Posts Tagged ‘beer’

By Jeffrey Kluger

If you’re traveling to Mars, you’re going to have to bring a lot of essentials along — water, air, fuel, food. And, let’s be honest, you probably wouldn’t mind packing some beer too. A two-year journey — the minimum length of a Mars mission — is an awfully long time to go without one of our home planet’s signature pleasures.

Now, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the manufacturer of Budweiser, has announced that it wants to bring cosmic bar service a little closer to reality: On Dec. 4, the company plans to launch 20 barley seeds to space, aboard a SpaceX rocket making a cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS). Studying how barley — one of the basic ingredients in beer — germinates in microgravity will, the company hopes, teach scientists a lot about the practicality of building an extraterrestrial brewery.

“We want to be part of the collective dream to get to Mars,” said Budweiser vice president Ricardo Marques in an email to TIME. “While this may not be in the near future, we are starting that journey now so that when the dream of colonizing Mars becomes a reality, Budweiser will be there.”

Nice idea. But apart from inevitable issues concerning Mars rovers with designated drivers and who exactly is going to check your ID when you’re 100 million miles from home, Budweiser faces an even bigger question: Is beer brewing even possible in space? The answer: Maybe, but it wouldn’t be easy.

Start with that first step Budweiser is investigating: the business of growing the barley. In the U.S. alone, farmers harvest about 2.5 million acres of barley per year. The majority of that is used for animal feed, but about 45% of it is converted to malt, most of which is used in beer. Even the thirstiest American astronauts don’t need quite so much on tap, so start with something modest — say a 20-liter batch. That’s about 42 pints, which should get a crew of five through at least two or three Friday nights. But even that won’t be easy to make in space.

“If you want to make 20-liters of beer on Earth you’re going to need 100 to 200 square feet of land to grow the barley,” wrote Tristan Stephenson, author of The Curious Bartender series, in an email to TIME. “No doubt they would use hydroponics and probably be a bit more efficient in terms of rate of growth, but that’s a fair bit of valuable space on a space station…just for some beer.”

Still, let’s assume you’re on the station, you’ve grown the crops, and now it’s time to brew your first batch. To start with, the barley grains will have to go through the malting process, which means soaking them in water for two or three days, allowing them to germinate partway and then effectively killing them with heat. For that you need specialized equipment, which has to be carried to space and stored onboard. Every pound of orbital cargo can currently cost about $10,000, according to NASA, though competition from private industry is driving the price down. Still, shipping costs to space are never going to be cheap and it’s hard to justify any beer that winds up costing a couple hundred bucks a swallow.

The brewing process itself would present an entirely different set of problems — most involving gravity. On Earth, Stephenson says, “Brewers measure fermentation progress by assessing the ‘gravity’ (density) of the beer. The measurement is taken using a floating hydrometer. You’re not going to be doing that in space.”

The carbonation in the beer would be all wrong too, making the overall drink both unsightly and too frothy. “The bubbles won’t rise in zero-g,” says Stephenson. “Instead they’ll flocculate together into frogspawn style clumps.”

Dispersed or froggy, once the bubbles go down your gullet, they do your body no favors in space. The burp you emit after a beer on Earth seems like a bad thing, but only compared to the alternative — which happens a lot in zero-g, as gasses don’t rise, but instead find their way deeper into your digestive tract.

The type of beer you could make in space is limited and pretty much excludes Lagers — or cold-fermented beer. “Lager takes longer to make compared to most beers, because the yeast works at a lower temperature,” says Stephenson. “This is also the reason for the notable clarity of lager: longer fermentation means more yeast falls out of the solution, resulting in a clearer, cleaner looking beer. Emphasis on ‘falls’ — and stuff doesn’t fall in space.”

Finally, if Budweiser’s stated goal is to grow beer crops on Mars, they’re going about the experiment all wrong. Germinating your seeds in what is effectively the zero-g environment of the ISS is very different from germinating them on Mars, where the gravity is 40% that of Earth’s — weak by our standards, but still considerable for a growing plant. Budweiser and its partners acknowledge this possibility and argue that the very purpose of the experiment is to try to address the problem.

http://time.com/5039091/budweiser-beer-mars-space-station/

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

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BY VANESSA BATES RAMIREZ

Drivers on Colorado’s interstate 25 may have gotten a good scare last Thursday, and it wasn’t a Halloween prank—glancing into the cab of an Otto 18-wheeler loaded with a beer delivery, they’d have been stunned to notice there was no one at the wheel.

In the first-ever commercial shipment completed using self-driving technology, the truck drove itself 120 miles from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs while its human driver sat in the sleeper cab. The driver did have control of the truck from departure until it got on the highway, and took over again when it was time to exit the highway.

Uber acquired Otto in August for $680 million. The company partnered with Anheuser-Busch for its first autonomous delivery, which consisted of 50,000 cans of beer—cargo many would consider highly valuable.

