Bad news: It’s not exactly beer-related. But is is related to microbiology, food safety, and kitchen sanitation! And there is a dearth of real information about this specific topic on the web right now so I figured since I can address the topic with original “research”, I’ll put it up here on the blog so others can gain knowledge from it as well.
That’s all I’ll say about that until the results are in. Expect it in 1-2 weeks, but I have a backpacking trip scheduled for next weekend, so I hope to post it before that.
I’ll also consider what other topics I can post about that are beer-related, as I know I’ve been VERY delinquent in that regard.
Hello BSS readers,
I know that it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but that should come as no surprise by now. I have been spending some time recently thinking about how guilty I feel leaving this blog inactive for so long, and considering some material I can post soon. I’ll do my best to get something up when I can.
Also, I’d like to mention that I’ve received correspondence from a colleague of mine about a beer sensory workshop that he will be running during Seattle Beer Week. On May 18th at Pyramid Brewery Alehouse in south Seattle, there will be two 90 minute sessions where Ian McLaughlin, of Craft Brew Alliance, will explain sensory science and beer flavor, and will present a number of flavor standards and other types of samples. It sounds like essentially the same type of material that goes up on this blog, so it could be pretty interesting!
Here is a link to the workshops. It is $30, but it sounds like that could also get you a free tour of Pyramid Brewery and discounts on food and drink. And if I can swing it, maybe you’ll even see me there…
Hello BSS Readers, and Happy New Year!
I hope the recent holidays have found you well. Again, I shall apologize for the lack of material that’s been showing up here. The last several months have been rather busy, I guess. I don’t really have a good excuse, but I do have some exciting news! I’ve got a new position in my company! In the next few weeks I am moving out of the quality control lab and taking a brand new position in the company (created just for me). This position will be part of a corporate-level service group designed to solve problems for the company. Part of my job will be to train *all* of our panelists across the company, which I’m actually already doing but this will be in an official capacity and will be more involved and will likely mean more traveling. Another part of my job will be poking through mountains of production data to look for issues and solve problems, and to create reports for the big wigs. I’m pretty excited about all the changes it will be bringing.
Once the dust settles after this transition (like the training of replacements, completion of remodeling projects, etc) I expect that I will have a little more time to put into this blog. I have some material from WBC that I still need to post, and I think I’ll have some other things to discuss as well by that time.
So, onward into 2013! This blog ain’t dead yet!
The Hotel Monaco here in Portland is quite nice. I got here a couple days ago to handle a couple of projects for The Company prior to the beginning of WBC, and my time here so far has been pleasant. I went to the Brewer’s dinner which kicked off the Oregon Brewers Festival, and it was alright. Just way too many people; I hate huge throngs of people, especially when they all congregate around the beer tables even though they are not currently getting beer; they really need to put a zone in front of the tables that is reserved for people actually getting beer, and if you want to “hang out” you need to go off somewhere else. The beers I had there were a lime Kolsch from Burnside Brewing (obvious lime flavor extract, a bit too artificial for me even though I love a good kolsch), Hopworks IPX (nice, but a bit too biscuity for me), a couple pilsners whose identities elude me at the moment (obviously very memorable!), and Gigantic Brewing’s Axes of Evil beer (the full name of which reminds me of a show dog’s stage name – it was quite a mouthfull). This last beer was my favorite. It had a very unique aroma which I struggled mightily to identify; it wasn’t something I’d really encountered before. But I was nearing the end of my desire to stay there any longer, so I didn’t really feel like getting more to analyze it further. Maybe I’ll run across it again some time. The last two nights, friends and co-workers and I have been haunting the Shanhai Tunnel bar on 2nd and Ankeny. It’s a bit of a dive, but I like that and one of their bartenders makes a mean Caipirinha (yum). Where to go tonight? We’ll see…
Tomorrow, the pre-Congress seminars start, and unfortunately I’m not registered for any of them (an extra $200 almost for each one). There may be a chance I can get in to some of them since I know people who are involved with about 3 of them or so, but we’ll have to see what happens.
