b'SENSE, NONSENSE AND SCIENCEBY: JOE SCHWARCZBEER SCIENCE IS STILL BREWINGH eres a question to ponder.Is there a solution to this problem? When did civilization begin?Sure, there is. The same way that we can When was it that we reachedprotect our skin with sunscreens that a sufficiently high level of cultural andfilter out the most damaging wavelengths technological development to call our- of sunlight, we can also filter out the selves civilized?Of course, looking atThe lowest risk forrays that damage beer. Building protec-the world today, some would argue thattion directly into the beer bottles is the we still have a way to go, but others pointheart attack wassolution. And that is why beer is sold in to beer as the first product of civilization.brown bottles! The wavelengths of light And they may be right. found in men whothat cause the skunky smell are filtered The Sumerians living 5000 yearsdrank about nine toout by the brown pigment.ago in what is now Iran are commonlyHow can we then have beer in clear believed to represent the world\'s first civ- twenty pints a week. bottles? Chemical ingenuity has made ilization. And they were into beer. In a bigthis nuance possible. Through the pro-way. They brewed at least 16 varieties, allcess of hydrogenation, much as for from barley. We know this because a piecemargarines, the molecular structure of of Sumerian pottery found in 1992, har- iso-humulone can be slightly altered to boured a yellowish residue that turnedmake it stable to light. The golden colour out to be calcium oxalate, a signature ofof beer can now be enjoyed without beer brewed from barley. Unwanted microbes are not the onlyhaving to open the bottle. The ancient Egyptians also raisedenemy of the brewers art. The scent ofA study published in the British barley and developed pure yeasts to make3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol can be mostMedical Journal examined the beer beer. They even learned to seal beer indisturbing. Unless youre a skunk. In thatdrinking habits of a group of people jars to prevent a secondary fermentation.case its a welcome commodity becausewho had had a heart attack as well as In the Middle Ages beer was an extremelyit effectively wards off predators. Butof a group randomly selected from the popular beverage. Fermentation yields anyou certainly dont want it in your beer.Czech population. The Czech Republic acidic brew that is not conducive to theHow does it get in there? Skunks arent tois especially appropriate for such a study growth of bacteria, so beer was certainlyblame, light is! It may be hard to believebecause it is predominantly beer-drink-safer than the untreated, dirty waterthat light can alter the flavour of beer,ing country. Perhaps surprisingly, in both that most people were forced to drink.but it most assuredly can. Hops, or moregroups, the lowest risk for heart attack There was concern about the adultera- specifically the blossoms of the femalewas found in men who drank about nine tion of beer. As early as the 11th century,hop plant, are the secret to the taste ofto twenty pints a week. Their risk was a Edward the Confessor employed "alebeer. They were originally added to com- third of that seen in the men who never testers" to check on the work of brewers.pensate for the sweet taste of malt butdrank beer. But if they drank more, And the world\'s oldest consumer protec- turned out to have value in the controlthe protection was lost, and problems tion law was formulated to protect theof undesirable microbes. There are manyappeared! Dark beer seems to be espe-purity of beer. In 1516, Count William IVcompounds present in hops, includingcially protective. It was even found to of Bavaria issued the Purity Law whichsome which have oestrogen-like effectsreduce the potential harm caused by the allowed only barley, hops and water inand have been blamed for breast growthnotorious heterocyclic aromatic amines beer. It is still in force in Germany! Then,in excessive drinkers. But it is one spe- (HAAs) that form when food is heated Louis Pasteur changed brewing from ancific compound, iso-humulone, whichto a high temperature. Serving dark art to a science when he determined toseems of importance in the problem ofbeer at a barbecue is a good idea. Maybe make French beer as good as German in"light struck flavour." Light cleaves theBenjamin Franklin was on to something 1870. He discovered that the spoilage ofmolecule to produce an active fragmentwhen he said that Beer is proof that God beer was due to the presence of microor- that then reacts with some sulphur com- loves us and wants us to be happy.ganisms foreign to the nature of the truepounds found in beer to form the offen-beer yeast. sive 3-methyl-2-buten-1-thiol.EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 31'