Tag Archives: beer

No longer wasted off beer: Beer byproducts could be used for biofuels and food

Amid the growing popularity of craft brewing around the world, brewers are starting to realize that beer produces a lot of waste. The waste byproducts of beer brewing are growingly becoming an environmental problem — but there might be an accessible solution to turn grain waste into protein sources and biofuel.

Image credit: Flickr / Nicola

Making beer involves malting, milling, mashing, boiling, cooling, and fermenting grain. About 20 kilograms of byproducts are produced for every 100 liters of beer brewed, 85% of which is brewer’s spent grains. Rich in cellulose, protein, amino acids, and minerals, some of the grains are used for cattle fed but most end up in landfills. That just won’t do.

“There is a critical need in the brewing industry to reduce waste,” Haibo Huang, the study’s lead researcher, said in a press conference. “Most beer we are drinking is made from barley. But the problem is that not all components in barley can be fermented in beer. The unfermentable accumulated are unused, leading to environmental concerns.”

With 30% protein and 70% fiber, the spent grain is a wasted opportunity, Huang and his team of researchers say. They partnered up with local breweries in the US to find a way to transform leftover grain into value-added products. Together, they developed a method to separate the grain into a protein concentrate and fiber-rich material.

While other techniques require the waste grain to be dried, this new method works with wet grain powder – fresh from the beer processing plant. The researchers tested commercially available enzymes and found alcalase was the one that separated the fiber and the protein most efficiently. Once separated, the grain pulp is sieved, yielding two products rich in fiber and proteins.

Up to 83% of the protein in the spent grain was recaptured in the protein concentrate. The researchers first proposed to use the protein to make fish feed for aquaculture. They argue up to 50% of the fish meal in the shrimp industry could be replaced by this protein powder which could also be used for the food of other animals.

“Fish meal is used as a protein source in the shrimp industry and the price of fish meal has increased a lot, more than five times over the last few years. That created an economic burden to the shrimp farmers. Our protein could provide a sustainable and low-cost protein source,” Huang said in a press conference, even suggesting to use the protein for human food.

However, that still leaves the remaining fiber-rich product without a specific use. Huang and his team experimented with the bacteria Bacillus lichenformis, which was recently found at Yellowstone National Park, to produce 2,3-butanediol, a compound in a variety of products, including biofuels.

Looking ahead, the researchers will continue working to scale up the process of separating the protein and fiber components so as to keep up with the volume of spent grain generated at breweries. They are also looking at how to make the separation process economically sustainable, as the enzyme used is expensive. That’s why they are looking for more affordable alternatives.

The research was presented at the American Chemical Society Spring Meeting.

Oldest beer factory found in a 5,000-year-old Egyptian site

Credit: Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Humans have had a relationship with beer that spans all the way to prehistory. We know that people have been brewing beer in Israel as early as 13,000 years ago, even long before they started growing cereals. When they did finally start growing grain, humans did so to brew more beer rather than bake bread. However, it wasn’t until 5,000 years ago or so that beer was brewed in a systematic, industrial manner, judging from recent excavations in Egypt.

Beer brewed in kingly volume

The ancient brewery was discovered in Abydos, a prominent sacred city and one of the most important archaeological sites of ancient Egypt. Since 1912, archaeologists working at the site have unearthed all sorts of artifacts, including eight-grain kilns dating back to 3100 to 2700 BCE. However, it was only recently that the dozens of excavations at the site completed the jigsaw puzzle, revealing the full extent of the archaeological complex, which also includes tombs and other structures.

Some of the ancient kilns at Abydos. Credit: Egypt Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

According to archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania who took part in the North Abydos expedition, the facility consisted of eight large areas, each measuring 20 meters (65 feet) long. Each production area contained about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows. This suggests that the factory could have produced beer at quite a large scale for its time, with about 22,400 liters (5,000 gallons) being made at maximum capacity during one batch.

“At more than 22,000 liters per batch, the scale of production at Abydos was an order of magnitude greater than anything else of its time. Both its scale and location in a sacred desert landscape at Abydos reserved exclusively for the use of Egypt’s early kings situate the brewery as an important component of a new system of royal expression at a critical moment in Egypt’s history, along with the construction of monumental tombs and ritual enclosures, the sacrificial burial of courtiers and retainers, and in one case the burial of an entire fleet of boats,” said Wendy Doyon, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Matthew Adams of New York University, the co-head of the archaeological mission at Abydos, believes the factory was designed specifically to supply the royal rituals with beer at the funeral facilities of the kings of Egypt. The estimated date of the facility corresponds to the so-called Naqada III period, which includes the reign of King Narmer.

“We can now add to these better-known symbols of early royal power an industrial production site built on an unprecedented scale to support royal ritual at ancient Abydos,” Doyon added.

The frothy history of beer

Some would say that the only proper way to start the weekend is with a beer on Friday afternoon. Whether that’s true or not depends on your own particular appetites. One thing that is undeniable, however, is that the concept of weekends, even that of modern society, can be traced back to a pot of beer.

Image via Pixabay.

It sounds like a marketing hook, but there is growing evidence that people first created settlements to make beer. Our appetite for the brew stood strong over the ages: beer is now the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, and the third-most-popular overall (after water and tea).

So we’re drinking it, our whole family line has been drinking it, and it might have made our species as a whole give up on wandering and commit (to agriculture) — which is no mean feat. Let’s take a look at how the frothy, bitter brew fared over the millennia.

How it all began

The earliest evidence we have found of beer-making comes from around 13,000 years ago from a site located near Haifa, Israel. This took the form of beer and alcohol residue preserved in pottery in local tombs.

So, awesome — that’s how we got beer. People were busy sowing fields, making bread, and cooking up alcohol, right? Well, yes, but also no. You see, at the time, people hadn’t really discovered agriculture yet. They did make bread and beer from grains they would harvest in the wild.

Now, this seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? But why would you settle down in a permanent city, thus limiting your access to resources? Nomads can move towards what they want; settled people can only rely on local resources, which are limited — especially if you don’t yet know how to plant and grow the food you need.

Brewing beer is one explanation. The process requires containers such as pottery or vats dug into the ground and the processing of relatively large amounts of grain — which don’t really mix with a nomadic lifestyle. These early brewers, known as the Natufians, didn’t produce large quantities of beer. It was likely used for religious and ceremonial purposes, and was pretty different from the drink as we know it today; it resembled a “porridge or thin gruel” in consistency, and relied on airborne yeasts for fermentation, meaning it was probably light in alcohol content.

Ancient starches compared to modern, beer-making-related starches.
Image courtesy of Li Liu.

We must keep in mind that virtually all industrial pursuits, including beer-making, were severely hampered by the absence of agriculture during this time. Agriculture allows for part of the population to provide food for everyone else, in addition to generating a nice little surplus. Because of this, people who aren’t directly involved in growing food can specialize — they become shoe-makers, or midwives, priests, or kings.

Both the surplus grain and specialized workers are indispensable for beer-making. You need people to grow grains, people to process them, other people to produce the tools needed, and so on. The brew wouldn’t really take off until people learned how to grow food where they lived.

Later evolution

As our know-how improved, the drink became more widespread. Both the ancient Egyptians and Chinese brewed it, although it often included ingredients we don’t associate with beer today, including fruit.

It was mostly used for religious or ceremonial purposes in both of these countries; in the case of Egypt, the Pharaohs themselves handled the distribution of beer to the commoners. During the Old Kingdom (2686–2181 BC), beer was made from cooked loaves of bread and had dates and honey mixed in for flavor. These added sugars also helped produce a more alcoholic drink, and the Egyptians knew how to isolate and use special yeast for the fermentation process (as opposed to the wild, air-borne yeasts of yore). In the New Kingdom (1550-712 BC), wheat was used instead, although fruits and herbs were still used to flavor the drink. It evolved from the porridge-like substance it had been in the past and was filtered before storing, often underground, to ferment.

Fișier:Egyptian-woman-painting Beer.jpg
Ancient Egyptian painting depicting a meal, including beer.
Image via Wikimedia.

The advent of filtering, underground storage for fermentation, and the use of specialized brewers’ yeast in the process helped bring ancient beer one step closer to what it is today.