How the trucks work

Because of the relatively constant speed and less-dense surroundings, highway driving is much simpler for a driverless vehicle than city driving. There are no stop signs or pedestrians to worry about, and it’s not even necessary to change lanes if the delivery’s not on a tight schedule.

To switch from human driver to self-driving mode, all the driver had to do was press a button labeled “engage,” and this kicked the truck’s $30,000 of retro-fitted technology into action: there are three lidars mounted on the cab and trailer, a radar attached to the bumper, and a high-precision camera above the windshield.

The company made sure to plan the trip at a low-traffic time and on a day with clear weather, carefully studying the route to make sure there wouldn’t be any surprises the truck couldn’t handle along the way.

Why they’re disruptive

Though self-driving cars certainly get more hype than self-driving trucks do, self-driving truck are currently more necessary and could have an equally disruptive, if not larger, effect on the economy. Anheuser-Busch alone estimates it could save $50 million a year (and that’s just in the US) by deploying autonomous trucks across its distribution network.

Now extrapolate those savings over the entire trucking industry, extending the $50 million estimate to every company that delivers a similar volume of cargo throughout the US via trucks. The total easily leaps into the billions.

But what about all those jobs?

This doesn’t mean the company would fire all its drivers; savings would come from primarily from reduced fuel costs and a more efficient delivery schedule.

As of September 2016, the trucking industry employed around 1.5 million people, and 70 percent of cargo in the US is moved by trucks, with total freight tonnage predicted to grow 35% over the next ten years.

That’s a lot of freight. And as it turns out, the industry is sorely lacking in drivers to move it. The American Trucking Association estimates its current shortfall of drivers at 48,000. So rather than displacing jobs, autonomous trucking technology may actually help lift some of the burden off a tightly-stretched workforce.

Rather than pulling over to sleep when they get tired, drivers could simply time their breaks to coincide with long stretches of highway, essentially napping on the job and saving valuable time, not to mention getting their deliveries to their destinations faster.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Otto president and co-founder Lior Ron assured viewers that trucking jobs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon: “The future is really those drivers becoming more of a copilot to the technology, doing all the driving on city streets manually, then taking off onto the highway, where the technology can help drive those long and very cumbersome miles… for the foreseeable future, there’s a driver in the cabin and the driver is now safer, making more money, and can finish the route faster.”

Besides taking a load off drivers, self-driving trucks will likely make the roads far safer. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about one in ten highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck, and over 3,600 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2014.

The biggest culprit? Human error.

It’s not a done deal just yet

Otto’s trucks are considered to be in the Level 4 group of autonomous vehicles, which means human drivers are unnecessary in reasonably-controlled environments; on the highway, drivers can actually take a nap if they want to. In comparison, Tesla’s Autopilot system is considered Level 2, meaning it helps the driver by maintaining speed and avoiding obstacles, but the driver still needs to be engaged and paying close attention.

Besides the fact that the technology has a ways to go before being ready for large-scale deployment, barriers like regulation and plain old resistance to change could slow things down.

Drivers interviewed for a New York Times article were far from endorsing the co-pilot idea, due both to safety concerns and the degree to which self-driving technology would change the nature of their jobs.

If it were me, I know a whole lot of testing would have to be done before I’d be okay with falling asleep inside a vehicle moving at 60 miles an hour without a driver.

Once the technology’s been proven to a fail-proof rate, however, truckers may slowly adapt to the idea of being able to drive 1,200 miles in the time it used to take to drive 800.

An Uber Self-Driving Truck Just Took Off With 50,000 Beers


De Halve Maan brewery is running a pipeline for beer under the streets of Bruges, Belgium

By Matthias Verbergt

Xavier Vanneste, heir to a dynasty of beer brewers in Bruges Belgium, had a pipe dream.

When he woke up and looked out of his window one spring morning, he saw workers on the street laying underground utility cables in front of his house, situated on the same ancient square as the brewery he runs.

“I immediately realized this was the solution,” Mr. Vanneste said.

The brewery’s truck fleet had been bottling up the city’s narrow, cobblestone streets. Matters had been getting worse since 2010, when the brewery moved its bottling facility out of town.

His brain wave? A beer pipeline.

“It all started as a joke,” said Mr. Vanneste. “Nobody believed it was going to work.”

Four years later, the pipeline is just weeks away from completion. It stretches 2 miles from the brewery, De Halve Maan, or The Half Moon, in the city center to the bottling plant in an industrial area. It will be able to carry 1,500 gallons of beer an hour at 12 mph. Hundreds of truck trips a year will no longer be necessary.


De Halve Maan brewery’s beer hall in Bruges

Not long after the project was announced, the burghers of Bruges started dreaming of siphoning off personal supplies.

