Hales, ed. – Beer & Philosophy

Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales; foreword by Michael Jackson

Date read: 5 April / 15-24 September 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Beer & Philosophy: The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking edited by Steven D. Hales

Paperback, x, 233 pages
Published 2007 by Blackwell
Source: Summit / Own

Table of Contents

  • Foreword: Michael Jackson.
  • Editor’s Introduction: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).

Part I: The Art of the Beer:.

  • 1. Thirst for Authenticity: An Aesthetics of the Brewer’s Art: Dale Jacquette (Pennsylvania State University).
  • 2. The Beer Matrix: Reality vs Facsimile in Brewing: Garrett Oliver (Brooklyn Brewery).
  • 3. The Truth About Beer: Michael P. Lynch (University of Connecticut).
  • 4. Good Beer, or How to Properly Dispute Taste: Peter Machamer (University of Pittsburgh).
  • 5. Quality, Schmality: Talking Naturally about the Aesthetics of Beer; or, Why is American Beer So Lousy?: Martin Stack (Rockhurst University) and George Gale (University of Missouri).
  • 6. Extreme Brewing in America: Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Craft Brewing).

Part II: The Ethics of Beer: Pleasures, Freedom, and Character:.

  • 7. Mill v. Miller, or Higher and Lower Pleasures: Steven D. Hales (Bloomsburg University).
  • 8. Beer and Autonomy: Alan McLeod (Senior Legal Counsel for the City of Kingston, Ontario).
  • 9. Another Pitcher? On Beer, Friendship, and Character: Jason Kawall (Colgate University).

Part III: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer:.

  • 10. Beer and Gnosis: The Mead of Inspiration: Theodore Schick (Muhlenberg College).
  • 11. The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer: Neil A. Manson (University of Mississippi).
  • 12. What’s a Beer Style?: Matt Dunn (University of Indiana at Bloomington).

Part IV: Beer in the History of Philosophy:.

  • 13. Drink on, the Jolly Prelate Cries: David Hilbert (University of Illinois at Chicago).
  • 14. Beer Goggles and Transcendental Idealism: Steven M. Bayne (Fairfield University).
  • 15. Beyond Grolsch and Orval: Beer, Intoxication, and Power in Nietzsche’s Thought: Rex Welshon (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs).
  • Index

That subtitle is ridiculous [The Unexamined Beer Isn’t Worth Drinking]. Too easy of a shot and entirely incorrect. Although a propensity to examine one’s beer can be a fine thing, sometimes, in some contexts, beer just does need to be simply drank; not thought about and deity forbid “examined.”

The foreword by Michael Jackson is, of course, sensible. The only issue is that it is somewhat dated now, as many of these pieces are, due to a rapidly changing industry.

“When Fred [Eckhardt] and I first met, his home town, Portland, Oregon, had one brewery” (x).

It is far closer to 90 now.

“Today, there are between 50 and 100 styles of beer being produced in the US, by about 1,500 breweries” (x).

No idea on current number of styles–and by whose counting?–but we’re much closer to 5000 operating breweries in the US, with ~6500 permitted ones.

Certainly not Michael’s fault that the market has changed and, as I said, this is a fault with several of these pieces. Many times market examples are simply that, but sometimes someone uses them to do philosophical analysis and that is pretty much a non-starter. Sure. There is sometimes little choice but I would have hoped the editor focused on more time-insensitive discussions. [MJ is not doing analysis, just commentary, so he gets a bye on this.]

Anyway, the work as a whole is not completely time-bound.

Editor’s Introduction: provides an overview of the chapters themselves and of the groupings (Parts) into which they were put.

Part I The Art of Beer

1 Jacquette: primarily on “authenticity” but is confused, confusing, and extremely prejudiced. Poor philosophy and with the amount of prejudice shown should never have been included in this collection. Period. Certainly should not have been the first piece; although, it did set a very low bar for the rest.

While discussing glassware we get things like the following:

On the Bavarian Maß he says:

“Still, if such tankards are used extensively in certain places where good beer is made, doesn’t this mean that they are an authentic part of beer-drinking culture?

The answer, as we can say in few areas of philosophy, is an unqualified no. Big heavy glass mugs are out” (20) [emphasis in text].

Just. What. The. Actual. Fuck?! The editor should be smacked for allowing this asinine shit. Even if the Bavarians have only been using the Maß for several decades–not his point, or my claim–that does not make it inauthentic. In fact, sitting in a beer garden drinking a Bavarian Lager out of most anything but a Maß would be inauthentic.

“I have seen brandy-snifter beer glasses for specialty beers, and these are often acceptable, if perhaps a little pretentious” (21).

Um. Fuck you, Jacquette.

He finally goes on to decide, quite reluctantly, that a Maß is authentic for current Bavarian culture, but only after deriding the glass for another few pages. Yes, it has issues as a “proper” glass for some purposes but that does not give him license to dismiss it out of hand. Nor are his personal preferences in “an optimal vessel” either (21). Simply not relevant to a philosophical discussion of authenticity.

He is also highly confused on, perhaps ignorant of, how styles evolve. He claims “the good European beers have had in some cases as much as a thousand years, and most at least several hundred, in developing their craft” (27). So I guess Oktoberfest Bier is no longer authentic then.

On whether we must enjoy the truly authentic:

“I may not like Belgian kriek (cherry-flavored) beers — indeed, I personally loathe them — but I think I can recognize an authentic kriek, which in the first place I do not consider to be an authentic beer, without appreciating the flavor, enjoying the taste, or approving the concept” (28).

This is a critically important point but it is again shot through with utter prejudice. He does not show or analyze why kriek maybe ought not be considered authentic but only claims it is not. He also blurs (conceals?) the real point about being able to recognize authenticity despite not enjoying the authentic item or even the concept of it as authentic.

His method for pouring beer (p. 23)–which he calls “[t]he proper method”–is ridiculous and wastes beer.

His ideals of authentic beers are Grolsch, Pacifico, Dos Equis, Red Stripe, Little Kings Cream Ale and so on. In other words, Euro-Lagers are the sine qua non of authentic beer for him. Jacquette is not an idiot but he certainly acted like one in this piece, as did the editor in including this piece.

2 Oliver: “artificial”

Mass market beer is NOT “real beer,” he claims (32).

Based on his butter –> margarine –> butter example, “artificial” is (sometimes) determined by fashion (33).

When he gets to where “the concept of beer style becomes useful” (36) he uses “Pilsner.”  But to the Czechs it is unique—the Pilsner just is Urquell. What he goes on to describe he labels “Pilsner-style beer” (36). Not a huge deal but I think he understood this was a fraught example but kept at it anyway; especially as it helps later with his argument that American mass market lagers are artificial.

All in all this is a definite improvement over the 1st essay.

At the end, he admits that we all have those things we accept as artificial. So the point was …?

