Beer

A look at brew through the ages.
5 stories

Is there anything better than cold beer? Homer Simpson didn't think so, and on this point a lot of Americans would agree with him. So no surprise that some fine pieces have been written about the beverage.

Abigail Tucker profiled a beer archaeologist. "Dr. Pat is the world’s foremost expert on ancient fermented beverages, and he cracks long-forgotten recipes with chemistry, scouring ancient kegs and bottles for residue samples to scrutinize in the lab. He has identified the world’s oldest known barley beer (from Iran’s Zagros Mountains, dating to 3400 B.C.), the oldest grape wine (also from the Zagros, circa 5400 B.C.) and the earliest known booze of any kind, a Neolithic grog from China’s Yellow River Valley brewed some 9,000 years ago," she wrote. "Widely published in academic journals and books, McGovern’s research has shed light on agriculture, medicine and trade routes during the pre-biblical era. But it’s also inspired a couple of Dogfish Head’s offerings, including Midas Touch, a beer based on decrepit refreshments recovered from King Midas’ 700 B.C. tomb, which has received more medals than any other Dogfish creation."

The Fix interviewed the creators of America's most hated beverage. "Before it was banned nationwide, Four Loko, the popular energy beer denounced by the White House as 'liquid cocaine,' was blamed for a surge in underage binge drinking, scores of date rapes, and a vicious gay bashing," the magazine wrote. "Stunned by the criticism, the company's young founders dodged the press for almost a year. But last month The Fix convinced them to tell their story for the first time. And they're not apologizing for anything."

Christian DeBenedetti posits that beer culture may be in trouble in Germany. "The facts are stark: According to German federal statistics released in late January, German brewing has dropped to less than 100 million hectoliters of production for the first time since reunification in 1990. (That's less than half of the United States' annual output.) The same study revealed that consumption dropped almost 3 percent last year alone, to 101.8 liters per person per year, and that it's down about one-third overall since the previous generation," she writes. "The number of breweries in the country has also dropped—by about half over the last few decades to around 1,300. The vaunted Weihenstephan brew master degree program in Munich adopts a dour tone on its student prospectus, saying the majority of graduates don't actually become brew masters but instead head for jobs in mechanical engineering and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries."

Burkhard Bilger told the story of the Dogfish Brewery. "The barrel that Dogfish built is now housed at its main brewery, in Milton, Delaware. It’s fifteen feet high and ten feet in diameter, and holds nine thousand gallons," he writes. "When Calagione (the owner) took me to see it in August, a pallet of leftover palo santo was stacked nearby. The staves, streaked with a greenish-brown grain, felt disproportionately heavy, as if subject to a stronger gravity—one part wood, one part white dwarf star. The barrel was built by a father-and-son firm in Buffalo, and cost about a hundred and forty thousand dollars—three times the price of the oak barrel beside it. 'If Dogfish were a publicly traded company, I’d have been fired for building this,' he said."

And how do they get cold beer in the remote wilderness of Australia? It's thanks to the world's toughest trucker, Tom Clynes writes.

From the Web

The Beer Archaeologist

By analyzing ancient pottery, Patrick McGovern is resurrecting the libations that fueled civilization.

From the Web

A Better Brew

The rise of extreme beer.

Nov 2008
By Editors Recommend

The World’s Toughest Trucker

In Australia’s tropics, warm beer won’t win you any friends. The world’s toughest trucker, Garry White, sets out on Cape York’s torture tracks on a mission to fuel the fridge.

From the Web

Meet the Frat Boys behind Four Loko, America’s Most Hated Beer

Before it was banned nationwide, Four Loko, the popular energy beer denounced by the White House as “liquid cocaine,” was blamed for a surge in underage binge drinking, scores of date rapes, and a vicious gay bashing. Stunned by the criticism, the company’s young founders dodged the press for almost a year. But last month The Fix convinced them to tell their story for the first time. And they’re not apologizing for anything.

Apr 2011
From the Web

Brauereisterben

Germany’s beer culture is in decline.

Mar 2011