s “packed with advertising and product endorsements. You can even buy an eating-plan subscription for $17.99 a month.” As someone who makes zero from writing this blog (and that’s on purpose I should add), I’d say you have to sell an awful lot of snake oil to make that work. Of course, the “babe” in food babe all but guarantees that she’ll get television time since we love people who are telegenic over substance so you’ll not be surprised in the least that she also has a “William Morris Endeavor agent to handle her TV appearances.” Frighteningly, a publisher is even putting out a book, “The Food Babe Way,” so that doesn’t sound like a cult or anything scary.

As to where she makes her money, something her “Army” loves to level at her critics (for example, commenters asked if I was being paid by Monsanto, oddly enough), it’s been revealed that she was a paid consultant to Chick-fil-A, but also claimed victory over the fast food chain when they announced they’d “use chicken that was free of antibiotics within five years,” posting “We Did It Again!” According to the Charlotte Observer, “Hari has confirmed that she was paid by Chick-fil-A for her work as a consultant on their ingredients, a fact she appears to have not mentioned on her website.” Yet none of her followers apparently have a problem with or see any contradiction in that.

Then there’s this headline: “Debate is her sport.” That’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so crucial to what’s wrong with someone like like Hari. She may claim to love debate, but she assiduously avoids it by banning anyone who questions her “findings,” even politely. The comments section of any piece written about her is rife with people telling tales of being banned, even this post.

Under “Science or silliness?,” the Observer brings up the nonsense about glycol, thusly:

Her claim about “an ingredient found in antifreeze” being added to beer also draws criticism. Actually, the ingredient used is propylene glycol alginate, a kelp derivative used to stabilize head foam, not propylene glycol, a coolant. She later clarified this on her website.

While she sort of updated information about her original claim, under Big Update: The Truth That Beer Companies Have Not Made Public Yet, under the subheading “‘Propylene Glycol Alginate’ is added to beer as a foam stabilizer,” she continues to mistake Propylene Glycol Alginate, or PGA, for “Propylene Glycol” that’s used in antifreeze, even though they’re two completely different animals. And in the original post, The Shocking Ingredients of Beer, still lists “Propylene Glycol (an ingredient found in anti-freeze)” exactly the same way as when it was first posted last fall. So the that misinformation is still being disseminated, despite her claim to have “clarified” it. Considering she keeps talking about “transparency,” why not update the original post? Well, the real reason is she’s still not even close to understanding what she’s talking about, and as far as I can tell she no intention of even trying to.

The Hoplist

hoplist
I got a press release yesterday from a Julian Healey about a project he’s just launched. His new website from Australia is The Hoplist, and includes information on at least 268 varieties of hops, which they claim is the “biggest list of hops … ever.” And that seems right, most of the hop guides are put out by the hop growers and sellers, and focus on just the varieties that they carry, whereas the Hoplist is at least attempting to be complete. For each hop, there’s a description of the hop and nearly two-dozen bits of information about it. I’ll be in Melbourne in just over a week, so perhaps I can share a beer with Julian. I think I’ll suggest something hoppy.

hoplist-screenshot