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Tapping the Lighter Side of Beer

November 8, 2011 By: Robert Plotkin

BeerArchie Bunker of the ’70s hit TV show “All in the Family” maintained that you don’t buy beer, you just rent it for awhile. If that’s true, then a lot of Americans must be renting these days. Beer remains the favorite alcoholic beverage of men and the second most frequent request of women. Yet despite its enormous popularity, there is a lot about beer you might not know.

For example, when you pop the cap off a 12-ounce bottle of brew, the sudden loss of pressure causes the bottleneck temperature to plunge for a fraction of a second from 41 F to an incredible -31 F. The nearly instantaneous drop in temperature causes water vapor inside the neck to condense and form a white vapor cloud: a beer cloud inside of what essentially becomes a rudimentary cloud chamber.

Anyone who’s chugged a beer only to have it gush out his or her nostrils knows that beer contains carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. When sealed, the internal pressure within a bottle of beer — approximately 30 to 45 pounds of pressure (pounds per square inch) — is so high that the carbon dioxide within the brew cannot expand and form bubbles, which explains why no bubbles are visible in a capped bottle. Once opened, the compressed gas in the beer is allowed to expand and rise.

Greg Bohren, renowned Penn State physicist and beer aficionado, determined that the streams of bubbles actually start as loose clusters of carbon dioxide molecules that require microscopic cracks or pits in the glass to cling to and accumulate into individual bubbles. As they begin to rise from these departure points — called nucleation sites — the molecules expand in size and accelerate in a steady stream toward the surface where they will form the head.

In an article in Discover Magazine, Bohren explains why the timeworn habit of adding salt to beer will recreate the head and, contrary to popular belief, the reason has absolutely nothing to do with the chemical composition of sodium chloride. The same phenomenon can be achieved by sprinkling any granular substance, such as pepper, sand or dust, into beer. The crystalline structures of the granules form countless nucleation sites for carbon-dioxide molecules to cluster and create torrents of bubbles that subsequently collect on the surface as a foamy head.
However, should you feel a need to add a granular substance to your beer, most experts agree that salt is preferable to pepper, sand or dust.

What You Don’t Know About Beer

Evidence exists that proves man knew how to brew a fairly sophisticated beer 3,800 years ago in Mesopotamia, well before the invention of the Barcalounger. In fact, many of the same brewing techniques mastered by the Sumarians of the Bronze Age still are being used today by many of this country’s brew masters.

Ancient Egyptians apparently also developed a fondness for beer. Recent discoveries have unearthed information indicating the slaves who built the pyramids near the present-day Giza Plateau had five types of beer from which to choose and were given beer rations three times a day.
Today, beer remains one of the world’s most widely produced and consumed beverage alcohols. While it’s a relatively simple substance — the basic components of most are barley, hops, yeast and water — the following pop quiz may not prove as simple, and click here for the answers!

1. Originally brewed in Czechoslovakia, it is a bottom-fermented beer, typically golden-colored, dry and crisp; it is the most widely imitated style of beer.

2. This term is used to describe the relationship between the flavors of malt and hops in a beer.

3. This amber, hoppy brew is a hybrid made from both top- and bottom-fermenting yeasts; it is made only in San Francisco.

4. What does “Degrees Balling” measure?

5. Brewed with bottom-fermenting yeasts, it is the most widely produced type of beer in America.

6. Brewed in from roasted, unmalted barley, this beer has a bitter-hoppy taste, is full-bodied and extremely dark colored.

7. Made with top-fermenting yeasts, this type of brew is typically heavy-bodied, copper-colored (or darker), high in alcohol and most closely associated with English-style beers.

8. What is Krausening?

9. This term refers to the combined aromas of a beer.

10. This type of Belgian, spontaneously fermented wheat beer is dry, full-bodied and usually aged in wooden casks.

11. Dry beers originated in this country.

12. This beer is a potent, full-bodied, bottom-fermented brew that originated in Einbeck, Germany.

13. Produced in both a sweet and dry, bitter version (Irish), this style of beer is typically full-bodied, extremely dark in color and brewed using roasted, unmalted barley.

14. The name given to American lagers with an alcohol content of 5 to 7.5% by volume.

15. This dark Bavarian lager is typically low in alcohol and brewed specifically for an annual German event.

16. This type of English draught is malty, moderately sweet, ranges in color from amber to dark brown and is brewed with top-fermenting yeasts.

17. Extremely popular in England, this draught is dry, full-bodied, amber to copper colored and lightly carbonated; when bottled, this beer is labeled as Pale Ale.

18. Brewed exclusively at monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands, these beers are fruity, bottle-conditioned and made from top-fermenting yeasts.

19. This German wheat beer is dry, low in alcohol, has a slightly sharp taste and shares the same name with the city of its origin.

20. This style of brewing produces a dry, golden-blonde, bottom-fermented lager and is associated this city in northern Germany.

21. This malty, dark-brown, bottom-fermented lager is associated with this city in Bavaria; it is produced in both a Helles and Dunkel version.

22. This Belgian wheat beer is dark red, the result of being flavored with cherries.

23. This amber, rich-tasting French beer is brewed with top-fermenting yeasts; being cork-finished, it should be stored on its side like wine.

24. Fruity and copper-colored, this Belgian beer is brewed with top-fermenting yeasts, naturally conditioned in wooden casks and cork-finished.

25. This top-fermented, warm-conditioned white wheat beer is made only in Hoegaarden, Belgium.

Match the following labels of beers with their country of origin:

26. Brain                                                           a. Thailand
27. Amstel                                                         b. Brazil
28. Aass                                                            c. Denmark
29. Tsingtao                                                       d. Canada
30. Negra Modelo                                              e. United Kingdom
31. Ngok’ Biere                                                  f. Holland
32. San Miguel                                                  g. Singapore
33. Beamish Stout                                             h. Sri Lanka
34. Lindemans Kriek                                          i. Austria
35. Blitz-Weinhard                                             j. Trinidad
36. Boon Rawd                                                 k. Australia
37. Brahma                                                       l. Barbados
38. Braü AG                                                      m. Switzerland
39. Pilsner Urquell                                             n. Mexico
40. Carib Lager                                                 o. Republic du Congo
41. Red Stipe Lager                                          p. People’s Republic of China
42. Lion Lager                                                   q. Norway
43. Carlsberg Elephant                                     r. Philippines
44. Carling O’Keefe                                          s. United States
45. Cisk Lager                                                  t. Belgium
46. Tooth’s Sheaf Stout                                     u. Ireland
47. La Belle Strassbourgeoise                          v. Czechoslovakia
48. Bank’s Ebony                                              w. Jamaica
49. Löwenbraü Export                                       x. France
50. Singha Lager                                               y. Malta


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