Happy bingeing

Apparently today is the day most chosen for Christmas parties, and therefore the day when ambulance crews are most poised to pick up the pieces. I seem to remember that last year there was a lot of hysteria in the media about this, but there aren’t so many silly stories this year, perhaps because society didn’t in fact break down and the streets did not run with blood as predicted.

The Evening Standard and other related papers are having a go, though, with the story that Londoners are estimated to spend £120m on booze in two days (today and yesterday). However, that’s only £20 per Londoner (assuming 6m adult Londoners*), spread across two days. £10.00 doesn’t buy you many drinks in Central London these days, particularly in a wanky City bar (bottle of Becks – £4.20!!!!!!!!!**)

Given the hysteria about binge-drinking at the moment, £120m seems surprisingly low.

Boak

*Figure derived from the Office of National Statistics estimates in 2006. The figure of 6m includes the over 16s (because apparently they’re all drinking a bottle of wine a week) and excludes short-term migrants.

**That’s about a million dollars for our readers across the pond.

Council sponsored beer

breckland.jpgA while ago, I wondered why more local breweries didn’t advertise by the sides of railway lines, like they do in Germany. One reason we came up with was that local councils wouldn’t want to be seen to promote booze or boozing.

Well, Breckland council have no such worries — earlier this year, they joined forces with the Iceni Brewery to come up with a special beer to welcome home local troops who’d been fighting in Afghanistan.

It’s not clear whether the council actually subsidised the brewing of this special batch of beer, but they’re certainly not shying away from being associated with and promoting a popular, successful local brewery.

I don’t know about you, but nothing about this makes me think (Daily Mail voice): “NOW LOCAL COUNCIL BACKS BINGEING”.

More councils should be backing, subsidising and promoting local their local breweries. They should be proud of them like Breckland Council is of Iceni.

Bailey

Army and Navy beer shop is no more

The specialist beer and wine shop which used to be in the basement of Army and Navy Stores (House of Fraser) on Victoria Street in Westminster has been replaced… by a branch of Gap.

So, no more Sam Smith gift sets; no more oddball Belgian beers; and no more bottle-conditioned stouts and porters, five minutes from my work.

Still, at least I’ll be able to buy “khakis” and striped scarves now…

Bailey

Accountants and breweries

Accountants get a lot of stick from home-brew books, beer blogs and the like. Apparently we’re responsible for everything bad that has ever happened in beer, such as the move from cask to keg in the UK, use of rice as an adjunct, and the development of high-alpha (i.e low-flavour) hops.

I’m fed up with this laziness. Firstly, as anyone with any business experience knows, the job of the finance team is to support the goals of the company. If the company wants to sacrifice quality for profit, that’s the board’s call. And of course the board will take that decision based on (a) shareholder opinion (b) analysis of the market. So it’s all the fault of the consumers really…

Secondly, in my experience, real-ale lovers are well-represented within the accountant population. Maybe not that surprising given our reputation for being pedantic bores.

Thirdly, we just don’t have the (diabolical) imagination for the crimes we’re accused of.

Now the marketing team — that’s a different story…

Boak

Beer science — the answers

bunsenandbeaker.jpgWe asked some of our brainy friends to answer a few questions about the science of beer. Tom was the first to respond. He’s a statistical genius, obsessed with lasers, and has studied science at Cambridge and Imperial College. His answers, with lots of disclaimers about how he’s not a chemist and wouldn’t want any of this to end up on the National Curriculum, are below.

1. Tom isn’t sure what to make of the idea that a huge head on your beer will cause the hop oils to migrate and ruin the flavour. He says:

Hop oils are volatile organic compounds, with the ‘volatile’ indicating that they like to evaporate. The evaporation of hop oils is not, however, necessarily a bad thing. Aroma being a component of flavour, you would be left with little from the hops other than bitterness if they did not do so.

I’m puzzled by the word ‘migrate’. To me this would suggest a slow process (perhaps diffusion of the hop oils along the boundaries of the cellular structure formed by the head) but this would then be impeded by the presence of a larger head. A more logical argument would seem to me to be that the hop oils diffuse into bubbles forming in the body of the beer, and that turbulence caused in careless pouring would lead to a large number of these forming at the beginning. Once these bubbles burst, the beer would have a lower level of hop oils than if the beer had been poured carefully, so affecting the flavour. The problem would then be not so much the presence of a large head than the *loss* of the head that negatively affects the flavour.

More generally, I would expect temperature to have a greater effect on the evaporation of hop oils, which is why it might be a good idea to drink beer a bit warmer, and yet another reason (if one were needed) not to go near Carling Extra Cold.

2. Tom thinks clear bottles are a bad idea.

This one I can believe, since many compounds are photoreactive. The breakdown of organic compounds by exposure to light sounds perfectly reasonable. Think of it as sunburn for beer.

3. Tom thinks beer with artificially added carbon dioxide might well taste different to naturally carbonated beer.

Interesting. Carbon dioxide, when dissolved in water, forms an equilibrium with carbonic acid (H2CO3) formed, if it is not obvious, from water and carbon dioxide. The equilibrium is formed slowly however, so artificially carbonated beer may contain higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide and lower carbonic acid than the equilibrium, so depending how soon after carbonation the beer was drunk it may have a lower acidity than beer with naturally produced carbon dioxide.