3 Lynch: A fairly clear epistemological romp to sort out what sort of truth can be known; mostly in a “good”/ranking way. Quite short and an easy read.

Probably should have been in Part III though.

4 Madamer: doesn’t really get anywhere but is a nice ride. Discusses aesthetic description, evaluation and enjoyment.

The three aesthetic activities he is concerned with are describing, evaluating, and enjoying (53).

Under description:

“This is the main point: Descriptions, of anything, are produced by people for certain purposes. Descriptions are speech acts. As actions they accomplish their purpose or not, but the purposes themselves have to be judged as good or bad on independent grounds” (56).

This is a basic and important point. If you cannot grasp it then you ought never use Untappd or Ratebeer or generally even attempt to provide descriptions to anyone other than yourself.

“Sometimes metaphors are all we have” (60).

Amen! Another basic point about language.

Glad to see we are on an improving quality track so far.

5 Stack & Gale: aesthetic evaluation of beer.

“It can safely be said that the universal, worldwide estimation of these beers [American mass-market] is that they are of poor quality” (66)

“Universal”?! Um, no. They do later back off this claim a bit but it is too late. Two academics–one a philosopher–and they make this basic mistake. I know they are writing “pop” philosophy but who gives a fuck? You still can’t go making universal statements.

 “Acidity, perceived tartness, is measured by the pH scale: …” (67).

No, pH does not equal perceived tartness!

“CoSeteng and others (1989) showed that solutions of citric, malic, tartaric, lactic, and acetic acids with equivalent pH and titratable acidity gave significantly different sour taste responses. Likewise, Pangborn (1963) found no relation between pH, titratable acidity, and relative sour taste intensity of several organic acids at both threshold and suprathreshold concentrations” (R34).

The evidence that it is not that simple by a long shot is immensely varied. And large. Humans and other animals seem to have multiple channels for the sour taste and these channels differ widely across species.

“Although significant efforts have been made to understand the chemistry of sour taste, it is not currently possible to accurately predict and modify sour taste intensity in foods by simply knowing the concentrations of acids and pH” (R35).

Both above quotes from:

Neta, E. R. D. C., Johanningsmeier, S. D., & McFeeters, R. F. (2007). The Chemistry and Physiology of Sour Taste—A Review [Concise Reviews and Hypotheses in Food Science]. Journal of Food Science, 72(2), R33–R37. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00282.x

“Barley is the sine qua non of beer production, and thereby, the foundation of beer quality. That’s where the process begins” (68).

Another universal and, again, incorrect. “Sine qua non” means “an essential condition” and barley is not that. For most beers known to much of the world, yes, but it sure as heck is not essential (in either the common or philosophical sense).

Their understanding of the brewing process is also close to bonkers. Few mashes are done over “several hours” (69). Adjuncts do in fact add (or at a minimum, change the) flavor despite their claim otherwise (69). It just goes on.

“The question of the relation between barleys and adjunct-brewing in American beers deserves a few remarks. Though turn-of-the-century American farmers …” (71).

This book was published in 2007. Which damn century do you fools mean? I grok it from context and perhaps most will but that was two turns-of-the-century ago.

No good passages to point to but import beers (into America) get a consistent pass throughout. I want to know why. Some of those are no better than American mass market ones either (see 74 and others prior).

They created a strategic map, or model, of the industry to compare price against advertising (80-81) but, of course, the market has now changed. Tis not good philosophy to include historically contingent market analysis as a more permanent feature of a phenomenon under analysis.

6 Calagione: I like Sam’s writing well enough but this is mostly “Kumbayah” and “Hail, Columbia!” He says normal Sam things here but they are unwelcome in philosophy.

“Big breweries make a product, small breweries make consumable art” (86).

Give me a fucking break! There may be more art [how is this measured?] in a small brewery’s beers but they are all products.

“As craft brewers we are not in the business of growth — we are in the business of making world-class beer. Growth is just a by-product of our business. Money is a means to our end and not an end in itself” (90-91).

Well ain’t that just convenient? And utter bullshit.

Anyway, if you know how Calagione talks and writes then you got this. Not bad overall but what was the point actually other than to sit around the fire basking in the glow of the craft beer brotherhood? Please tell me we are past this now.

Part II The Ethics of Beer: Pleasure, Freedom, and Character

7 Hales: Mill on pleasures. The pragmatics of polling competent judges is completely avoided as it was in hedonic calculus. They do, though, address what constitutes a competent judge in a domain.

“In short, it is a mistake to hold that pleasures are desirable because the competent judges desire them. Far more reasonable is the view that competent judges desire certain pleasures because those pleasures are antecedently desirable, and the judges, informed and educated about that kind of pleasure, are able to reliably detect the qualities that make those pleasures desirable” (103-4).

“The recognition of quality comes at a cost” (107).

Indeed.

The upshot is that we should, within our means, pursue high quality pleasures (109). Thus, become a knowledgeable beer geek.

8 McLeod: Nice. Shows how Canadian liberty is constrained by ridiculous beer laws; although it applies to all governments. Nicely argued and well-written.

He provides an intro and then covers the law in relation to homebrewing, making beer commercially, traveling with your beer, packaging and advertising and the public experience, and wholesale and retail: taxes, fees and price and how one’s autonomy is curtailed across all of those areas.

Highly recommended!

9 Kawall: friendship. Nice. Basically asks if our “beer buddies” can be true friends.

“So it is here that we begin to see the especial value of beer-inclusive friendships. They include a regular practice which encourages openness and extended conversation, a practice that will improve and deepen a friendship” (128).

Part III The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer

10 Schick: William James (& others) on altered states of consciousness/truth/reality

“The dominant theory of knowledge in the West is known as “empiricism.” It holds that sense experience is the only source of knowledge. But it doesn’t indicate what state of consciousness we must be in to acquire knowledge. Ordinary waking consciousness may not be the only state of consciousness that puts us in touch with reality” (140-1).

I do disagree with a few small points but overall is quite good.

The knowledge gained under the influence of beer (or other alcohol or drugs) is neither propositional knowledge/knowing that nor performative knowledge/knowing how, but

          = knowledge by acquaintance/knowing what

11 Manson: a riff on Hume’s dialogue. Meh.

12 Dunn: Read this a couple times as why I looked at the book in the first place after seeing mentioned in some blog post comment thread.

Yes. Yes. Natural kinds are highly problematic. Is OK but could have been much clearer. His conclusion, though, is correct: beer/styles are the wrong kinds of things to have “right” criteria.

13 Hilbert: Berkeley, Bishop G. and his ridiculous “God saves it all, except matter, argument.” It isn’t a bad overview of Berkeley’s argument. It’s just that it is a bad argument; then and still.

14 Bayne: primary / secondary qualities. Kant on space & time. Not especially interesting; what was the larger point but to ramble on about Kant?