But beer wouldn’t truly come to resemble that of today until it found its way from the Middle East into Europe during the early Middle Ages. The colder climate here, especially that in Northern Europe, was ideal for growing barley, the main ingredient in modern beer. The drink was also rich in nutrients and calories, making it very popular. And, during the Middle Ages, water was easy to come by but clean, safe drinking water was a very precious resource. The fermentation process and alcohol content made beer one of the safest ways people could stay hydrated.

It’s worth noting that during the Middle Ages, most beers were much weaker than the ones we drink today. This was especially true for those that the commoners could afford.

A hop of faith

During this time, hops were first mixed into beer. They’re the key flavoring ingredient in today’s beer, imparting its aroma and bitterness to the drink.

Before this, all manner of plants were added to control the taste of the brew. Everything from dried flowers and roots to herbs and spices were used. But around 1150, German monks began using wild hops to flavor theirs — and then stuck with it. The idea quickly spread around; either people found the aroma pleasing, or they did it for the benefits (hops act as a natural preservative in beer).

Hamei, Plantelor, Hamei Floare, Natura, Alpinistă
Today, hops are beer are inseparable.
Image via Pixabay.

In medieval Europe, monks enjoyed relative power, peace, prosperity, and high levels of education compared to commoners. Wine is especially important in Christian customs, so most monasteries also had their own breweries. Thus, they were the main source of improvements on the brewing process, developing ideas such as lagering (storing beer in cold spaces to allow it to ferment and mature its taste).

This tradition is still alive today, with monasteries in Belgium being especially renowned for their beers.

Britain had another large part to play in the history of beer, mainly through diversification. The British were huge fans of beer, but they also eventually got their hands on something no other Europeans had: half the world.

The wealth of beer styles today is in no small part the product of empire. Beer played a huge part in British culture, with soldiers being issued daily rations of the drink. Redcoats made their way to all the corners of the Earth, and so too had their beer. It was ferried by the shipload to supply thirsty soldiers.

This gave Britain first access to resources, ingredients, and know-how that other beer-drinking countries didn’t have. It also made brewing more profitable, encouraging investment and development. Colonization also forced advancements in beer-making. India Pale Ale, for example, is a very popular style of beer today — it was only developed because the crown needed a beer that wouldn’t spoil on very long voyages in the hot, humid climates of Southeast Asia.

Today

There has never been more beer in the world, nor have there ever been so many options.

Bar, Local, Cong, Irlanda, Pub Irlandez, Pub Ul, Sticle
Image credits Christian Birkholz.

Most beer produced outside of the USA today is pasteurized to ensure it’s safe to drink. Pasteurization involves heating a liquid, generally under 100 °C (212 °F), which helps inactivate the microorganisms that lead to spoilage. This process was already in wide use for beers by the 1870s. Louis Pasteur, the inventor of this process, reportedly wanted to use it to make French beer better tasting.

The pottery and casks of old have given way to metal vats for fermentation and glass bottles for distribution. The color of these bottles isn’t random. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight will degrade beer, altering its flavor. Tinted glass filters out enough of this UV radiation to keep the beer fresh. Before World War 2, brown glass was ubiquitous; a shortage during the conflict, however, made producers seek for alternatives, which is why we also have green-tinted beer bottles today.

The rise of the craft beer brewery, small breweries that rely more on the personality of their drinks, rather than volume and quality like traditional breweries, is one of the latest developments in the field. Craft brewers use a much wider range of ingredients, preparation methods, and apply tweaks to the filtration and pasteurization process to make beers that stand out through their aroma and taste. As with all decentralization movements, this will make beers less uniform, but will push the boundaries of the craft as we know it today.

In the short to mid-term future, however, we’re likely to see a shrinkage of the craft beer sector. Breweries have sprung up all over the place, but they’re all competing for the same consumer base. Given these tough times, especially, competition will be driving part of them out of business.

How about the long-term future, then? Well, if I’d have to hazard a guess, I’d say the next big evolutionary step for beer will be space travel. Just like the British invented new beers and distribution methods to keep soldiers supplied around the world, we’ll have to think up ways to get beer to orbit, and how to brew it so it doesn’t spoil. Alternatively, we may even decide to brew it in space altogether — a literal drink out of this world.

Beer has been with humanity for a very long time now. Whichever way our story goes in the future, this drink will probably remain a part of it.

Yeast bags.

Asia may have given the world beer yeast, new research finds

A novel study into the historical origins of beer yeast finds that it likely emerged via an East-West transfer, probably through avenues such as the Silk Route.

Yeast bags.

Image via Pixabay.

The yeast fermenting your beer right now is a mixture of European grape wine and Asian rice wine strains, new research reports. The findings come from a study of the historical origins of brewer’s yeast — which is still poorly understood despite its economic significance — and points to the emergence of beer yeast from a historical East-West transfer of fermentation technology, similar to the transfer of domesticated plants and animals by way of the Silk Route.

An international product

“We conclude that modern beer strains are the product of a historical melting pot of fermentation technology,” the authors explain in the study’s abstract.

Pinpointing the origins of domesticated yeast is not an easy feat. Yeast has been taken along by humans on countless migrations (some recent, others ancient), which mixed its genes quite a lot, and in an unpredictable manner. It’s also made more difficult by a lack of genetic material. Archeologists and anthropologists draw on DNA to date and reconstruct many of the events they’re studying, but they can’t do that with yeast. We simply don’t have suitable samples of ancient fermented beverages from which to draw the microbes used in their production.

The team of the present study turned to beer yeast because one of its characteristics gave them a chance to work around these issues. Many strains of beer yeast are polyploid — the nuclei in their cells have more than two copies of their genome. The team hoped that this abundance of genetic material allowed different strains to remain isolated from other populations, effectively providing a living relic of their ancestors’ DNA.

In order to try and piece together the history of beer yeast, the team sequenced and compared the genomes of different beer yeast strains from around the world. These beer yeast strains formed four related groups, according to the team: two for ales, one for lager, and one which contained both beer and baking yeasts.

All groups showed a mixed ancestry of European grape wine and Asian rice wine strains, with some novel genes (not found in any other populations of yeast) peppered in. The origin of these final genes is still unclear, but judging by their number — they’re quite abundant — the team believes they may have originated in a now-extinct strain (or maybe a living population whose genome has yet to be sequenced).

Piecing together the exact history of the yeast — such as determining the order and likely timing of different events in its evolution — was beyond the team’s grasp, however. While the yeasts’ polyploid genome gave them a way to peer into its family tree, it’s by no means stable; it changes each time yeast cells divide. On the one hand, this makes is impossible for the team to reconstruct its evolution; on the other hand, the same process likely played an important part in the domestication of yeast and its subsequent specialization to various brewing styles.

That’s a good trade-off in my book.

The paper “A polyploid admixed origin of beer yeasts derived from European and Asian wine populations” has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Whatever your drinking strategy is, you’ll get equally hungover

“Beer before wine, you’ll be fine; wine before beer, you’ll feel queer” — similar variations of this advice are passed down in surprisingly many cultures. There’s the French (Bière sur vin est venin, vinsur bière est belle manière), the German (Wein auf Bier, das rat ich Dir — Bier auf Wein, das lass sein), and even the Romanian (Berea dupa vin e un chin) version. But does the folk saying actually have any truth to it? A new study says ‘no‘ — it doesn’t really matter in what order you have your drinks, you’ll still get equally drunk and equally hungover.

Most of us are familiar with the scourge of hangovers — perhaps too familiar. But despite all this, hangovers remain somewhat of a mystery: we don’t know what they are or even how to manage them.

“Alcohol-induced hangover constitutes a significant, yet understudied, global hazard and a large socio-economic burden,” researchers write in a new study.

Kai Hensel, M.D, has been thinking about hangovers for a long time. Not because he has a history of them, but because he wanted to see how accurate folk sayings about hangovers really are. In particular, he was curious about the different variations of “grape or grain, but never the twain” (twain being an archaic term for “both”).

He sought advice from older professors, scoured the literature, but couldn’t find any information. So he came up with a plan. After carefully laying out a study design and seeking ethical approval, he got 90 volunteers drunk — for science.

