Archive for May, 2010

Session Beers vs. Microbrews

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I had an interesting conversation with a beer distributor while at happy hour yesterday. He was advising me to try one of the two new beers he had just installed on tap at the bar. One was Pale Moon, from the Blue Moon line and the other Audacious from Pyramid Brewing Company out of Seattle. Naturally, I tried both.

We talked a bit and I asked him how one would go about getting calorie information from somewhere like Pyramid Brewing Company. He said that microbreweries didn’t like to divulge calorie information, because it makes them less competitive with Anheuser and MillerCoors. He went on to say that drinkers of microbrews didn’t care about calories because they aren’t drinking that many and are more concerned with taste. Meanwhile, drinkers of session beers, are having “you know 10 to 12 and the calories can really add up.” My thoughts:

  • Session beer is a fantastic term that will be incorporated into this site and my vocabulary
  • I agree that drinkers of microbrews are less concerned with calories, but it still matters. Personally, I like having the information and it can serve as a tiebreaker at the very least. I also don’t think that drinkers of session beers and microbrews are mutually exclusive. If I’m having a beer at happy hour, it’ll probably be a microbrew, but if tailgaiting, probably a session beer.
  • I think his casual market segmentation is relevant to the site. Beer efficiency definitely matters more for session beers because you’re having more of them, but the tool is really meant as a relative comparison, rather than an absolute one. It’s to say Miller Light > Coors Light > Bud Light. And that Flying Dog appears to be the best of the microbrews for whatever reason.

Enjoy your sessions this weekend!

Sweet or Dry: Residual Sugar in Wine

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Wine Chart

A Visual Display of Dry vs. Sweet

Hmm, maybe I could’ve chosen a better title, but anyone who’s been over to the wine page and fooled around with the calculator probably has a question or two about residual sugar. For starters, it helps to know where a wine falls on the dry – sweet spectrum. As the graphical representation done by a friend of the site suggests, it’s not so simple. Moving onto the why: Here’s a quick breakdown of the wine making process:

  • Grow Grapes
  • Harvest Grapes (Later Harvest = Sweeter Grapes)
  • Use Yeast to Ferment Sugar into Alcohol

That’s it. The final step is interesting though, because the yeast is picky. If there’s too much sugar, heat or alcohol, it’ll quit. So, the winemaker has control over the yeast’s effectiveness. In the “efficient” varietals, the yeast ferments through all nearly all of the sugar, so that value is quite low ( .5 – 5 grams / Liter). There are plenty of exceptions.

In port, fermentation is halted by brandy, so there’s lots of alcohol and lots of residual sugar. In sweeter champagnes, sugar is added-post fermentation. And in dessert sauvignon blancs, which are being pushed by Napa wineries lately, the grapes stay on the vine super-late and end up with a high sugar content. The fermentation process is halted somewhat prematurely by altering temperature and a sweet, moderately alcoholic wine is the result.

A History of Alcohol – An Evolutionary Advantage?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Wine Mixing Bowl (1500 B.C.) Found in present-day Jordan

For some sleep-inducing airplane reading, I settled for my alumni magazine. Surprisingly, I stumbled on this gem, about Penn Museum archaeologist, Patrick McGovern and his study of alcohol’s role in ancient cultures. While I knew that King Midas liked the sauce, I didn’t know that people were drinking 9,000 years ago in what is now rural China and that Incas had their own special brew. And I had no idea that grains were pre-digested by spitting partially chewed food into a cauldron. Or better yet, that a bunch of academics and brew-geeks from Dogfish Head recently re-enacted the ritual:

It was a South American-style beer called chicha… …To transform its base of purple Peruvian corn into a mash amenable to yeast fermentation, the men had chewed every last kernal and spit the cuds into the brewing kettle.

Of course McGovern notes that alcohol kills off any harmful bacteria, but regardless, drinking that concoction is not the most enticing proposition. McGovern seems to believe that booze could pushed us toward agrarian society, with our distant ancestors pursuing cereal grains for beer rather than food, because the nutritional value of fermented grain was superior to that of unprocessed grain. Penn anthropology Professor Solomon Katz:

In biological terms, beer drinkers would have had a ’selective advantage’ in the form of improved health for themselves and ultimately for their offspring.

We’ve evolved to drink beer and it’s healthy. So drink up!