15 Welshon: Nietzsche’s antagonism of beer yet praise for intoxication. Again, not bad, but not sure what the point was.

Most of these final chapters seem to be excuses for the authors to write “pop” intros/overviews to their pet philosophers, which is almost always a bad idea.

If we look at the fifteen chapters, they were authored by 16 individuals [one chapter had two authors]. Ten chapters were authored individually by academic philosophers, one by an academic management person and an academic philosopher, and one by a PhD student in History & Philosophy of Science. Only three of the fifteen were authored by non-academics: two by brewmasters and one by a lawyer (and beer blogger).

I gave each chapter a score from 0 [did not like; no point] to two [liked] with one [meh to OK]. If you add up the scores and divide by number of chapters it seems the non-academics did a bit better for me than the academics, but that is also driven mostly by Alan McLeod’s excellent chapter. If I was a bit tougher on Oliver and Calagione, as I probably should be, then that groups score would tank.

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Non-acads: 4 / 3 = 1.33

Maybe I ought make three categories and then we would get:

  • Academics: 12 / 12 = 1.0
  • Brewers: 2 / 2 = 1.0 [or less]
  • McLeod: 2 / 1 = 2.0

Overall score per chapter is 16 / 15 = 1.066 so mostly “Meh” or OK.

Not sure what any of that adds up to in the larger scheme. There were three chapters by philosophers that I gave 2s to but also four by academics that I gave 0s.

All in all, is quite variable and I say that some of those folks ought have been able to do better. Much better. Get it from the library unless you’re a philosophy geek like me.

This is the 24th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Hornsey – Brewing, 2nd ed.

Brewing BrewingI. Hornsey; RSC Publishing 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder Read 28 Feb – 22 April 2014

Well-illustrated, learned, and perhaps serving multiple readers, this book, now in its new 2nd edition, is, despite being fairly heavy on the science, a useful, up-to-date, statement of the brewers art, with a little bit of up-to-date history and anthropology (Introduction).

[Note: I apologize for the somewhat mishmashed citations. Brewing science uses one of the most ridiculous citation styles ever invented. For starters, they throw out the title of a book chapter or article. I could go on but won’t.]

Contents:

  • 1 Historical Material
  • 2 Barley and Malt
  • 3 Hops
  • 4 The Brewhouse
  • 5 Fermentation
  • 6 Beer Post-Fermentation
  • 7 Achieving and Maintaining Beer Quality
  • Subject Index

I will have little to say about most sections as it is fairly science heavy but still often understandable to someone with a good basic knowledge of commercial brewing. If I were a brewer with a problem or wanting more information on a process or an ingredient then I would turn here to get pointed in the right direction. I will leave in all of the section headings so you can get a good idea of what it contains, which is no more than you can do at amazon [although amazon is showing you the table of contents for the 1st ed. at the 2nd ed. page]. Again, after the Introduction there won’t be much in the way of comments. I may leave a note or two and add context as needed but not all of my notes are of use to you as you may well be interested more in one of the many other topics covered in the book.

1 Historical Material

Hornsey’s introduction, while being both interesting and easy to read, is also erudite. He turned me on to so many interesting looking works and some possible follow-on work to something I was hoping to find more of [http://marklindner.info/bbl/2013/11/some-things-read-beer-ed/ See Samuel, D.].

He chooses two topics as his focal point in the intro: Likely Origins of Brewing and Some Notable Figures in Brewing Science. The areas of most interest for me, if measured by note-taking and citations recorded for obtaining resources, were the section on the likely origins of brewing and the last paragraph of the chapter where he ends with suggestions for several books and articles on the topic(s) at hand.

1.1 Likely Origins of Brewing

I was particularly excited to learn of his Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2012 and his A History of Beer and Brewing, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2003. I acquired a copy of each via Summit (interlibrary loan) and will definitely be ordering myself a copy of both soon.

This section also covered Delwen Samuel’s work on brewing and baking in Ancient Egypt. I had read two of his articles, both from 1996, and had hoped to find resources describing any further work. Hornsey pointed me to two of them, which can be found here http://www.ancientgrains.org/delwen_papers.html along with others.

Samuel’s work is covered on pp. 3-5 see fn 14 & 15

     fn 14 ref “With the aid of scanning electron microscopy, Samuel has demonstrated that some grains were sprouted (malted!) before being crushed and used for brewing; ….” (5)

     14 D. Samuel, “Fermentation technology 3,000 years ago — The archaeology of ancient Egyptian beer.” SGM Quarterly, 1997, 24, 3-5.

     fn 15 ref “Brewing and baking in ancient Egypt has been thoroughly studied by Samuel.” (5)

     15 D. Samuel, “Brewing and baking” in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, ed. P. T. Nicholson and I. Shaw, Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, 2000, 537-76.

This section ends with some suggestions for articles and books:

“Highlights in the history of international brewing science have been summarized by Anderson, who has also documented the way in which science transformed brewing over the past three centuries, and the history of industrial brewing. A number of useful articles on brewing research and brewing history have appeared and are worth consulting, as are the books by Bamforth and Priest and Stewart.” (22)

  • R. G. Anderson, Ferment, 1993, 6, 191. [“Highlights in the history of international brewing science,” 191-8.]
  • R. G. Anderson, Brewery History, 2005, 121, 5.
  • R. G. Anderson, in Handbook of Brewing, 2nd rev. edn, ed. Priest, F. G. and Stewart, G. G., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006, p. 1. [History of Industrial Brewing, 1-38]
  • T-M, Inari, One Hundred Years of Brewing Research, J. Inst. Brewing Centenary Edition, London, 1995.
  • F. G. Meussdoerffer, in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets, ed. H. M. Esslinger, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KgaA, Weinheim, 2009, p. 1. [“A Comprehensive History of Beer Brewing,” 1-42]
  • C. W. Bamforth, Brewing: New Technologies, Woodhead Pubishing, Abington, Cambridge, 2006. [See my review here http://marklindner.info/bbl/2013/08/bamforth-ed-brewing-new-technologies/]
  • F. G. Priest and G. G. Stewart ed., Handbook of Brewing, 2nd rev. edn, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006

From 6.6 Beer Flavour:

     “For an up-to-date account of the sensory evaluation of beer see the excellent chapter by Bill Taylor and Greg Organ, 217 a repository of important facts and references.” (269)

     217 W. J. Taylor and G. J. Organ, in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets, ed. H. M. Esslinger, Wiley-VCH Verlag, Weinheim, 2009, p.675. [“Sensory Evaluation,” 675-702]

Have my hands on this and looking forward to reading it.