The study was simple but ingenious in its approach. The participants were split into two groups. The first group consumed two and a half pints of lager beer (graciously donated by Carlsberg), and then had four large glasses of white wine. The second group had the same but in the opposite order, while the third group was a control group, only drinking either wine or beer. A week after the first drinking session, participants were asked to come back and switch the drinking order, and they were also asked to grade how hungover they were. Hangover intensity was scored on an 8-item compound score (including thirst, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, tachycardia, and loss of appetite)

The results were very telling: there was basically no difference between how hungover the different groups were. So regardless of wine before beer or beer before wine, people were equally drunk and equally hungover. Just because it rhymes doesn’t mean it’s true — who knew?

No tactical drinking — just red flags

Instead, the only predictor of how hungover people were the next day was how drunk they got. For instance, women had more and stronger hangovers, something which is in line with previous research.

“After doing all the blood tests, urine tests, and the marginal regression analysis, the only thing that was actually a predictor of a hangover the next day was the participants feeling drunk,” Hensel pauses, “and then vomiting.”

Another saying is that you shouldn’t mix drinks — but this also turned out to not be the case. Vomiting occurred more often in the control group (6 for wine only and 5 for beer only than in the study groups (4 in total for both groups). More women than men vomited both on study day 1 (5 to 4) and on study day 2 (8 to 4).

There was substantial difference between participants. Different people have different hangover predisposition, depending on body mass, individual tolerance, and habituation to alcohol intake. Colorings, flavorings, and sugar can also make hangovers more severe. But tactical drinking is not a thing, researchers warn.

“Although this should rob tactical drinkers of the belief that they can reduce the aftereffects of a heavy night out by careful ordering of beverages, our findings suggest that “perceived drunkenness” and “vomiting” are useful predictors of misery in the morning after the night before. Furthermore, this is in line with the recent observation that no level of alcohol consumption improves health,” the study concudes.

Researchers say that the best thing to do in order to avoid hangovers is to look for red flags. Drinking too much alcohol is associated with severe dehydration (so it’s always good to have some water when drinking a lot of alcohol), but essentially, if you want to not feel bad the next day, you should realize when you’re drunk and stop drinking. Of course, the irony is (as drunken people all around the world can attest) that realizing you’re drunk is pretty much the hardest thing to do when you’re drunk.

Hensen also discussed another strategy employed by some drinkers: the pre-emptive puking. There is some merit to it, he says, but if you’ve reached that point, you’re in trouble anyway.

“If you arrive at a point where you need to be sick you’ve probably passed the point of no return,” he added.

The study “Grape or grain but never the twain? A randomized controlled multiarm matched-triplet crossover trial of beer and wine” has been published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Cheese.

Novel approach to identifying flavor molecules poised to make fermented goods even more delicious

The Germans are coming for your cheese! They want to make it tastier!

Cheese.

Image credits Corinna Barbara.

Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology, and the University of Hohenheim have developed a new technique for identifying flavor-bearing protein fragments in fermented foods such as cheese or yogurt. They hope that their findings will form a launchpad from which to upgrade the tastiness of a wide range of foodstuffs.

Cheesy business

Just like everything else, fermented foods draw a lot of their taste from volatile aromatic compounds. Unlike most other things, however, the flavor profile of items like cheese, yogurt, beer, or soy sauce also depends heavily on non-volatile substances (i.e. things you can’t smell). Some of the most important compounds that fall under this category are fragments of (originally-long) proteins broken down by bacteria during fermentation of milk or grains.

Still, there’s a lot of these fragments out there — over 1000 have been documented to impart flavor in fermented-milk products alone. Even worse, they take a whole lot of time and effort to discover. To work around the issue, a team led by Thomas Hofmann, head of the Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science at TUM, has developed a new method to discover these tasty bits.

The team combined existing methods of proteome (protein) research with methods of sensory research to quickly and efficiently identify the most flavorful protein fragments in a given sample. The team tested their procedure on two varieties of cream cheese — which had different degrees of bitterness. The goal was to identify exactly which protein fragments gave the cheeses their bitter off-taste.

“We coined the term ‘sensoproteomics’ for this type of procedure,” said Andreas Dunkel from the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology, lead researcher for the study.

An initial review of the literature on the subject told the team that there would be roughly 1,600 different protein fragments that could create a bitter off-taste in dairy products. Chromatography-coupled mass spectrometer analysis in tandem with computer simulations narrowed the search down to 340 potential candidates. Comparative spectrometric, sensory, and quantitative analyses further reduced the number of fragments responsible for the bitter cheese flavor to 17.

“The sensoproteomics approach we have developed will, in the future, contribute to the rapid and efficient identification of flavor-giving protein fragments in a wide range of foods using high-throughput methods—a significant help in optimizing the taste of products,” says Prof. Hofmann.

The paper “A New Approach for the Identification of Taste-Active Peptides in Fermented Foods” has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Early humans grew grains for beer, not bread, new study suggests

An ancient thirst for beer may have been why some early populations started growing grains, a new archaeological study suggests. The same study also pushes back the date for the oldest evidence of alcohol production.

Standing in the entrance to Raqefet Cave, where they found evidence for the oldest man-made alcohol in the world, are, from left, Dani Nadel, Li Liu, Jiajing Wang and Hao Zhao. Image credits: Li Liu / Stanford.

Natufian brew

The new evidence, brought to light by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford, also brings forth an intriguing question: what came first, the beer or the bread? Normally, you’d think that of course, securing food comes before almost anything else — almost anything else.

Working in a cave in what is today Israel, Liu uncovered beer-brewing innovations that predate the use of cereals in the area by several millennia. That’s right, people were brewing beer while they were still living in caves.

“This accounts for the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world,” Liu said.

The population responsible for these innovations is called the Natufians. The Natufians lived from 12,000 to 9,500 BC, and were a rather unusual culture: they were sedentary even before agriculture became a mainstay. They may also be the ancestors of the people who founded the earliest Neolithic settlements, although that’s not yet clear. At any rate, they were certainly one of the most remarkable peoples of the time.

The Natufians exploited wild cereals, made bread, and, as this new study showed, made beer. Researchers believe that the beer was not brewed to get a casual buzz, but rather to use it during ritual ceremonies.

“This discovery indicates that making alcohol was not necessarily a result of agricultural surplus production, but it was developed for ritual purposes and spiritual needs, at least to some extent, prior to agriculture,” Liu said about their findings.

The discovery was made after Liu analyzed residues from 13,000-year-old stone mortars found in the Raqefet Cave, a Natufian graveyard site located near what is now Haifa, Israel. She found evidence of a large-scale beer production operation — it came as a bit of a surprise, particularly as it wasn’t what she was looking for.

“We did not set out to find alcohol in the stone mortars, but just wanted to investigate what plant foods people may have consumed because very little data was available in the archaeological record,” said Liu, who is the Sir Robert Ho Tung Professor in Chinese Archaeology at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

Ancient beer

It has to be said, we shouldn’t imagine the familiar golden, foamy brew — ancient beer looked and tasted much different to what we are used to seeing today. Ancient beer was most likely a porridge-like concoction, almost thick like a gruel. The Natufians also seemed to employ a three-stage brewing process, says Jiajing Wang, a doctoral student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and a co-author on the paper.

First, they’d take the starch from wheat or barley and germinate the grains in water, then strain and store them for a while — this created the malt base. Then, the malt would be mashed and heated, and finally, it would be left to ferment, with the magic being done by airborne, wild yeast.

Researchers tested this hypothesis by reproducing each step of the beer-producing process in their lab — you know, for science. Liu and Wang’s brewing experiments turned out to be quite similar with what was observed in the Natufian cave.

For now, no word on what it tastes, though.

The study has been published din the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Professor Li Liu examining ancient starch grains. Credit: L.A. Cicero.

Humans were brewing beer before they started growing cereals

Professor Li Liu examining ancient starch grains. Credit: L.A. Cicero.

Professor Li Liu examining ancient starch grains. Credit: L.A. Cicero.

