Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Training Video: 02

The second video in the series on how I became a brewer at BBC.
this time Jerry teaches me to build a resistance to hot water....

Never Trust a Sober Brewer....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stick This Beer Up Your @#$, No Seriously, It's Good For You

We all know that beer tastes good, some of us know that it's good for you, but I bet you didn't know about this story by John Roach in National Geographic News.

Anthropologist George Armelagos from Emory University found traces of the antibiotic tetracycline in ancient Nubian bones. The bones dated between A.D. 350 and 550 and were found in present day Sudan, south of Egypt along the Nile river. Today tetracycline is used to treat ailments ranging from acne flare-ups to urinary tract infections. But the antibiotic only came into commercial use around 50 years ago. So how did tetracycline get into the Nubian bones?

Armelagos looked at how the ancient Nubians used grain and come across a recipe for beer. Now this was not exactly BBC's Pale Ale or even Budweiser, it was more like a thick sour gruel. The Nubians stored their grain used to make this beer in mud bins. It was then most likely, contaminated with streptomycedes, a soil bacteria that produces tetracycline. The Nubians would drink the gruel and probably allowed their children to eat what grain was left at the bottom of the vat. Traces of tetracycline have been found in more than 90 percent of the bones Armelagos' team has examined, including those of 2 year old children. The Nubians would have consumed the beer because it was tastier than the grain itself, and then noticed that people fared better and felt better by drinking the beer rather than eating the grain.

Armelagos said that there is a whole series of Egyptian pharmacopoeias (medicine books) that percribe beer for certain ailments. The ancient Egyptians and Nubians used beer as a gum disease treatment, a dressing for wounds, and even an anal fumigant (a vaporborne pesticide to treat diseases of the anus.)

This is all very interesting, but we at Bluegrass Brewing Co. are not advocating beer colonics, nor are we liable for any mishaps that result from said procedure.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, July 16, 2007

What Brewers Really Do

Video Clip of a day to day task for BBC brewers

Never Trust a Sober Brewer...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Stoned Rastafarian Carpenters, Plowing with Wooden Cats

Biology of a Hangover

I admit it. I have overindulged from time to time. There's nothing wrong with tying one on once in a while. As long as you don't drive home (or to an ex-girlfriends house). Cleaning out the pipes, with a bunch of drinks can be "therapeutic." But as we all know sooner or later you will pay the price with a hangover. Today I thought we would look at the biology of a hangover, so we can understand what is happening to our bodies when we have a few too many.

1) Vasopressin Inhibition
When alcohol enters the bloodstream it causes the pituitary gland to block the creation of vasopression (also known as ADH). This causes the kidneys to send water directly to the bladder, instead of reabsorbing it into the body. This diuretic effect causes your body to become dehydrated. Headaches result from this dehydration because the body's organs make up for their own water loss by stealing water from the brain, causing the brain to shrink, in turn pulling on connective membranes causing pain. Another result of the lack of vasopressin is the loss of salt and potassium in those frequent bathroom breaks. Alcohol also breaks down glycogen in the liver, converting it to glucose which is then flushed out into the urinal (our whiz sure does have some good stuff in it). Those compounds are necessary for proper nerve, and muscle function, meaning you probably aren't getting any better at pool or darts and if you try to pick up those girls at the bar you will probably end up tripping and spilling your drink on them.

2) Congeners
Distillers know about these: Congeners = flavor. But to us: Congeners = Pain. Congeners are byproducts of fermentation, yet they are treated as toxins in the body. Drinks with high levels of congeners (bourbon, tequila, red wine) take longer for the body to process out than those with fewer congeners (vodka, beer, white wine)

3) Acetaldehyde
Alright, stay with me here, this is just biology101, these are just compounds and enzymes breaking them down, so lets go. A product of alcohol metabolism called acetaldehyde is created in the liver by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase and is actually more toxic than alcohol itself. Acetaldehyde is then broken down by another enzyme, acetaldeyde dehydrogenase, and another substance called glutathione. Together these two break down the acetaldehyde into the non-toxic acetate. Unfortunately, the liver's stores of glutathione run out when larger amounts of alcohol enter the system, leaving more of the toxic acetaldehyde in the body for longer periods of time. Too much of this toxin can negatively affect brain function to the point where the only remaining brain functions will be those controlling heartbeat, respiration and possibly those responsible for craving pizza and sex. Basically you become Al Gore.

4) Glutamine Rebound
A large contributor to the fatigue felt with a hangover is that the drinker will not sleep as soundly as normal. This results from the body rebounding from alcohol's depressive effects. Alcohol inhibits glutamine, one of the body's natural stimulants. When we stop drinking, our bodies make up for lost time by producing more glutamine than needed. The increased glutamine level stimulates the brain during sleep, preventing us from reaching the deepest, most healing levels of slumbers.

Pretty thick stuff I know, but interesting none the less. I think I'll celebrate the hangover with a few beers.

Nine Foreign Terms for "Hangover"
1) katzenjammer -- German for "the wailing of cats"
2) stonato -- Italian for "out of tune"
3) la gueule de bois -- French for "wooden throat"
4) resaca -- Spanish for "surf of the sea"
5) jeg har tommermen -- Norwegian for "carpenters in my head"
6) hont i haret -- Swedish for "pain in the roots of my hair"
7) ire Rasta coco ganja -- Jamaican for "stoned Rastafarian trying to split my coconut"
8) so to gi ko-ho! -- Vietnamese for "water buffalo plowing inside my head"
9) byt v druhom stave -- Slovak for "to be in a second state"

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, July 9, 2007

Training Video 01

Asked many times how I became a brewer at the BBC, this video series gives insight into the rigorous training methods of Head Brewer Gnagy.

Enjoy and never trust The Sober Brewer...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Beer, More American Than Mom and Apple Pie

Beer has played an important part in American history, and especially during the 4th of July. Independence day wouldn't be complete to most Americans today without downing a few brews alongside a grill full of hot dogs and burgers. In fact brewing goes back to the beginning of the country.

Breweries were owned by some famous revolutionaries, not just Sam Adams, but Charles Sumner, Ethan Allen and Israel Putnum all owned breweries in the newly independent states. The most famous brewer was probably George Washington. Known for his love of Porter style beer, I'm sure he was in his backyard at Mt. Vernon, flipping burgers and knocking back a few on Independence day. Washington once recorded an early beer recipe, which has been preserved in the manuscripts collections of the New York Public Library. Washington wrote:

"To make Small Beer
Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste.--Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & Strain the beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[it] & let Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put in the Cask--leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working.--Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

Beer even has it's moment during the first 4th of July celebrations in Colonial America. According to Stanley Baron in Brewed In America, Philadelphia had its first 4th of July procession, celebrating the ratification of the Constitution, and it turned out to be an "elaborate, lively affair." He wrote, "the brewers were ten in number, headed by Reuben Haines, with ten ears of barley in their hats, and fashes [fasces] of hop vines, carrying malt shovels and mashing oars,... a standard carried by Luke Morris, decorated with the brewers arms, and the motto, 'Home brew'd is best."

Because New York Delegates to their state constitutional convention in Poughkeepsie delayed so long in agreeing to ratify, the celebrations there were held up until July 28th. On that day, though, New York had a memorable parade which "exceeded all previous demonstrations in the country." One of the brewers' flags bore this message: "May he be choked with the grains, or drowned in hot ale whose business it is to brew mischief" There were twenty brewers and maltsters in all who took part in the procession. The motto of the brewers was "Ale, proper drink for Americans."

On this July 4th make sure you enjoy a couple of good beers. It's Patriotic.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy