Science + Beer = A Very Happy Joe.
Richard Feynman once said that “…all life is fermentation.” He was probably referring to that general biochemical conversion of sugars into hosts of molecules that cells from bacteria to beagles use to drive all their cellular processes, but I’d like to imagine he was also referring to BEER.
With that in mind, for this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart I took a trip out to Austin’s Jester King Brewery to see the beer-making process in action. Most people know generally how beer is made (grain + hops + yeast + water = alcohol + CO2 + beery goodness) but the kind of beer that they make at Jester King takes that one step further.
Every barrel that they age at Jester King is like a tiny evolution experiment. Rather than the carefully controlled clones that make mass-produced beer, the beer that we tasted is made by complex populations of both yeast and bacteria, competing and cooperating, mutating and swapping genes in order to create flavors that are impossible to predict. They truly let nature take its course.
I’d like to think that Charles Darwin would gladly drink a pint of this stuff.
One more thing… at the end of the video, we had a chat about why humans drink beer and other fermented beverages in the first place. Were they, in fact, crucial to establishing our first civilizations? Did the act of drinking influence our social evolution? Have humans always looked to nature for ways to expand our minds through chemicals? I’d love to know what you think!
BONUS: You can now catch all of the food science videos that we’ve done on OKTBS in one playlist (including cheese and BBQ!)