Tag Archives: Alcohol

The Art and Science of Beer

Great piece with Charlie Bamforth, the head of Malting and Brewing Science and UC Davis.



Talented Bartender

Alexander Shtifanov shows off his impressive bartending skills on Ukraine’s Got Talent.


The Beer Archaeologist

Patrick McGovern, an archaeologist and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is considered the world’s leading expert on ancient brewing techniques and alcohol-related traditions. In recent years, he’s been a big part of a movement to recreate ancient recipes for beer (or mead/cider/whatever) with some pretty big successes. McGovern makes the case that beer has played a much larger role in history than one would initially think:

The ancients were liable to spike their drinks with all sorts of unpredictable stuff—olive oil, bog myrtle, cheese, meadow­sweet, mugwort, carrot, not to mention hallucinogens like hemp and poppy. But Calagione and McGovern based their Egyptian selections on the archaeologist’s work with the tomb of the Pharaoh Scorpion I, where a curious combination of savory, thyme and coriander showed up in the residues of libations interred with the monarch in 3150 B.C. (They decided the za’atar spice medley, which frequently includes all those herbs, plus oregano and several others, was a current-day substitute.) Other guidelines came from the even more ancient Wadi Kubbaniya, an 18,000-year-old site in Upper Egypt where starch-dusted stones, probably used for grinding sorghum or bulrush, were found with the remains of doum-palm fruit and chamomile. It’s difficult to confirm, but “it’s very likely they were making beer there,” McGovern says.

The brewers also went so far as to harvest a local yeast, which might be descended from ancient varieties (many commercial beers are made with manufactured cultures). They left sugar-filled petri dishes out overnight at a remote Egyptian date farm, to capture wild airborne yeast cells, then mailed the samples to a Belgian lab, where the organisms were isolated and grown in large quantities.

Back at Dogfish Head, the tea of ingredients now inexplicably smacks of pineapple. McGovern advises the brewers to use less za’atar; they comply. The spices are dumped into a stainless steel kettle to stew with barley sugars and hops. McGovern acknowledges that the heat source should technically be wood or dried dung, not gas, but he notes approvingly that the kettle’s base is insulated with bricks, a suitably ancient technique.

As the beer boils during lunch break, McGovern sidles up to the brewery’s well-appointed bar and pours a tall, frosty Midas Touch for himself, spurning the Cokes nursed by the other brewers. He’s fond of citing the role of beer in ancient workplaces. “For the pyramids, each worker got a daily ration of four to five liters,” he says loudly, perhaps for Calagione’s benefit. “It was a source of nutrition, refreshment and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. You would have had a rebellion on your hands if they’d run out. The pyramids might not have been built if there hadn’t been enough beer.”

The Beer Archaeologist   [SmithsonianMag]

Can of Whisky

A Panamanian company called Scottish Spirits has begun marketing this can of whisky in its Caribbean and Latin American markets. According to chief executive Manish Panshal, “The can is the perfect size to be shared between three people who can mix it with other things like cola,…It’s lightweight and portable and entirely recyclable, which is good news.”


Gilpin Family’s Piss-Whisky

James Gilpin is a biomedical designer and researcher and he also suffers from Type 1 diabetes, i.e. his body does not produce enough insulin to properly regulate his blood-sugar levels. One of the interesting effects of diabetes, especially Type II diabetes in elderly patients, is that the urine tends to be very high in sugar. In order to make a statement about whether or not it’s, “plausible to suggest that we start utilising our water purification systems in order to harvest the biological resources that our elderly already process in abundance”, [Author’s note: ???] Mr. Gilpin has started using this sugar-rich diabetic urine to produce whisky:

The source material is acquired from elderly volunteers, including Gilpin’s own grandmother. The urine is purified in the same way as mains water is purified, with the sugar molecules removed and added to the mash stock to accelerate the whisky’s fermentation process. Traditionally, that sugar would be made from the starches in the mash.

Once fermented into a clear alcohol spirit, whisky blends are added to give colour, taste and viscosity, and the product is bottled with the name and age of the contributor.

The original idea came from an (unverified) story he heard about a pharmaceutical company that supposedly set up a factory next to an old people’s home and would swap cushions and soft toys for the residents’ urine. They’d then process the urine to remove the chemicals that had passed straight through the dilapidated endochrine systems of the patients, which could then be put straight back into new medicine.

Whisky Made From Diabetics Urine [Wired]

Homeless Man Breaks into Abandoned Bar, Begins Selling Alcohol

A homeless man named Travis Lloyd Kevie broke into the abandoned Valencia Club in the Sacramento Valley with a half-dozen beer. Then, he put out a sign saying the bar was open for business and used the money from the first half-dozen to buy some more beer. Unfortunately for Kevie, his scheme was so successful that a local newspaper did a story on the re-opening of the bar:

“A local newspaper report alerted a Placer County Sheriff’s Office Detective of a possible ongoing crime being committed in the Penryn area,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said. “As Detective Jim Hudson read the morning newspaper he recognized an individual pictured on the front page as a local transient who has had numerous contact with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.”

A detective went to the bar to determine if Kevie had obtained a liquor license.

“When Detective Hudson arrived at the Valencia Club it was open for business with customers bellied up to the bar. Upon questioning Kevie Detective Hudson determined that he had no connection to the property and he did not have a liquor license,” the department said.

Homeless Man Breaks into Bar, Begins Selling Alcohol [CNN]

Full Bottle Wine Glass