Archaeologists at Stanford University have analyzed residues from 13,000-year-old stone mortars found in the Raqefet Cave, a Natufian graveyard site located near Haifa, Israel. Remarkably, the results suggest that the residues are the byproduct of ancient beer-brewing operations. Judging from the timeline, the discovery means that humans had been brewing beer long before they were baking bread, or cultivating cereals for that matter.

“This accounts for the oldest record of man-made alcohol in the world,” said Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford.

Agriculture ushered in a new age in the timeline of human evolution. With a stable supply of food and a permanent roof over their heads, humans were free to engage in other pursuits, such as brewing beer. However, the ancient residues retrieved from the cave in Israel — which include starch and microscopic plant particles known as phytolith, typically encountered in the transformation of wheat and barley to booze — paint a totally different history.

“This discovery indicates that making alcohol was not necessarily a result of agricultural surplus production, but it was developed for ritual purposes and spiritual needs, at least to some extent, prior to agriculture,” Liu said.

Liu and colleague were not looking for traces of alcohol. Instead, they were trying to piece together what the diets of the local people who inhabited the ancient cave looked like. The oldest evidence of bread making comes from another Natufian site in east Jordan, estimated to be 11,600 to 14,600 years old. But the beer-brewing evidence reported in the new study could be from 11,700 to 13,700 years old.

Previously, the team investigated 5,000-year-old beer-brewing tools in China, the earliest such tools found in that part of the world. Both the ancient Chinese and Natufian beers looked and tasted radically different from the modern variety. Natufian beer, for instance, probably resembled porridge or thin gruel, said Jiajing Wang, co-author of the new study and a doctoral student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford.

The team believes that the Natufians employed a three-stage brewing process. In the first step, starch of wheat or barley would have been turned into malt by germinating the grains in water, before draining, drying, and storing them. In the second step, the malt would be mashed and heated. Finally, the whole concoction would be left to ferment with airborne, wild yeast.

Microscopic traces of ancient starches extracted from the Raqefet Cave (left) are compared to starches replicated in the lab. Credit: Courtesy Li Liu.

Microscopic traces of ancient starches extracted from the Raqefet Cave (left) are compared to starches replicated in the lab. Credit: Courtesy Li Liu.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers recreated each of the steps that the Natufians might have taken to brew their beer. The team then compared their starch, which changed during the brewing process, to the ancient variety that the scientists had discovered in the cave in Israel. The results show very clear similarities. What’s more, the ancient stone mortar had similar wear and markings as the equipment used in the lab to pound and crush grain seeds.

The findings suggest ancient brewing was an important part of Natufian rituals, whose culture incorporated fairly sophisticated technological innovations and social hierarchies. In time, beer brewing achieved ‘mainstream’ status as grain became more available following the advent of agriculture. It’s funny to contemplate, nevertheless, that beer precedes bread and, in some cultures, may have been the primary motivator to cultivate cereals.

The findings appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Charred grains.

Earliest evidence of beer brewing in Scandinavia hails from the Iron Age

New evidence shows that Swedes were producing beer on an industrial scale even since the Iron Age.

Charred grains.

Carbonized germinated grains found at Uppåkra, Sweden.
Image credits M. Larsson, A. Svensson, J. Apel, 2018, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Humans have had a very long relationship with beer. Legal documents and images recovered by archaeologists show that people in Mesopotamia produced the brew as early as 4000 BCE. There is also evidence of beer-making in China around 3000 BCE. Beer seems to have played an important part in these ancient cultures and economies, and it’s possible that the earliest permanent settlements were founded just so we could grow more grains and make more beer.

New findings from the Lund University, Sweeden, shows that northerners were also joining in the fun as early as the Iron Age.

Let there be ale!

Archaeologists from Lund report finding the carbonized remains of germinated grains in Uppåkra, southern Sweden. The findings show that malting processes were carried out here as early as the Iron Age — and where there’s malt, there’s beer. The scale of the operation and its position in the settlement indicates an industrial-level approach to brewing.

“We found carbonised malt in an area with low-temperature ovens located in a separate part of the settlement. The findings are from the 400-600s, making them one of the earliest evidence of beer brewing in Sweden,” says first author Mikael Larsson, who specialises in archaeobotany, the archaeology of human-plant interactions.

Finding cereals on archaeological sites is far from uncommon. However, there’s rarely any way to link these grains to certain processes, meaning we can’t tell what the people of old were planning to do with the seeds. The particularities of the malting process, however, allowed the team to identify the intended purpose of these grains.

It takes two key processes to brew beer. The first, malting, requires wetting grain with water to induce germination. During the process of germination, enzymes in the seeds break down proteins and starches into sugars. After enough sugar is formed, the second part of the process begins: the grains are dried in an oven to halt germination. The charring on the seeds discovered in Uppåkra, as well as the presence of ovens in the area, suggests that the grains were involved in this drying process.

Ovens.

Excavation of the kiln structure. a) During removal of clay base of oven. b) Stone packing exposed at the base of the kiln. c) Removal of stone packing and wall foundation of oven. d) Oven removed, excavation of trench cut in progress.
Image credits M. Larsson, A. Svensson, J. Apel, 2018, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Uppåkra is currently the largest Iron Age settlements in southern Scandinavia. From 100s BCE to the 1000s CE, it was a densely populated political and religious center. Imported luxuries such as jewelry and glass bowls were found in impressive quantities in the settlement, suggesting that it was an important and rich trading center. It’s not far-fetched, then, to assume that a local brewing industry might have thrived here — and evidence on the ground also supports this.

“Because the investigated oven and carbonised grain was situated in an area on the site with several similar ovens, but absent of remains to indicate a living quarter, it is likely that large-scale production of malt was allocated to a specific area on the settlement, intended for feasting and/or trading,” explains Mikael Larsson.

We’ve previously only found evidence of beer brewing in the Nordic region in two other places: one location in Denmark from around 100 CE, and one in Eketorp on Öland from around 500 CE. This would make the present findings the earliest evidence of beer production in the area.

The paper “Botanical evidence of malt for beer production in fifth–seventh century Uppåkra, Sweden” has been published in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

These people recreated an ancient Roman beer, and here’s what they learned

Matt Gibbs, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Classics at the University of Winnipeg, recreated an ancient beer, and found that the brewing processes (and results) might have not changed that much.

Image credits: Quinn Dombrowski.

Beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world; it is also the most popular drink after water and tea. In the modern world, however, little consideration is typically given to how beer developed with respect to taste. Even less is given to why beer is thought of in the way that it is.

But today, much of the world is in the middle of a beer renaissance. A relative explosion of craft breweries has led to a renewed interest in different methods of brewing and in different types of beer recipes.

In turn, this has driven interest into historical methods of brewing. It is a rather romantic idea: That very old brewing processes are somehow superior to those of the modern world. While almost all of the beer on the market today is quantitatively and qualitatively better than that produced in the ancient world, attempts made by both historians and breweries recently have had some good results.

For example, the collaboration between University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern and Dogfish Head Brewery that resulted in their “Midas Touch”, based on the sediment found in vessels discovered in the Tomb of Midas in central Turkey, and the Sleepy Giant Brewing Company’s ancient beers created as part of Lakehead University’s Research and Innovation Week.

Why re-create ancient beer and mead?

From an academic point of view, researchers have realized eating and drinking are important social, economic and even political activities. In the ancient world, food, drink and their consumption were important indicators of culture, ethnicity and class. Romans were set apart from non-Romans in several ways: Those living in cities versus those who didn’t, those who farmed in one place versus those who moved around, and so on.

One of the other ways in which this distinction was made was in the different foods people ate and in the liquids they drank. This is clear in the ancient Graeco-Roman debate surrounding those who drank wine and those who drank beer.

Beer was brewed in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. Image via Wikipedia.

Although the saying “you are what you eat” is a fact in terms of physiology, the Romans also believed that “you are what you drink.” So Romans drank wine, non-Romans drank beer.

These indicators (real or not) even exist today: The English drink tea, Americans drink coffee; Canadians drink rye, the Scottish drink scotch.

So the re-creation of ancient beer and mead (an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey and other liquids) allows us to examine many things. Among them are these cultural and ethnic considerations, but there are other important and interesting questions that can be answered. How has the brewing process transformed? How have our palates changed?