From 7.2.4 Foam one little nugget (amongst many):

     “Even allowing for the enormous amount of research that has been carried out into the broad subject of head retention, there is still a mysterious side to the subject, a fact that is referred to in an article by Bamforth.48” (287)

     48 C. W. Bamforth, The Brewer, 1995, 81, 396. [“Foam: method, myth or magic?” 396. [389].]

Contents:

  • 1 Historical Material
  • 1.1 Likely Origins of Brewing
  • 1.2 Some Notable Figures in Brewing Science
  • 1.2.1 Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
  • 1.2.2 Antonj van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)
  • 1.2.3 Challenging “Spontaneous Generation”
  • 1.2.4 Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
  • 1.2.5 The Sedlmayrs – a Scientific Brewing Dynasty
  • 1.2.6 The Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen
  • 1.2.7 Chemists and the Brewing Industry
  • 2 Barley and Malt
  • 2.1 In the Beginning
  • 2.2 The Barley Plant and Its Domestication
  • 2.3 Barley Breeding
  • 2.4 Biochemical Structure of Barley
  • 2.4.1 Starchy Polysaccharides
  • 2.4.2 Non-Starchy Polysaccharides
  • 2.4.3 Proteins (Nitrogen; N)
  • 2.4.4 Lipids
  • 2.4.5 Other Constituents
  • 2.5 Malting
  • 2.5.1 Steeping
  • 2.5.2 Germination – and What Happens
  • 2.5.3 Kilning
  • 2.5.4 Malting Loss
  • 2.6 Other Cereals Used In Brewing
  • 2.6.1 Wheat
  • 2.6.2 Rice
  • 2.6.3 Maize
  • 2.6.4 Sorghum
  • 2.6.5 Oats
  • 2.6.6 Rye
  • 2.6.7 Triticale
  • 2.6.8 Buckwheat
  • 2.7 Specialist Malts and Adjuncts
  • 2.8 Commercial enzymes Used In Brewing
  • 3 Hops
  • 3.1 Historical
  • 3.2 The Plant
  • 3.3 Hop Varieties
  • 3.3.1 Dwarf Hops
  • 3.3.2 Hop Processing
  • 3.4 Hop Constituents
  • 3.4.1 “Sunstruck” Beer
  • 3.5 Hop Products
  • 3.6 Hop Pests and Diseases
  • 4 The Brewhouse
  • 4.1 Milling
  • 4.2 Mashing
  • 4.3 Wort Separation
  • 4.4 Sweet Wort
  • 4.4.1 Carbohydrate Composition
  • 4.4.2 Nitrogen Compounds
  • 4.4.3 Fatty Acids
  • 4.4.4 Sulfur Compunds
  • 4.5 Wort Boiling
  • 4.6 Wort Cooling
  • 5 Fermentation
  • 5.1 The Yeast
  • 5.2 Nutritional Requirements of Yeast
  • 5.2.1 Carbon Metabolism
  • 5.2.2 Nitrogen Metabolism
  • 5.2.3 Vitamins
  • 5.2.4 Inorganic Ions (Other Elements)
  • 5.2.4.1 Sulfur
  • 5.2.4.2 Phosphorus
  • 5.2.4.3 Metallic Elements
  • 5.2.5 Relationship with Oxygen
  • 5.3 Yeast: Vitality and Viability
  • 5.4 Fermentation
  • 5.5 Yeast Storage Compounds
  • 5.6 Fermentation Technologies
  • 5.6.1 Batch Fermentation
  • 5.6.2 Continuous Fermentation
  • 5.6.3 High-Gravity Brewing
  • 5.7 New Brewing Yeasts
  • 6 Beer Post-Fermentation
  • 6.1 Maturation
  • 6.1.1 Flavour Development
  • 6.1.2 Colloidal Stabilisation
  • 6.1.3 Carbonation
  • 6.1.4 Clarification and Filtration
  • 6.2 Brewery Conditioned Beer
  • 6.2.1 Kegging
  • 6.2.2 Bottling
  • 6.2.3 Canning
  • 6.2.4 Nitrogenated Beer
  • 6.3 Cask-Conditioned Beer
  • 6.3.1 The Cask
  • 6.3.2 Beer Fining
  • 6.3.3 Bottle-Conditioned Beer
  • 6.4 Low-Alcohol (LA) and Alcohol-Free Beers (AFB)
  • 6.5 A Couple of “Special” Beers
  • 6.5.1 Ice Beer
  • 6.5.2 Wheat Beer
  • 6.6 Beer Flavour
  • 7 Achieving and Maintaining Beer Quality
  • 7.1 Management and Systems
  • 7.2 Chemical and Physical Laboratory Analysis
  • 7.2.1 Gravity and Beer Strength
  • 7.2.2 Bitterness
  • 7.2.3 Colour
  • 7.2.4 Foam
  • 7.2.5 Nitrosamines
  • 7.3 Microbiology
  • 7.3.1 Rapid Identification Methods
  • 7.3.1.1 ATP Bioluminesence
  • 7.3.1.2 Fluorescence in situ Hybridisation (FISH)
  • 7.3.1.3 The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
  • 7.3.2 Bacteria
  • 7.3.3 Wild Yeasts
  • Subject Index

Again, a well-illustrated and learned book that can perhaps serve multiple reading publics.

I got this from COCC Barber Library [TP 570 .H66 2013]. It is a second copy of a text for the brewing certificate exam prep course that started this spring term at COCC.

Some Things Read, Beer ed.

This post is my entry for Let’s Go Long in November or #beerylongreads hosted by Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog. The goal is to go for 2000+ words on some topic related to beer. I do have a long post / article / something that I am working on but I am fairly confident that my research will not be done by 30 November so I am going to pull out a variation on an old trick from my original non-beer blog.

I used to have a weekly post called “Some things read this week.” Drop that in the search box at habitually probing generalist or simply click this link and you’ll find those posts. Of course, those were almost entirely library and information science related so perhaps you really don’t need or want to.

I have been collecting articles of interest on the world of beer for a while now. Some I have read; many I have not. Some are single finds that I found in my intermittent searches of article databases, some have been sent to me, and some are citations that I tracked down from books and articles read. I may also include book chapters where I did not read an entire book but only scanned a chapter or two. [Above written 12 Nov]

I am going to try a rough, but certainly inadequate, categorization with groupings of Health, Taste, Brewing, Archaeology and Assorted.

Health

§ Is Beer-Drinking Injurious? Science, Vol. 9, No. 206 (Jan. 14, 1887), pp. 24-25. Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1761606

I am going to lead off with one I wrote about back in March since it is simply so wonderful. I have yet to read the full paper that the short article in Science is based on but I still hope to some day. The short Science piece, all of which is reproduced on my blog at that link, is quite the doozy.

§ Casey, Troy R, and Charles W Bamforth. 2010. “Silicon in Beer and Brewing.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 90 (5) (April 15): 784–788. doi:10.1002/jsfa.3884. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.3884. Read 10 November 2013. Found while helping a student with a chemistry assignment. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jsfa.3884/full

“The purpose of this study was to measure silicon in a diversity of beers and ascertain the grist selection and brewing factors that impact the level of silicon obtained in beer” (abstract). There is no RDA for silicon but the “dietary intake of silicon in the USA is about 20-50 mg day” (784). Among some of the uses of silicon in humans is to promote increased bone mineral density, increase type I collagen synthesis, and protect from the toxic effects of aluminum ( 784; WebMD Silicon).

