The Science of Beer

How much science is behind some of the ideas we have about beer? These sound convincing, and we’re inclined to believe them, but we’ve never really seen any evidence, as such:

  1. If you pour beer with too big a head, the hop oils will come to the top and disappear (“migrate”).
  2. Beer spoils more easily in clear bottles because of the action of light.
  3. Artificially carbonated beer tastes noticeably different from naturally carbonated beer.

We’re going to be asking some brainiacs of our acquaintance to give us their views, but we’re also interested to hear of any evidence you know of to confirm or deny any of these, or of any other theories you’d like to prove/debunk.

As a starter for ten, I’ve got this nagging feeling that, just as sea salt is still sodium chloride however you package it, surely carbon dioxide dissolved in water is the same stuff however it got there?

3 replies on “The Science of Beer”

Yup, I’d say number three is more about the difficulty of creating a controlled experiment than anything else: you’d probably need access to a lab to artificially replicate the CO2 concentration of a specific instance of natural carbonation.

Number two is pretty plainly objectively true and I wish more English brewers were aware of it (looking at you, Mr. Neame). In fact, I think I read somewhere on the blogosphere that there’s a chemical which brewers can add to a beer to prevent it from becoming lightstruck. Anyway, trying sticking a bottle of Bishops Finger in direct sunlight for a few days and then compare the taste with a bottle kept in the dark. Our American cousins like to call the effect “skunking”. When you open the bottle, you’ll get an idea why.

As for number one, yes thats true to a point as far as Im aware but its not major, the best thing about pouring a beer with a big head is that you knock some of the carbonation out. I often pour bottled beer that way on purpose.

Number two is no contest absolutly true. There isnt a chemical added to avoid it, so much as Isomerised hop extracts arent subject to skunking. But really who the hell wants to use extract.

Number three has more to do with the filtered/pasturised verse non-filtered/non-pasturised stand off.

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