The “Roman” recipes and their recreation

The Romans left us a variety of different recipes for food and drink. Two of them form the basis of an ongoing research project between the co-owners of Barn Hammer Brewing Company — Tyler Birch and Brian Westcott — and myself that attempts to answer some of these questions.

The first is a recipe for beer that dates to the fourth century Common Era (CE). It appears in the work of Zosimus, an alchemist, who lived in Panopolis, Egypt, when it was part of the Roman empire. The second is a recipe for a mead probably from Italy and dating to the first century CE, written by a Roman senator called Columella.

Both recipes are quite clear concerning ingredients, with the exception of yeast. Yeast, or more appropriately a yeast culture, was often made from dough saved from a day’s baking. Alternatively, one could simply leave mixtures out in the open. But the processes and measurements in them are more difficult to recreate.

The brewing of the beer, for instance, required the use of barley bread made with a sourdough culture: Basically a lump of sourdough bread left uncovered. To keep the culture alive while being baked required a long, slow baking process at a low temperature for 18 hours.

Zosimus never specified how much water or bread was needed for a single batch; this was left open to the brewers’ interpretation. A mix of three parts water to one part bread was brewed and left to ferment for nearly three weeks.

The brewing of the mead was a much easier process. Closely following Columella’s recipe, we mixed honey and wine must. The recipe in this case provided some measurements, and from there we were able to extrapolate a workable mix of roughly three parts must to one part honey.

We then added wine yeast and sealed the containers. These were placed in Barn Hammer’s furnace room for 31 days in an attempt to imitate the conditions of a Roman loft.

What did we learn?

Part of a modern brewing apparatus. The technology has changed a lot, but the principle has remained the same. Image via Wikipedia.

First of all, it’s worth noting that the principles of brewing have not changed significantly; fundamentally, the process of brewing both beer and mead is arguably the same now as it was 2,000 years ago. But as true as that may be, even now the production of Zosimus’ beer — particularly the baking of the bread — was labour-intensive.

This led to another question: Did the link between baking and brewing depicted so clearly in ancient Egyptian material culture and archaeology persist even centuries later?

Second, we recreated beer and mead from the Roman Empire as faithfully as we were able. The data all suggest that the beer is a beer, and the mead is a mead, right down to the pH level: The beer, for instance, stands at pH 4.3 which is what one would expect from a beer after fermentation.

Third, as the photos here make clear, the mead looked like red wine, the beer was quite pale but cloudy. Neither case was particularly surprising, but what was interesting was the difference between the first tasting of the beer and the second 10 days later.

In the former, the beer looked like a sourdough milkshake; in the latter, the beer looked like a pale craft ale, and one that would not be out of place in the modern craft beer market.

Fourth, with respect to taste, the beer was sour but quite smooth and had a relatively low ABV – Alcohol By Volume: the measurement that tells you what percentage of beer or mead is alcohol — around three to four per cent. The sour taste resulted in diverse opinions: Some people liked it; others hated it. The mead was incredibly sweet; it smelled like a fortified wine due to presence of Fusel alcohols, and had an ABV upwards of 12 per cent.

While general tastes may have changed, there are modern palates that appreciate ancient beer and mead. Is this a physiological question? Perhaps, but what seems clear is that ancient indicators based on what people drank are likely more indicative not only of the Romans’ beliefs and opinions about non-Romans, but also their prejudices against them.

The ConversationUltimately, what the project suggests so far is that while the brewing process may not have changed that much, in some ways neither have we.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, by Matt Gibbs, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Classics, University of Winnipeg. Read the original article.

Credit: The Voice.

Brewing beer on Mars? Students find Martian soil is suitable for growing hops

You can’t breathe the Martian air but at least you can grow some hops — the indispensable ingredient that gives beer its uncanny sharp and sour taste. That’s according to the results of a science experiment performed by students at Villanova University. Suddenly, life on a barren rock millions of miles away from home doesn’t seem all that bad.

Credit: The Voice.

Credit: The Voice.

The students were challenged by Edward Guinan, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University, to grow various kinds of food in Mars-like conditions. Some students attempted to grow crops such as soybeans, potatoes — which, previously, other researchers successfully grew à la The Martian — or kale.

Others who felt more adventurous asked if they could grow marijuana, an offer which was quickly dismissed by Guinan. Instead, these enterprising students singled out hops, which come from the same plant family as cannabis, as their Martian crop of choice.

The students worked on a small patchwork inside a greenhouse covered by mesh screen that reduced sunlight to mimic Mars’ greater distance from the sun. The soil in which the plants grew was designed to mimic Martian conditions as closely as possible, based on readings taken by the Phoenix Mars lander and samples recreated on Earth. Mars soil is alkaline, for instance, with a pH of 8 to 9, compared to a pH of 6 to 7 on Earth.

Hops are a cone-shaped flower that can grow in dense, dry, and often inhospitable soil, such as that found on Mars. Indeed, the students supervised by Guinan grew hops without difficulties in Mars-like conditions.

That definitely sounds like a great news for upcoming Martian colonists. But before they can make any beer, they’ll have to figure out solutions to some other problems.

Martian soil. Credit: NASA.

Martian soil. Credit: NASA.

For one, the Martian soil contains perchlorates, which are poisonous and can cause thyroid problems. It’s possible to rinse out the perchlorates, which are soluble in water, or eat them away with specialized bacteria. Additionally, to brew beer, you also need water, which is mostly confined to the poles and other frigid locations on Mars where extraction is very difficult.

The really good news is that almost all the plants the students tried managed to grow to adulthood, as reported by Guinan at the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. The most performing plant was mesclun, a mix of small salad greens.

Next, some of the students plan on growing barley to go with those hops. Meanwhile, AB InBev, an American brewery, has sent malting barley seeds to the International Space Station to see how the crop fairs in microgravity. Interplanetary craft beer, here we go!

Most beers and wines aren’t vegetarian — or why there’s fish bladder in your pint

If you ask the average person to name the ingredients of a beer, the odds are they’ll go for water, malt, barley and maybe hops. Throw in some yeast just to be sure. But who would ever think of fish bladder?

Image credits: ruben i / Flickr.

Since the 19th century, a substance called isinglass has been used to make beers clearer and more appealing to consumers. The problem is that isinglass is a form of collagen obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. The word comes from the obsolete Dutch huizenblaas — huizen is a kind of sturgeon, and blaas is bladder. Although originally only made from sturgeon, nowadays, isinglass is mostly derived from cheaper cod, though some breweries still use sturgeon. To a lesser extent, isinglass is also used in some wines.

Isinglass rose to popularity as transparent glasses and pints started becoming the dominant type of drinking vessel. People didn’t like seeing cloudy beer in their glass, so producers started to add finings — substances added near the completion of the brewing process, which improve clarity quickly. In time, finings (and isinglass in particular) became more and more popular because they allowed for a quicker beer turnover, helping to clear it much faster than it naturally would. Humanity drinks a lot of beer and producers can sometimes have a hard time keeping up. Isinglass helps with that.

Image credits: Matt Brown.

The bladders of the fish are removed, dried, formed into various shapes. The resulting odorless substance is then used to clarify beer by combining with yeast and protein through electrostatic interaction. The isinglass also physically meshes with the yeast form large aggregates which settle rapidly, helping to easily clear the beer. Isinglass is most often used with cask ales (also called cask-conditioned beer) — unfiltered and unpasteurized beer which is conditioned and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. However, many breweries still use isinglass for non-cask beers. Especially in the UK, fish bladders are still popular.

By the end of the process, not much isinglass is left in the drink, but the idea that any amount of fish bladder is in your glass is enough to scare some people. Beer-drinking vegetarians and vegans, in particular, are put off by this. Thankfully, vegetarian finings such as bentonite, seaweed or Irish moss also exist on the market and producers are starting to adjust, especially when consumers demand it; and they are demanding it. More and more producers are starting to replace isinglass and you start to see lots of beers with the Vegetarian or Vegan tag — this basically means they don’t use isinglass. After all, who wants to drink fish guts?

Beer.