When the Congress officially starts I will do my best to make a few posts about what I see, but typing a bunch of stuff out on-site with an iPad may be a bit too awkward. I may start a post in the morning and gradually edit it to add more as the day progresses, or I may just wait until I get back to my room to record my thoughts. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’ll try to give you some glimpses here and there.
Btw: need info about WBC events schedule and such? There’s an app for that! Google Play and the iTunes app store both have this free app, and it has all sorts of information. Pretty handy.
Finally, I apologize about any typos over the next week: the iPad is highly inconvenient for the accurate typing of lots of text.
Well, seeing as though I rarely find myself posting here, I suppose all that this site is good for anymore is the archive of posts I’ve managed to assemble. I haven’t forgotten or ignored the site over the last couple months, but I certainly have not been doing much with it. Every once in awhile I get a comment that needs an approval or a reply, but apart from that I’ve had very little time to actually post more content. I still want to post more at some point so I’m not abandoning the site by any means, but I certainly can’t say that I’ll be a prolific poster. The sensory department here at my company is growing by leaps and bounds with new systems and procedures being added all the time, and this means I tend to have little time to do stuff like write for this blog.
That being said, next week I’m traveling to Portland to attend the World Brewing Congress. This is a large meeting of brewing industry professionals and academics from all over the world, held every 4 years. I went to the one in San Diego in 2004, and that was awesome (had an excellent introduction to authentic Brazilian food at Rei do Gado, as well). I hope this year is just as exciting; having a look through the program I see that there are a number of talks and symposiums that sound interesting.
While I’m there I hope to have the opportunity to write some posts (and tweets and the like) about the material I find and the people I meet, so stay tuned! There’s a link to the WBC site in the banner to the lower left if you’d like more information.
If you are a fellow hop appreciator, then you may be interested in these. A reader of this blog contacted me with some questions a little while back, and also offered some of his unique products to me to try: hop candies. These are Jolly Rancher-like candies made from the aromatic oils of a single hop variety, and they are very interesting.
Despite tasting like you’re chewing on a fresh hop cone, these candies are not really bitter at all (there may be a hint of bitterness if you stretch your imagination), but the aroma is very authentic. Lots of myrcene and caryophyllene, the types of flavors that you’d pick up from a dry-hopped beer (and that are lost when you hop in the kettle). He sent me a sampling of 3 varieties (Cascade, Fuggle, and East Kent Goldings) and while they are all similar they do have their distinctions. For one, the Fuggle seems slightly more bitter than the Cascades, but it is a minor difference. The bitterness comes across more like a slight tickle from time to time, so it’s not that disagreeable if you aren’t normally a fan of bitterness.
The main concern that I had, and was shared by the various panelists who tried them, is that they are a little too big. These candies are about the size of the small Tootsie Rolls but slightly longer, and I think they could be about 1/2 – 2/3 of that size, as they seem to drag on a little too long. Some of my panelists thought that the aftertaste that lingered for quite some time was unpleasant in the way it stuck around, but personally that was my favorite part. With the candy in your mouth you had the continuous resinous raw/fresh hop flavor explosions, but after it was gone it became more subtle, with floral and citrus notes. A unique take on breath fresheners…
They are available from a number of online sources, listed below. Check them out! They’re probably unlike any other candy you may have had.
Grape and Grainery
2 more articles on deck, maybe today, maybe some other day soon!
I just ran across Edge.org’s Annual Question for 2012. Each year, they ask a number of intellectuals and public figures for their thoughts on a particular topic. This year’s question is “What is your favorite deep, elegant, and beautiful explanation?”.
I’ve read only a handful so far (picking out the contributors whom I routinely enjoy reading), and many of them are pretty interesting.
One that stood out for me, and is somewhat on-topic, is Richard Dawkins’ discussion of “Redundancy Reduction and Pattern Recognition”, and it briefly explains how our brain chooses which sensory signals to pay attention to and which to filter out.