They tested 100 commercial examples, many of which came from “smaller independent breweries” (785). Average silicon was 29.4 ppm, which was much higher than the averages found in two previous studies (19.2 ppm / 18.7 ppm) which they attributed to those craft breweries use of more malt (785, 784). Pale malts have the highest concentration of silicon, the majority of which resides in the husk (786). Hops can have as much a four times the silicon as barley but so little is used it does not have a big effect on overall silicon levels in beer (786). As you may guess, craft beer IPAs contained the most silicon due to their large amount of paler malts and the large amount of hops (785). There was also a brewing component to this study which I will let you look into on your own. They concluded that “Beer is a substantial source of silicon in the diet” (788). Drink beer—moderately, of course—for strong bones and other health-related benefits.

§ Wright, C. A., C. M. Bruhn, H. Heymann, and Charles W Bamforth. 2008. “Beer Consumers’ Perceptions of the Health Aspects of Alcoholic Beverages.” Journal of Food Science 73 (1): H12–H17. OSU – Wiley-Blackwell. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00574.x. Read 19 April 2013/Re-read 26 November 2013.

This article discusses an examination of the perceptions consumers have of the health benefits and nutritional value of the moderate consumption of alcohol. Focus groups were used to identify themes which “led directly to the style and content of the consumer survey” (H13). The survey was “conducted at large commercial breweries at 3 locations: northern California (West Coast), eastern Missouri (Midwest), and southern New Hampshire (East Coast)” (H13). The study measured “consumers’ perceptions of the healthfulness of alcoholic beverages based on their color or appearance; consumers’ drivers of choice for alcoholic beverages; consumers’ perceptions of the content of alcoholic beverages; consumers’ sources of nutritional and health information; the credibility of these sources of nutritional and health information; consumers’ beliefs about alcohol’s role in a healthy lifestyle; and the potential impact of nutritional and health information on consumers’ actions” (H12).

They rankings for perception of healthfulness of 6 alcoholic beverages was as follows (perceived healthiest to least so): Red wines, whites wines, “light” beers, light colored beers, dark colored beers, and regular beers (H13-14). This was the same for males and females. The 14 factors in choosing an alcoholic beverage varies significantly between males and females and also by age (age groups were 21 to 30, and 30+), although taste was the #1 driver (H14). The most frequent source of health and nutritional information was doctors and magazines, with 11 other sources trailing; though, this varied by location, age and gender (H14-15). “People’s knowledge of the content of alcoholic beverages was limited” (H15). That is an understatement. This varied mostly by age, with the 21-30s being particularly confused about what is in wine, beer, tequila or vodka. Although if you look at the %s in the charts for each the 30+s have no legs to stand on either (H15-16). On a more positive note, “[t]he majority of volunteers, 75%, believed that the moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial to your health. Fewer than 3% … believed that this statement [was] false and 22% were not sure how they felt about the statement” (H16). There is a lot more data here and it is interesting to note much of it. They advocate for nutritional labeling on alcoholic beverages so that consumers can make more informed choices.

Taste

§ Langstaff, Susan A., and M. J. Lewis. 1993. “The Mouthfeel of Beer – A Review.” Journal of the Institute of Brewing 99 (February): 31–37. Read 13-15 November 2013. Cited in Bamforth, ed., Brewing: new technologies, ch. 20, “Brewing control systems: sensory evaluation” by W. J. Simpson, p. 434.

This is basically a literature review of “the development of terminology and methods to describe [mouthfeel] and studies of the physical and chemical properties which may contribute to it” (abstract). It is organized into three sections: 1. Development of Beer Mouthfeel Terminology, 2. Physical and Chemical Parameters Which May Contribute to Beer Mouthfeel, and 3. Mouthfeel Studies Using Beverages and Beer. Subsections include History and Beer Flavor Wheel in the first section; and Foam Head, Carbon Dioxide, “Protein” (Polypeptides), Polyphenols, Chloride, Dextrins, β-Glucan, Viscosity, Alcohol, Glycerol, and Caveat in the second. The third section has no subsections.

It is a fairly short article that sadly doesn’t do much other than critique previous studies. I wish it had provided a few more definitive comments about mouthfeel or, at a minimum, had proposed further studies to further elucidate the impact of the physical and chemical properties mentioned and how they actually do or do not impact mouthfeel. According to Simpson, this is the paper that led to the modification of the Beer Flavor Wheel to include a separate mouthfeel section.

§ Gruber, Mary Anne. 2001. “The Flavor Contributions of Kilned and Roasted Products to Finished Beer Styles.” Technical Quarterly 38 (4): 227–233. http://www.fantastic-flavour.com/files-downloads/beer_flavour_wheel.pdf. Cited by Thomas, “Beer How It’s Made – The Basics of Brewing” in Liquid Bread, p. 38 Read 14 November 2013; re-read 18 November 2013.

Based on a poster presented at the MBAA Guadalajara Convention, 2001. A short, 6-page-plus article with lots of pictures and illustrations which reviews “the wide spectrum of specialty malts available and the contribution of specialty malt flavors to finely crafted specialty beers” (abstract). The introduction covers flavor and the Beer Flavor Wheel. “The Specialty Malting Process” covers exactly what it says. “Flavor Contribution (1)” covers kilned, high temp kilned and wheat malt. “Flavor Contribution (2)” covers roasted malts. “Flavor Contribution (3)” covers kilned and roasted malts. “Flavor Contribution (4)” covers roasted barley. The summary wraps things up. All-in-all, this short article contains a fair bit of useful knowledge if you aren’t already well-versed in specialty malts.

Brewing

§ Sancho, Daniel, Carlos A. Blanco, Isabel Caballero, and Ana Pascual. 2011. “Free Iron in Pale, Dark and Alcohol-free Commercial Lager Beers.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 91 (6) (April 1): 1142–1147. doi:10.1002/jsfa.4298. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.4298. Read 13 November 2013. Found while helping a student with a chemistry assignment.

This study compared the amount of free iron in pale, dark and alcohol-free beers in order to find a “highly sensitive, selective, rapid, reliable and inexpensive method” to measure free iron in beer (abstract). They looked at 40 lager beers (28 pale, 6 dark, 6 alcohol-free) and found the highest levels in dark beers, followed by pale, with the lowest levels in alcohol-free beers (average: 121 ppb dark, 92 ppb pale, 63 ppb alcohol-free) (1143, 1144-45). They then go on to speculate as to why the numbers are as the found them whether due to production processes or ingredients used. As they state, “It is very useful to know the free iron content in beer since it plays an important role as a catalyst in the oxidation of organic compounds that are responsible for the stability and flavour in beers” (1144). I would be particularly interested in seeing the method developed in this study used to measure the free iron in various ales, especially big NW IPAs with all of their hops and in big stouts and Imperial stouts.