US brewery wants to make beer on Mars — so they’re space-testing barley seeds next week

US-based breweries AB InBev wants to give future space colonists the opportunity of getting positively plastered. The company will be sending 20 malting barley seeds to the ISS early next month to see how this critical ingredient fares in microgravity.

Beer.

Image via Pixabay.

Mars can be a bleak place, so why not crack open a cold one to help you unwind after a hard day of colonizing? That, at least, is what Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev, the company behind Budweiser) proposes. Since there’s no beer like a fresh one, however, the brewing company plans to give future spacefarers all they need to brew their own brew on the go. The first step will be to check if barley crops can grow outside of Earth, and as such AB is sending 20 malting barley seeds to the ISS. The cereal is one of the four main ingredients used for the brew.

The mission will fulfill a promise AB InBev made last March at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, that it “would create a beer suitable for drinking in space […] and when people get there they will toast on Budweiser.”

“Sending our barley to the International Space Station is a big step towards our goal of creating a microgravity brew,” said Ricardo Marques, Budweiser marketing vice president, said in an email.

“Our obsession with innovation led us to this place, and we couldn’t be more excited for Budweiser to be the beer one day enjoyed on the red planet.”

The experiment itself will help better our understanding of how space-borne cereals in general and barley, in particular, will fare. What AB InBev researchers want to see is the effects an off-planet environment will have on the seeds, with a particular interest in microgravity and their germination process. Specifically, they’ll evaluate whether sufficiently cool and dry conditions can be maintained (needed for proper barley storage) and whether the seeds grow at least 6-10 inches (15.2-25.4 cm) the first two weeks, as they do planet-side.

The seeds will be held aboard the ISS for one month. After landing back on Earth, they will be taken to AB InBev’s American innovation team in Colorado. In the end, the data gleaned from the malted barley will help them determine whether space breeding and storage of the cereal is feasible. If yes, it would likely form the base for an entire off-world beer brewing industry.

Malt.

Barley malt — what every burgeoning space-beer industry needs.
Image credits Tomasz Mikołajczyk.

The breweries will be working together with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), a non-profit that manages the US’ National Lab facility aboard the ISS, and Space Tango, a private company that runs two commercial research units within the National Lab.

“Budweiser is taking the commitment to create microgravity beer very seriously, which is why we’ve partnered with leaders in the space industry like CASIS,” a company spokesperson said. “Together with our Liquid Innovation team, the duo will conduct experiments on the International Space Station, to begin the process of understanding how we can create a microgravity beer.”

Brave new frontier or grab for attention?

So is this a market stunt? It’s definitely that, too — AB is, after all, a company that has to turn a profit.

At the same time, it’s difficult to overstate just how much humans love alcohol. There is evidence our ancestors made and enjoyed wine as early as 8,000 years ago. We’ve teased out 5,000-year-old beer recipes from ancient Chinese pottery and of course we’ve made some and drank it. In fact, it’s possible one of the principal reasons humans ever settled down at all was because we wanted to get drunk more easily. It’s likely that we’ve also actually made an evolutionary effort just to be able to get smashed. It all means that when humans eventually leave the Earth for other homes among the stars, alcoholic drinks will come along to power merry times, poor choices, and health issues.

AB isn’t the first company to sniff out a good profit margin in the whole affair. Two years ago, Japanese-based distillery Suntory launched whiskey offworld (also to the ISS) to study the “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverage through the use of a microgravity environment.” As did Ardberg Scotch Whiskey in 2011, keeping their brew in orbit up to 2014. On the other end of the bottle, Scottish manufacturer Ballantine handily designed a space glass that will let astronauts imbibe but never spill their drink while getting tipsy in 0G.

Right now, we have to wait and see how Anheuser-Busch’s seeds fare. If everything goes well, however, we’re bound to see more research in the field of space booze — and, ultimately, even finished products. The seeds will be sent to space on the upcoming cargo supply mission SpaceX’s CRS-13, scheduled to be launched on December 4 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Researchers develop probiotic beer that “boosts your immunity and improves gut health”

If you needed yet another reason to drink beer, science just gave it to you. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) just developed a new type of probiotic beer which could improve your immune system and neutralize pathogens and toxins.

Cheers! Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan (left) and Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine (right), showcasing their newly-developed probiotic beer. Image credits: NUS.

The idea of developing a healthy, probiotic beer, came from Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, a fourth-year student from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the NUS Faculty of Science. Chan realized that while the market abounds with dairy-based probiotics, there’s another huge untapped market for probiotics: beer. Due to its nature, beer is a fertile ground for probiotics, and the craft beer phenomenon has been growing at a staggering rate in many parts of the world — so why not blend the two?

“The health benefits of probiotics are well known. While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project,” said Miss Chan, who will be graduating in July 2017.

Working with Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, she used a strain of Lactobacillus paracasei called L26, which seems to be particularly promising. The probiotic gives a strong taste with pleasant aromas, and the beer itself is quite light — with only 3.5% alcohol.

“For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic microorganism,” explains Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, who developed the beer, in a statement. “It will utilise sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavors. The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 percent.”

Now, we’ll be the first to breathe in a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to probiotics. Studies have often been contradictory or inconclusive when it comes to probiotics, and they’re certainly given much more credit than they deserve on the market. However, Lactobacillus paracasei L26 was documented as having immune-boosting properties in mice — though this has yet to be confirmed in humans. They’ve already taken out a patent for the recipe to sell it commercially, which means we won’t be seeing a peer-reviewed study on the beer and a decisive verdict on its positive properties. Still, Liu is confident that the bacterium strain, which was isolated from the human gut, will make for a delicious and healthy beer, which he expects people to enjoy.

“The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

It’s not the first attempt to create a beer with secondary healthy effects. In 2008, Rice University researchers brewed an “anti-cancer beer” though we haven’t heard much of it since. While not really the same approach, another cool project was delivered by a small brewery in Scandinavia — PangPang Brewery developed what they call the perfect shower beer. People have brewed beer for millennia, I’m really happy to see this type of innovations finally kicking in.

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev commits to 100 percent renewable energy

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), one of the biggest beer companies in the world, has just announced it will ensure that all its electricity sources are renewable by 2025.

AB InBev renewable energy beer.

Future beers will be made with 100% renewable energy. Image credits: James Cridland.

Tackling climate change is a complex issue, which will require action on several levels. There’s the things countries and states can do, there’s all the little things we can do — and there’s also the companies. Individual companies can and must take action even before legislation is drawn in that sense. AB InBev now joins a select list of corporations that have committed to going 100% renewable:

“Climate change has profound implications for our company and for the communities where we live and work,” said AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito. “Cutting back on fossil fuels is good for the environment and good for business, and we are committed to helping drive positive change. We have the opportunity to play a leading role in the battle against climate change by purchasing energy in a more sustainable way.”

They expect to get 75 to 85 percent of electricity from direct power purchasing, with the rest being complemented by on-site technologies, such as solar panels. This will reduce their total carbon footprint by 30%, which is equivalent to removing 500,000 cars from the streets.

The first steps towards this goal will be taken in Mexico, home to the company’s largest brewery. AB InBev has signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Iberdrola, a Spanish public multinational electric utility company, for 490 gigawatt-hours of clean energy per year. As a result of this agreement, Iberdrola will build and install 220 MW of wind energy capacity onshore in Mexico, raising the country’s wind and solar energy capacity by more than 5%

As mentioned above, AB InBev is certainly not alone in this endeavor. With this, the company also joined RE100 a global, collaborative initiative of the world’s most influential companies committed to 100% renewable power, started by 13 partners: IKEA Group, Swiss Re, BT Group, Formula E, H&M, KPN, Nestlé, Philips, RELX Group, J. Safra Sarasin, Unilever, YOOX Group and Mars, Incorporated, the first US business on board. Other companies which have since joined RE100 include Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, NIKE, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, Voya Financial, and Walmart.

AB InBev plans to enter into similar agreements with other markets in the near future. Whenever companies enter this sort of agreement, they encourage a country to invest more in renewable energy, and this is the kind of action we must see from private entities.

