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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mixing beers -- synergy of zymurgy?

This Sunday during the NFL playoffs, Guiness beer ran one of their ongoing television commercials featuring two eccentric, but (self-styled) "brilliant," zymurgists. Try this "z" word for a trivia question -- the last one in most dictionaries. It refers to those that study fermentation in brewing.

That brought to mind my experience last week at Granite City Brewery -- a midwestern USA restaurant that features handcrafted beers. Seeing my befuddled look at the overwhelming selection of suds, the waiter offered the suggestion that I go for a 50-50 blend of the paler ales (the stouter stuff like Guiness is too much for me).

Given my affinity for experimenting, I liked this idea of mixing beers. It worked out a lot better than the last time I tried something novel: Pouring cream into my mug of carbonated beverage. That mixture succeeded for entertainment value -- producing an effect like a lava lamp, but it tasted really bad. I do not recommend it.

Aside from the Guiness guys, who seem far too goofy (sampling too much?) to be as brilliant as they think, the fellow I'd bank on for blending drinks would be John Cornell. He co-authored what must be one of the more unusual scientific articles ever: "In Search of the Optimum Harvey Wallbanger Recipe via Mixture Experiment Techniques".

I've heard of beer cocktails such as the whisky-spiked boilermaker -- a variant being the "depth charge". However, it seems that the practice of mixing one beer with another is mainly for salvaging a botched brew. Thus, whereas blends of white wine, and to some extent reds, are the rage in California, the same phenomena remains to be seen for beers. I see a real opportunity here for some research by zymurgists. My advice is that they study the statistical methods promoted by Cornell and made easy by Stat-Ease software, training and consulting. I volunteer to be on the sensory panel that rates the results.


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