You may also enjoy Vilayanur Ramachandran’s discussion of the question of consciousness and where it may arise. I’ve always found Dr. Ramachandran’s work fascinating, particularly his work on phantom limb pain and synesthesia (mixing of sensory signals in the brain; ie something tastes “brown”). You can find a bunch of his material on the internet, and he has done a couple TED Talks, too. Google it up!
More beer topics soon!
So last Saturday, some friends and colleagues of mine and I met in Portland Oregon to look for some good beer. There were three of us: one from academia (we’ll call him “Joel”), and two from the craft brewing industry (myself, and “Sarah” for the purposes of this article). Sarah was on a Voyage of Discovery to find out what kinds of sour beers are being made and which ones are popular, but we also wanted to discuss the current state of sensory science in our own organizations as well as across the brewing industry. A Summit of Sensory Scientists, I guess you could say.
Now, sour beers are really not my preferred style of beer so my goal was just to find some beers and food that I enjoyed. I would have no problem trying the sour beers, but I certainly wasn’t going to be ordering any for myself. I also didn’t go into this trip with the idea that I’d analyze, or even remember, each beer I tried, but I did want to form some general opinions on the bars that we visited, and some of the food and beverages that they served. Below is a general overview of the places we visited, and what we thought about the products they offered.
I guess it’s going to be one of those blogs where posts come few and far between.
Anyway, this weekend some sensory colleagues of mine and I will be assembling in Portland to discuss various matters, as well as to tour local facilities. Part of the focus for some of us is to be tasting various sour beers. Here’s where you come in: know of any pubs and breweries in Portland, Oregon with any sour beers on tap? It’s been awhile since I’ve spent any appreciable time in Portland, and there are likely a number of breweries which didn’t exist the last time I was there.
So if you have any tips or suggestions for establishments that we can darken with our presence, please let me know by the end of the week!
(Maybe I’ll turn it into a post as well)
One of the most interesting things about flavor science is the fact that certain aromas and flavors are so complex that no single compound can replicate the experience. Even flavors which are represented fairly well by a single compound (like the isoamyl acetate in bananas, or the methylanthranilate in concord grapes) are more of a simulacrum to their natural inspirations, often times having a slight “artificial” quality. While this “marquee” compound may make up the bulk of that particular flavor, there are probably a half-dozen or more other compounds at or below threshold levels which are contributing to the overall impression of the flavor, adding to its complexity and depth. In some cases, these compounds may have aromas in the same category as the main flavor, but sometimes they seem to come out of left-field…
Chocolate, maybe not surprisingly, is one of those flavors that is made up of a strange hodge-podge of flavor compounds which, taken on their own, have no relation or similarity to the flavor of chocolate. Research from the Technical University of Munich is starting to show just how complex chocolate flavors are. They’ve found that there are up to 600 different aromatic compounds in cocoa beans, but you really only need about 25 of them to make a decent chocolate flavor. Twenty-five is still a big number for a single flavor and the ones on that list come from a wide-range of flavor categories, many having no obvious connection to chocolate: potato chips, cooked meat, peaches, raw beef fat, cooked cabbage, human sweat, earth, cucumber, honey… etc etc. Certainly not the types of flavors you contemplate as that decadent Swiss chocolate melts in your mouth, are they?
While not part of the research mentioned in this latest press release (for an ACS meeting), here is a table from a book about ‘chocolate science’ which includes data from the same researcher (Schieberle) which shows a large list of compounds found in the aroma of chocolate (milk chocolate, pg 67; dark chocolate, pg. 69). Since chocolate also undergoes Maillard reactions and is fermented as well (like beer in both regards), a number of these flavors are also found in beer: maltol, phenylacetaldehyde, diacetyl, dimethyl trisulphide (ew!), gamma-nonalactone, butanoic acid, various furans and pyrazines, just to name a few. Fascinating stuff!