“AB InBev is significantly boosting demand for renewables around the world, showing just the kind of leadership we need to slow climate change and speed a low carbon economy, inspiring other companies right along the value chain,” Sam Kimmins, head of RE100 at The Climate Group, said.

This is quite a big improvement since 2002, when the Political Economy Research Institute ranked Anheuser–Busch 40th among the “Toxic 100”, a list of U.S. corporations most responsible for air pollution, largely because huge amounts of CO2 are released into the atmosphere during the fermentation process. Since then, they’ve taken big steps towards limiting their impact, and they also operate an environmental outreach program to encourage recycling, energy conservation, and habitat preservation, as well as to prevent littering and water pollution. For the past 18 years Anheuser-Busch employees have participated in “Green Week”, fostering environmental awareness among their employees. I hope they will also take similar steps to green their distribution fleet, which also accounts for significant emissions.

If you want to support AB InBev, here are some of the beers they produce, directly or through subsidiaries:

  • Budweiser (along with all the Buds and Bud Lights)
  • Beck’s
  • Hoegaarden
  • Leffe
  • Cerveza Corona
  • Goose Island
  • King Cobra (malt liquor, not technically a beer)
  • Johnny Appleseed (cider)
  • LandShark Lager.

*This is not a sponsored article, and we are no associated with AB InBev in any way. Quite frankly, I think Budweiser is a pretty average beer. I’m also not a fan of Beck’s. Hoegaarden and Leffe are really good though, haven’t tried the others. 

Stanford students brew 5,000 year old Chinese beer, say it’s fruity and tasty

Stanford students have re-created an ancient Chinese beer and found that it tastes “surprisingly palatable”.

Image via Youtube.

Last year, Stanford Sir Robert Ho Tung Professor in Chinese Archaeology Li Liu and her team gleaned a 5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe from residues left on ceramic vessels at a dig in northeast China. Analysis showed that the ancient brewers used grains such as millet or barley, a native species of grass named Job’s tears, and small amounts of yam and lily root.

That’s a fancy beer. I wonder what it would taste like. Well thankfully, scientists seem to have developed a taste for ancient brews, as you can see here and here. The latest addition to that list is Liu’s ancient beverage.

Wonder no more!

In the name of science, Liu’s students have re-brewed the brew, had a swig and detailed it all in a paper. Ah, young science.

“The class gives students an opportunity to not only experience what the daily work of some archaeologists looks like but also contribute to our ongoing research,” said Stanford doctoral candidate and paper co-author Jiajing Wang.

“Archaeology is not just about reading books and analyzing artifacts,” said Liu “Trying to imitate ancient behavior and make things with the ancient method helps students really put themselves into the past and understand why people did what they did.”

The students started with malting by sprouting red wheat seeds in water. After sprouting, these seeds were crushed, placed back in water, and left to mash at 65 degrees Celsius (149 Fahrenheit) for one hour. The last step was to give this mash a week to ferment at room temperature.

Students say that the beer tastes more like a cider with its strong fruity aroma and was surprisingly tasty.

“The beer that students made and analyzed will be incorporated into our final research findings,” doctoral candidate Jiajing Wang, who assisted Liu in the original research, said in a news release.

In that way, the class gives students an opportunity to not only experience what the daily work of some archaeologists looks like but also contribute to our ongoing research.”

Liu’s class is called “Archaeology of Food”, and aims to understand ancient cultures through the food and drinks they consumed. Her team’s research on ancient Chinese beer jugs showed that barley was introduced in East Asia 1,000 years earlier than previously documented.

“Our results suggest the purpose of barley’s introduction in China could have been related to making alcohol rather than as a staple food,” Liu said.

The full paper “Revealing a 5,000-y-old beer recipe in China” has been published in the paper PNAS.

Has Science Gone Too Far? This Beer is Perfectly Designed for Shower Drinking, Can Also Serve as Conditioner

I can’t remember the last time I wanted to drink a beer in the shower but now that I think about it, it does sound pretty good.

Image credits: PangPang / Snask

I can think of few things more self-indulgent than having a delicious, ice-cold beer in a warm shower. With that in mind, a small brewery in Sweden has decided to make the dream a reality, and developed the first shower-beer.

“As a brewer I work long and hard days, and when I come home I’m often covered in malt dust — my girlfriend actually calls me Mr Malty Pants — and the shower is a gateway back to normal society,” Fredrik Tunedal — founder of PangPang brewery — told Mashable.

For starters, the beer is smaller at 18 cl, or less than half a regular beer – this ensures that you can drink it before it starts to lose its temperature and heat up. But it compensates through alcohol content: 10%, more than double what most beers have. So you get the full punch of a beer from a smaller bottle.The flavor is also carefully crafted so that if suds enter the bottle, it doesn’t actually ruin it.

“I made to Shower Beer small enough to keep its temperature during the shower, and strong enough to mentally wash your workday off and get ready for a fresh night out,” Tunedal explains.

“This lets it develop a soapy flavour that in some beers is considered an off flavour, but is just on-point for the Shower Beer. The beer is heavily hopped with citrus, and has a citrussy, soapy, and somewhat herbal profile,” he continued.

Image credits: PangPang / Snask

Lastly, the beer can also double as conditioner for your hair – so if you can’t finish it, you can make yourself look good in additional to feeling good.

It’s not the first time a shower beer was envisioned, but this seems like the most solid effort we’ve seen so far. The first batch was sold in 1 minute, and future batches will be sold in the UK and U.S. The concept was developed by PangPang in collaboration with a creative agency called Snask.

“We always loved the concept of drinking beer in the shower, so the idea to create a beer that would be drunk while showering was a must,” Snask Founder and Creative Director Fredrik Öst told MUNCHIES. “But we also wanted to create a beer that would kickstart your night, hence a strong but sweet beer that would be sipped in three to four sips while getting ready to the tunes of ‘Dressed for Success!’”

How to pour the perfect beer – according to science

We’ve all been there once. You’re with friends, it’s all fun and games, you start to pour a beer and someone screams “Nooo! Not like that!” – but it’s too late. Disaster strikes and the glass is half-full of foam. It’s too late to save the beer, it’s just a lot of foam now. Well luckily for you, we’re here to help you pour the best possible beer.

notlikethis

Straight glass leads to too much foam! Tilt the glass when you start pouring.

Step 1: The tilt

Every good pour has to start with the glass tilted at 45 degrees. Hold it like this and fill the beer halfway or a bit more.

likethis

Photo by Ravnsborg Rød.

Step 2: The straightening

After the glass is about 60% full, straighten it and allow some foam to form. Generally, it’s considered that the ideal beer should have about two fingers of foam on the top of the glass – not more. Of course, this can greatly depend on the type of beer.

I wish there was more to say about the pouring itself, but that’s basically how it goes. Now, let’s move onto the more interesting part – why the tilting of the glass is so important and what’s it got to do with foam.

Step 3: The science

Anyone can pour a beer, it’s really no big deal – but not anyone knows the science behind it. It goes like this.

Much like sodas, beer has a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) in it, it’s what makes it fizzy. When you open a can or a bottle of beer, some of it escapes creating the very familiar sound, but most is still trapped inside the beer. Being a light gas, CO2 wants to escape the beer but it can’t and it needs a little help. The molecules need some space to create bubbles through which they can escape the beer – these spots are called nucleation sites.

Nucleation sites assist the physical separation of solid, liquid, and gas. They are necessary because individual molecules attempting to separate themselves from the beer don’t have enough weight to overcome the viscosity. Several of them need to get together in order to accomplish this. Anything can be a nucleation site – a fiber, dust, a bump – but most commonly in beer, nucleation sites are pockets of air.

When you’re pouring a beer directly, without tilting the glass, you’re helping the CO2 molecules find a nucleation site on the air pockets at the bottom of the glass. You’re basically forcing the air in yourself, by pouring the beer. When you tilt the glass, much more CO2 gets trapped in the beer and less of it escapes in the form of foam.

Cheers!

Photo by Ravnsborg Rød.

The most expensive things you can eat or drink

Gastronomy is becoming more of a science and less of an art with each passing day, but there are some foods which are just downright unreasonably expensive. This is a list of the most extravagant, exorbitant and expensive foods (the list is not exhaustive, so if there’s anything else you think is worth added here, just contact me).