§ Coghe, Stefan, Hélène D’Hollander, Hubert Verachtert, and Freddy R. Delvaux. 2005. “Impact of Dark Specialty Malts on Extract Composition and Wort Fermentation.” Journal of the Institute of Brewing 111 (1) (January 1): 51–60. doi:10.1002/j.2050-0416.2005.tb00648.x. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2005.tb00648.x. Read 21 November 2013. Cited by Casey & Bamforth 2010, “Silicon in beer and brewing,” (see above).

An interesting article that looks at “the influence of dark specialty malts on wort fermentation. More specifically, the availability of yeast nutrients, the course of the fermentation and the formation of flavour-active compounds were investigated” (59). As for reduced attenuation in dark worts, it was found that lower levels of fermentable carbohydrates and reduced amino acids were the prime reason, although Maillard compounds also affect fermentation (59). Flavor-active yeast metabolites are also affected by dark malts (59). The authors claim that brewers should not worry about these results as the levels of dark malts used are way beyond what are used in practice and thus the findings are only of scientific relevance. “Thus, in normal brewing practice, no drastically reduced fermentation rates and ester profiles should be expected” (59). They suggest some further research that would help explicate some of their findings to a greater degree.

Archaeology

§ Samuel, Delwen. 1996. “Archaeology of Ancient Egyptian Beer.” Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists 54 (1): 3–12. Single Journals. doi:10.1094/ASBCJ-54-0003. Read 22 November 2013. Cited in “Beer in Prehistoric Europe” by Hans-Peter Stika, in Liquid Bread, p. 57. Google Scholar.

A fascinating article from 1996 which I hoped had been followed up on but I have been unable so far to find anything further from the “ancient Egyptian beer project” as “sponsored by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries plc and carried out under the aegis of the Egypt Exploration Society” (4). There are a lot of articles which cite this one and are, in effect, followups but those are quite specific to a narrow scientific technique of analysis and not of the more general “this is how our model has evolved based on further studies.” Sections consist of the Abstract, introduction, Archaeological Approaches to Ancient Egyptian Brewing, Cereals Used for Brewing, The Search for Brewing Processes, The Case for Malting, Malting Procedures, Ancient Egyptian Brewing: Single System or Two-Part Process?, Future Research, Acknowledgments, and Literature Cited. In each case, they present evidence ranging from scanning electron microscopy to linguistics, and address the strengths and weaknesses of the techniques and the interpretations derived therefrom.

Assorted

§ DeLyser, D. Y., and W. J. Kasper. 1994. “Hopped Beer: The Case for Cultivation.” Economic Botany 48 (2) (April 1): 166–170. doi:10.2307/4255609. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4255609. Read 27 November 2013. Cited in Bamforth (ed.) Brewing: New technologies, ch. 5 The breeding of hop, p. 102 and 103.

Looks at the available documentary evidence in an attempt “to distill from available evidence a chronology of the early use of hops in beer, its domestication, and worldwide dispersion” (166). From it we learn of some of the other uses for hops, including as a salad vegetable, to cultivate wild yeast, as household ornamental plants, woven as linen, as a hair rinse for brunettes, as a yellow dye, as bedding and insulation and as packing material, among others (167).

The first documentary evidence of hop usage in beer is the Statutae Abbattiae Corbej (822 A.D.) and not St. Hildegard’s usually ascribed Physica Sacra, of ca. 1150 A.D. (168). “The first actual record of cultivated hops comes from documents in the annals of the Abbey of Freisingen in Bavaria (859 to 875 A.D. and onwards) which mentions orchards with hop gardens” (169). Based on this and other evidence they infer that hop use in beer was followed by cultivation, which was driven by demand, and that it was the use in beer which led to cultivation and not something else.

§ Baxter, Alan G. 2001. “Louis Pasteur’s Beer of Revenge.” Nature Reviews Immunology 1 (3) (December): 229–232. Nature Journals Online. doi:10.1038/35105083. http://www.nature.com.ezproxy.proxy.library.oregonstate.edu/nri/journal/v1/n3/abs/nri1201-229a.html. Read 15 November 2013. Cited in “Beer and Beer Culture in Germany” by Franz Meussdoerffer, in Liquid Bread, p. 68.

Short article that informs us about Pasteur and his hatred for Germany due to the Franco-Prussian War. We learn about some of his microbiological work, along with learning about a few of his supporters and detractors, and Pasteur’s “beer of revenge.” The author seems to imply in closing that Pasteur was successful:

“His ‘beer of revenge’ was so successful that to this day, very little German beer is exported, even though some are widely regarded as being among the best in the world. The irony is that the German breweries rendered idle by Pasteur’s strategy were eventually adapted to manufacture acetone for cordite production. So, Pasteur’s vengeance indirectly helped to equip Germany for their attack on France in the First World War” (232).

Whut?! What German beer factories were rendered idle? What strategy? Being a dick to Germans and refusing to allow a translation of his Studies on Fermentation into German? I am pretty certain that it had probably been translated a couple of times into German, whether or not it had been commercially. Did the writer make this ridiculous claim so that he could use the word “ironic”? It also seems to me that those claims about factories need a citation. I don’t doubt that some breweries were converted to cordite production but that’s not the kind of claim you can just throw out without support in an immunology journal.

Germany may not be the biggest exporter of beer but let us compare a few statistics on French and German beer that are fairly contemporaneous with when the author’s claim was made (from Bamforth, Charles W. 2009. Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing. 3rd ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.):

From Table 1.2 Worldwide Brewing and Beer Statistics (2004)

From Table 1.2 Worldwide Brewing and Beer Statistics (2004)

There are only two countries in this chart even close to Germany’s export numbers: Mexico (14.5) and Netherlands (13.0). That made Germany the #2 exporter of beer worldwide in 2004. How the hell was Pasteur’s ‘beer of revenge’ successful?

From Table 1.3 Growth or Decline in Beer Volume (Million hl) Since 1970

From Table 1.3 Growth or Decline in Beer Volume (Million hl) Since 1970

Interesting and informative article. I simply do not know what to say about its conclusion.

Here are some articles that I did not get to this time. Perhaps in another edition of #beerylongreads or simply as an infrequent Some Things Read This Week. Time will tell.

Health

  • “Fiber and putative prebiotics in beer” – Bamforth & Gambill
  • “Beer and wine consumers’ perceptions of the nutritional value of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages” – Wright, et al.
  • “Is beer consumption related to measures of abdominal and general obesity? – Bendsen, et al.

Taste

  • “Reference Standards for Beer Flavor Terminology” – Meilgaard, et al.
  • “Beer Flavor Terminology” – Meilgaard, et al.
  • “Investigating consumers’ representations of beers through a free association task: A comparison between packaging and blind conditions” – Sester, et al.
  • “Expertise and memory for beers and olfactory compounds” – Valentin, et al. “Do trained assessors generalize their knowledge to new stimuli?” – Chollet, et al.
  • “Impact of Training on Beer Flavor Perception and Description: Are Trained and Untrained Subjects Really Different?” – Chollet & Valentin
  • “Attempts to Train Novices for Beer Flavor Discrimination: A Matter of Taste.” – Peron & Allen
  • “Sort and beer: Everything you wanted to know about the sorting task but did not dare to ask” – Chollet, et al.
  • “What is the validity of the sorting task for describing beers? A study using trained and untrained assessors” – Lelièvre, et al.

Brewing

  • “The history of beer additives in Europe — A review” – Behre
  • “Studies on the Effect of Mechanical Agitation on the Performance of Brewing Fermentations: Fermentation Rate, Yeast Physiology, and Development of Flavor Compounds” – Boswell, et al.

Archaeology

  • “Brewing an Ancient Beer” – Katz and Maytag

Assorted

  • “Drinking Beer in a Blissful Mood” – Jennings, et al.
  • ““Beer, Glorious Beer”: Gender Politics and Australian Popular Culture.” – Kirkby
  • “Women & Craft Beer: Are You Making the Connection?” – Johnson “Beer Color Using Tristimulus Analysis” – Cornell

And others.

Well, this concludes my post. This should be somewhere above 3100 words so I am calling it accomplished.

DRAFT Mag 8 essential craft beers

Early on the morning of 9 October I got in a discussion on Google+ about this DRAFT Magazine feature, “8 essential craft beers.”

A couple people shared that they had had seven and I added that “I’m only at 6 but I’ll call myself a craft beer lover despite some of their ridiculous rhetoric.”

My friend who posted it replied that “What I like about this list … is that it doesn’t claim to be the best. It’s nice to see a list that only means don’t pass these up if you get a chance.”

My reply was a little lengthier:

“I agree fully, … and I thank you for sharing. But like many of these kind of lists, “don’t pass these up if you get a chance” is what they are going for but their rhetoric gets in the way. “Behold, the bottles you must sip before you can call yourself a craft beer lover.” So since I, like many, haven’t had Cantillon or had a chance to try Brooklyn Lager I can’t call myself a craft beer lover. Hogwash!

Brooklyn Lager “hooked a nation on craft beer”?! Not likely; it isn’t distributed near widely enough. As for their claim re Cantillon, “Every sour beer on shelves today is inspired at least in part by this puckering, earthy ode to wild Belgian yeast.” That’s just horse crap. There are several much older Belgian sour breweries and I don’t see a Flanders red/Oud Bruin on their [Cantillon’s] list. Rodenbach is 79 years older and makes excellent Flanders reds which, as I know you know, is another kind of sour. Not made by Cantillon. So every sour is not inspired by Cantillon.

I do enjoy these kinds of lists. I often just wish folks would make the list and leave out all of the rest of their words as they end up saying silly to downright incorrect things.

Sorry for being nitpicky early in the morning but when someone—theoretically a professional beer writer/journal—tells me I can’t truly be a craft beer lover because of X I get a bit riled up. And then I get (perhaps) hypercritical of any other claims they are making.”

I then tweeted twice to @DRAFTbeereditor:

My head is hung in shame. I say I am a craft beer lover but @DRAFTbeereditor says I can’t be since I haven’t been able to try Cantillon. https://twitter.com/bythebbl/status/387961593327124481

Hey @DRAFTbeereditor you may want to get a grip on the rhetoric. That claim & other silly statements has cost you a subscriber. https://twitter.com/bythebbl/status/387962099902582785

My wife, and one or two others on Twitter, told me perhaps I was taking it a bit too seriously. Perhaps. But I truly don’t think so.

I know. I know. These kinds of lists and that kind of writing seem to be everywhere. I still sometimes engage in it although I do my best not to [I previously had written “are everywhere”]. And if I do I am happy to be called on it, as I do not want to do it. It is sloppy. It is inaccurate. It is often offensive.

Seriously?! I can’t call myself a “craft beer lover” if I haven’t had all of those eight beers? That is simply ignorant beyond measure.

If you mean to say that “Here is a list of eight beers that you truly should not pass up if you get a chance and here’s our reasons for thinking so,” then by all means please do so. I will evaluate your reasons and decide whether they have any relevancy to me and I (or another reader) may still be intrigued enough to try the recommended beers even if I don’t like or if I disagree with your reasoning. Then you can call your article successful.

What DRAFT Magazine is going to get now is a free link and some extra page views and that will probably be considered more successful than if they had actually affected someone’s opinion or got them to try some beers. That is just sad.

I do not disagree with the beers on the list at all. Of course, other beers could have been swapped in. Or the list could be longer. Or shorter. Or simply different in some way.

Those are all fine beers and some, to my palate, are great beers. Again, no complaints on the list.

Now that I look even closer though, there are nine beers on that list. Nine. Not eight. Rhetoric and hyperbole have their place. But sometimes straight (and accurate) is what we need. Basic counting always has a place if you are going to claim a specific number.

Potential fixes are even easy although a basic rewrite would be better. “Almost every sour beer ….” “… helped to hooked a nation on craft beer.”

As for the offensive “No training wheels here: Behold, the bottles you must sip before you can call yourself a craft beer lover.” I know what they probably meant. But that is not what they said. DRAFT Magazine is one of the few major beer mags I don’t yet subscribe to. Guess which one I’ll be continuing to overlook for a while longer.

I wrote all of the above about 10 October, with only very minor changes since. Since then I have seen several DRAFT Magazine articles via the Twitters that have been informative and useful. I have decided not to write them off completely yet.

As I said above, perhaps I blew this a bit out of proportion. On one hand I certainly did. But on another I most certainly did not. The writing displayed in this feature is sloppy, arrogant, inaccurate, and even yes, in this case, offensive.

We can do better as craft beer writers. We must do better.

 

 

Canned vs. Bottled Beer

Wilcox, Bradley R., Glenn Cordúa Y. Cruz, and Jack A. Neal, Jr. 2013. “Can Consumers Taste the Difference Between Canned and Bottled Beers?” Journal of Culinary Science & Technology 11 (3): 286–297. doi:10.1080/15428052.2013.798563 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15428052.2013.798563

 

My Interlibrary Loan librarian sent me this article Tuesday as she thought I might be interested in it. She was right. Thanks, Pat!

Description:

The article looks at whether or not consumers can taste the difference between canned versus bottled beers. Due to the assorted benefits of cans over bottles—lighter weight, protection from light, etc.—the hospitality industry would be better served—the argument goes—if consumers would accept beer from cans. But consumers do not and many claim they can taste the difference. There are other influences on consumers beer purchasing decisions and this article cites some of that research but it focuses on whether there is a discernible taste difference to the average consumer.