The most expensive caviar

Price: 7-10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: Caspian region

Caviar is the expensive food by default, but beluga is the caviar among caviar. It can be produced only by a certain type of sturgeon (Huso Huso) that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and it’s best served only when the fish it is extracted from is older than 100 years.

The Beluga sturgeon, however, is an endangered species, and therefore numerous countries, including the US, have banned the import and use of it, but it can still be found in most countries from the former USSR, as well as other countries in the Caspian region.

If eating an endangered and banned species won’t stop you, the price probably will; at 7$/gram, a decent taste will cost about 1500$, which is more than your average night out.

Most expensive omelette

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: New York

The Le Parker Meridien restaurant serves the world’s most expensive omelette in the world by far; by so far that in the menu, next to it, there is a challenge that reads “Norma dares you to expense this”. It’s not the 10 eggs that are expensive though, but the lobster in the middle and the 200 grams of caviar.

The white truffle

Price: 5-165.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: almost anywhere in the world

The white truffle is by far the rarest and most expensive mushroom in the world.

It originates from a region in Italy, and their price varies widely. You shouldn’t confuse them with black truffles, which are expensive too, but a whole different league.

Truffles can be eaten in many ways, but I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never had one; as a matter of fact, I only know a single person who has.

The record price for white truffles was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US $330,000 for a single specimen weighing 1.5 kg. Just think about that, find one single mushroom, and you’re set for life; but finding one is not so easy. Dogs are trained for years before they can successfully locate such a truffle.

The most expensive pizza

Price: 4.200$
Where can you find it: you can’t

Pizza is a regular dish for most Americans and Europeans especially because it’s good food for a small budget. But this isn’t the case here, of course, because chef Domenico Crolla’s “Pizza Royale 007″ has some absolutely amazing ingredients, such as lobster marinated in cognac, caviar soaked in champagne, sunblush tomato sauce, Scottish smoked salmon, venison medallions, prosciutto, and vintage balsamic vinegar. To top it off, it even has some edible 24-carat gold flakes. The pizza was a one time offer, and it was auctioned on eBay.

The most expensive burger

Price: 5.000$
Where can you find it: Las Vegas

If you’re thinking pizza is too expensive, then why not try a burger ? In this case, you should go for the Fleur 5000 Burger, sold in Vegas; the good thing is, you will also get a 1995 Chateau Petrus from Bordeaux to go with it. The bad thing is that bottle is also a reason why it is so expensive, aside from the kobe beef, truffles and foie gras. If you’re still not impressed, you can quench your curiosity by going to the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

The most expensive bagel

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: New York

The world’s most expensive bagel can also be found in New York, and why shouldn’t it be one thousand dollars, when it’s made with white truffle cream cheese and goji berry infused Riesling jelly with golden leaves ?

The most expensive ice cream

Price: 1000$
Where can you find it: Manhattan

After a fine meal like the ones above, there should definitely be some extra room for desert – and what better dessert can you have than the premium ice cream made by Serendipity 3 from Manhattan ? Made from Tahiti vanilla, Madagascar vanilla, edible gold flakes and one of the most expensive chocolates in the world, this ice cream will definitely cool you off – and your pockets too.

The most expensive chocolates

Price: 2,600 euro / box
Where can you find it: on the internet

If ice cream isn’t your thing, these chocolate truffles will definitely please your senses. You can buy them online, from the Knipschildt site, at about 3.500$. Created after a secret recipe, their cream is made from 70% highest quality cocoa, as well as black truffles. A box weighs slightly under 400 grams.

The most expensive coffee

Price: 10.000$ / kg
Where can you find it: fancy stores

If you feel the need to wake up, the Kopi Luwak coffee might do the trick for you. The most expensive coffee in the world has an interesting story: it is made from coffee beans which have been eaten by a species of civet and then defecated. Aside from being digested in the civet’s body, it is also dried, roasted and brewed, after which it becomes much more aromatic and much less bitter.

The most expensive Rum

Price: 53.000$ / bottle
Where can you find it: unknown

 

I don’t know about you, but after this kind of prices, I could definitely use a drink – a strong rum, perhaps? It is unknown just how many bottles of Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum there still are in the world, but there can’t be too many. No one has sold or bought one in ages and considering its price, I would bet no one has drank one in ages too. Made in 1940, this is the most expensive rum in the world, and one of the most expensive drinks, too. It’s not for your average pirate, that’s for sure.

The most expensive cocktail

Price: 18.000$
Where can you find it: Tokyo

It would have been impossible to have a list such as this one without including Japan in it at least once. The Diamonds Are Forever Martini is a supreme luxury in a (small) glass. It comes with a smooth blend of chilled Grey Goose vodka poured over a one carat diamond, some martini, and a twist of lime. Yeah, the good news is you get to keep the diamond; however, only a handful of such cocktails were bought. Don’t forget to get yours when you go to the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tokyo.

The most expensive beer

Price: 1.000$
Where can you find it: London

But enough of these fancy drinks ! You can always just go out with the boys for a beer or two, right? Well, not in London, at Bierdorme, where a Vielle Bon Secours costs no less than 1.000$ – guaranteed to make your head spin the next day, and probably many more after that.

The most expensive water

Price: 2144$ / gallon
Where can you find it: Hawaii, Japan

If all else fails, you can always just have a glass of water; except when that water is made from desalinated water with a high mineral content found 2,000 feet down off the coast of Hawaii. It is credited with aiding weight loss, skin tone, and a whole lot of other health benefits. It’s supposed to be so good, that you can actually dilute it with … water. Japanese love this water so much that 80.000 bottles get shipped there every day, even though there is a local alternative processed in the same conditions.

beer

Oldest beer making tools found in China are 5,000-years-old

Ancient Chinese villagers already mastered beer making more than 5,000 years ago, archaeologists found. The various pottery and tools found at the site in the Shaanxi province still contain residues of the ingredients used to make the beer, which is how the researchers knew these were used for beer in the first place. Remarkably, the findings suggest barley was introduced 1,000 years earlier in China than previously thought and that it might have been used for booze first, well before it was grown for food.

beer

Credit: Pixabay

The history of beer in China begins 9,000 years ago. Archeological findings show that the Chinese brewed beer-like alcoholic beverages as far back as 7000 BC on small and individual scale made with rice, honey, and grape and hawthorn fruits. The production process was very similar to that employed by the Mesopotamians or Egyptians.

The ancient vessels found in the Mijiaya site in the Shaanxi province of China are the earliest beer-making tools found thus far, dating from between 3400 and 2900 BC.

Moreover, by analyzing the chemicals residues found in each pottery, the researchers were able to retrace the recipe used by the ancient Chinese brew-makers. The ingredients include  broomcorn millet, Job’s tears, lily, yam, barley and even snake gourd root. Damage on starch grains suggests techniques familiar to modern brewers were used. These followed an age-long tested process: malting, mashing, fermentation.

Stove fragment recovered from the site in China. Credit: Fulai Xing

Stove fragment recovered from the site in China. Credit: Fulai Xing

This begs the question: how did this beer fare against the modern variety? One of the co-authors, Jiajing Wang, an archaeologist from Stanford University, said: “it would taste a bit sour and a bit sweet.” No one can know for certain, though, until the recipe is applied, preferably using the same technique and equipment available 5,000 years ago.

A 5,000 years old funnel used for beer making. Credit: Jiajing Wang

A 5,000 years old funnel used for beer making. Credit: Jiajing Wang

Perhaps, the most interesting finding was that the 5,000-years-old beer recipe used barley. Today, barley is very common all around China, but how it got there in the first place is still a mystery.

“Barley was one of the main ingredient[s] for beer brewing in other parts of the world, such as ancient Egypt. It is possible that when barley was introduced from Western Eurasia into the Central Plain of China, it came with the knowledge that the crop was a good ingredient for beer brewing. So it was not only the introduction of a new crop, but also the movement of knowledge associated with the crop,” Wang said.

“The discovery of barley is a surprise,” Wang told AFP. “This beer recipe indicates a mix of Chinese and Western traditions – barley from the West; millet, Job’s tears and tubers from China.”