They do this by using a triangle test which is common practice in determining a sensory difference between two samples. It is a triangle as three samples are presented with two being of the same item and the goal to discern the odd one out.

55 ml (1.86 oz) samples were presented in 225 ml (7.6 oz) glasses. “Samples were composed of both bottled and canned samples of 14 different types of beer commonly available in the southern United States (Table 1)” (290). They really mean 14 different beers, as even based on their own categorization there are 5 pilsners, 4 lagers, a dark lager, a golden lager, an amber ale, a Belgian white ale, and an “ale.” And those are hardly accurate “types” of beers. Most of them are extremely well selling beers.

Results:

“The data reliably showed that for the majority of beers tested, panelists were not able to tell the difference between beer poured from a can or a bottle” (293).

“Of the beers tested, nine showed no significant difference, and five were deemed to have a significant difference with a 95% confidence interval” (292). The ones which showed significant difference were Miller Lite, Bitburger, Corona Extra, Shiner Blonde and Blue Moon, in order from least to most difference detectable (Table 2, 292-3, 294-5).

As for what caused these differences:

“… the difference in brewing dates of the cans and bottles had a significant positive correlation (R = 0.96). The use of clear glass also led to a relatively high level of significance, as did the use of wheat as a brewing ingredient” (295).

There was possible skunk in the aroma of the Corona, and they say consumers could see color differences between canned vs. bottled due to different “freshness” dates, and that taste differences may have been profoundly affected by the wheat in the Blue Moon (293, 294, 293).

As for the least detectable differences, they were Heineken and Lone Star, with Heineken being the least detectable (293). They hypothesize that the Lone Star was “may be due to the use of corn syrup as a brewing ingredient.” They go on to claim that Lone Star was the only beer that used corn syrup and that may be the reason (293). As for the Heineken being the hardest to discern a taste difference, they say that it “is highly pasteurized to aid shelf stability for its import from Holland (Heineken International, n.d.). It is possibly that this process further limited any interaction between the beer and its storage container, leading to the insignificant results” (294).

Commentary:

While I find these results interesting but not entirely unexpected, here are my complaints with the article and its methodology, from most to least important, in my opinion:

First: “Assessors were instructed to fully expectorate samples to reduce inebriation effects” (292). This, though, ignores the fact that many taste receptors are at the back of the tongue, and that flavor is highly impacted by aroma which is also influenced by the retro-nasal olfactory sensors. According to Mosher:

“Across the back of the tongue is a row of large circumvallate papillae, …. The circumvallate papillae seem to be especially sensitive to bitter and fat, which is why swallowing is regarded as part of the beer-tasting process; …” (30, emphasis mine).

“There is another set, the retro-nasal, that resides in the soft tissue at the back of the mouth and in the channel that connects the mouth to the nose. It has recently come to light that these two systems are more separate than once thought and are processed by the brain in different ways. The retro-nasal systems perceives less as “aroma” and more as “flavor.” Additionally, this second system seems to be much more involved in notions of preference or familiarity, …” (32).

While I can understand the desire to limit inebriation in subjects from a college campus, it seems the researcher do not understand the physiology of tasting beer. Swallowing for full flavor effect and preference/familiarity seems critical to discerning the difference between canned vs. bottled beer.

Second: They claim 14 types of beer were tested but that is factually incorrect. Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite are far from being different types of beers! Brooklyn Lager, Fat Tire and Ska True Blonde—and perhaps Shiner Bock, Shiner Blond and Lone Star—are the only non-major produced beers. As for imports, we get Premium Bitburger, Dos Equis, Corona Extra and Heineken.

Sure. A lot of most of these beers gets consumed so are perhaps good choices but the article also brings in craft beer and cites some craft beer sources, such as Oskar Blues, so get a little real diversity! Also, lager versus pilsner as “types.” Their categorization of beer types is highly problematic. Get a clue, people!

Third: These beers were all unknown to the participants. Perhaps they drink one or more routinely but they were unidentified during the test. That serves in the interest of a particular kind of test methodology and control, but I am unaware of anyone who claims to be able to taste the difference between any canned versus bottled beer. Most people I know, myself included, would make that claim in support of a beer that they routinely drink or at a minimum are quite familiar with.

Fourth: “Majority” = 9 out of 14. OK, indeed this is semantically correct but it is still only 64%. That means that over one third of the time consumers can tell.

Fifth: They discuss brown vs. clear glass and light causing skunkiness in beer, particularly in relation to Corona but they never mention the green bottles of Heineken. Perhaps Heineken is using “advanced hop products” to inhibit the formation of MBT” (Hieronymous, 233), the compound that imparts skunkiness. They must be or else it would have been up there with Corona for detectability. Since they bring up bottle color and impact of light on beer they should have referred to the use of modified hop products by Miller and probably by Heineken, and to green bottles.

Conclusion:

This was indeed an interesting article and a necessary study to determine whether or not consumers can actually taste the difference between canned and bottled beers, but is flawed in several ways. The most serious is its requirement that assessors not swallow the beer, which deprives them of one of the prime sensory modes of detecting flavor and preference in beer. Second to this is their highly flawed categorization schema for beer. Hopefully a similar experiment can be run with both of those flaws being addressed.

I would also like to see the experiment re-ran where the consumer knew in advance what beer they were assessing and that it was one that they are at least familiar with. As I said above, I am unsure that anyone has claimed to be able to tell the difference between canned vs. bottled beer for any beer whatsoever. I certainly don’t. But I am fairly certain that I could for beers that I am quite familiar with. The issue there is that there are very few (to none) that I am familiar with that are both bottled and canned.

References:

Hieronymus, Stan. 2012. For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness, and the Culture of Hops. Brewing Elements.

Mosher, Randy. 2009. Tasting Beer : an Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.

Update added 19 August 2013:

On Friday, 16 August, I took the MBAA Beer Steward Seminar and just before break one of the MBAA trainers mentioned “a certain imported beer in a green bottle” in regards to skunkiness. Based on this article’s findings I was confused so I brought it to his attention. We both had a great laugh at the idiocy of not swallowing, since the importance of doing so in beer tasting was stressed a few times earlier in the day. He also said that as far as he knew Heineken was not using advanced hop products and that their bottled beer is regularly skunked (and, sadly, consumers mostly prefer it that way, as with Corona). He certainly could not understand why it was the least detectable. He did volunteer that he knows that Corona passes the beer to be canned by a UV light prior to canning so as to pre-skunk it. Consumers expect bottled Corona to taste a certain way and the canned must be similar. Then I dropped the study’s finding of Corona to be the most detectable difference on him. He was even more perplexed. All in all, we agreed that this was a bad study. Still, I find this all quite intriguing.