A local satirical TV show tricked people living near the route into believing that beer taps could be installed in their houses. Mr. Vanneste said it would be impossible to illegally tap into the polyethylene tubes, which he said are stronger than steel.

The citywide attention gave Mr. Vanneste another idea. He’d partly fund the €4 million ($4.5 million) investment by offering lifetime supplies of beer. Attracted by the liquid returns, brew-lovers sank some €300,000 into the project.

They were offered three options. The most expensive “gold” membership, which costs €7,500, entitles the holder to an 11-ounce bottle of Brugse Zot beer (retail price, €1.70) every day for life, along with 18 personalized glasses.

One of the 21 people who signed up for that was Philippe Le Loup, who runs a restaurant on the scenic Simon Stevin square, a few hundred yards from the pipeline. Mr. Le Loup, whose establishment serves about 1,850 gallons of Brugse Zot a year, said he would have preferred a direct tap into the pipeline. “It would have saved me a lot of keg-dragging,” he said.

Mr. Le Loup also bought bronze memberships, at €220 apiece, for each of his 12 employees, entitling them to a 25-ounce bottle of beer every year for life. “In total, I invested over €10,000,” said Mr. Le Loup, 35 years old, who was born in the city. “I calculated that if I pick up my free beers for 15 years, my investment will be paid back.” He said he plans to drink most of the beer himself.

“When I’m 50, I will make profit,” he said.

Last year, De Halve Maan exported about 200,000 liters of its most popular beers, Brugse Zot and Straffe Hendrik, to the U.S., double the 2014 figure.

Ronald Martin, a music teacher, home brewer and De Halve Maan fan in Buffalo, N.Y., was one of 76 foreigners to pitch in.

When he visited Bruges, he was convinced the pipeline was happening. He wanted to be the first American to take part. “When I walked into the brewery, the secretary had a phone call from another American,” Mr. Martin recalled. He immediately went to get cash and signed up.

“When you talk about a beer pipeline, everyone thinks you’re joking,” he said. “But it’s a serious thing.”

A few European sports arenas have aboveground pipelines. In Randers, Denmark, a pipeline under a street carries beer to some bars. The annual Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany, pipes beer to some tents. In Cleveland, Ohio, the Great Lakes Brewing Company moves beer through a pipe from its brewery to a bar across the street.

The city of Bruges, which last year attracted 6.6 million tourists, has long been looking for solutions to reduce traffic in its historic center—a Unesco World Heritage site known for its canals and medieval architecture.

“The pipeline is a breakthrough,” said Renaat Landuyt, mayor of Bruges, which was the economic capital of Northern Europe between 1200 and 1400.

Mr. Landuyt said he would even consider constructing pipelines for other goods, including chocolate, one of Belgium’s other precious commodities. “Everyone who proposes alternative means of transport is welcome here,” he said.

The centuries-old brewing company, the last one remaining in the city center, said its new pipeline wouldn’t affect the taste of its award-winning beers.

Most of the pipe runs about 6 feet underground, but in some spots it goes about 100 feet under. On a recent day, workers were digging holes, connecting tubes and replacing cobblestones on Zonnekemeers, a street near De Halve Maan, attracting the attention of many bystanders.

“The beer pipeline has become a sight,” said Alain De Pré, who oversees the construction of the pipeline. “People are taking more pictures of this than of the monuments around us.”

Sylvie Melkenbeek, a 78-year-old retiree, was enjoying her espresso on a sunlit terrace in front of De Halve Maan as horse carriages rolled by carrying tourists. Ms. Melkenbeek, whose last name literally translates as “stream of milk,” said she would much prefer a pipeline filled with coffee.

“I don’t like beer,” she said.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/brewery-builds-a-pipeline-sending-beer-lovers-into-a-froth-1462371340?mod=WSJ_article_EditorsPicks_4

Thanks to MJ Moore for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

by Rebecca Cooper

Brewers have pulled yeast from pretty much everywhere to experiment with new strains — one West Coast brewery even brewed a beer using samples from the head brewer’s beard (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/beard-beer-rogue-ales-yeast-john-maier_n_1917119.html) — but Lost Rhino in Ashburn may be breaking into new territory with its BoneDusters amber ale.

BoneDusters was brewed with a yeast that Lost Rhino’s Jasper Akerboom collected off a fossilized whale skeleton at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland.

The collaboration came about because Akerboom, a bit of a yeast nut who handles quality assurance for Lost Rhino, is friends with Jason Osborne, a paleontologist who has donated fossilized whale skeletons to the museum.

Osborne asked Akerboom if there might be yeast present on those fossils that could be used to brew beer. Usually, yeast would not live on bone, given that it needs a sugary food source, but Akerboom decided to indulge his friend anyway.

They found a number of yeast strains on the bones, although Akerboom is pretty sure they’re more likely from the swamp where the bones were found rather than the bones themselves.

Several of the wild yeast strains flourished in Akerboom’s lab, but only one of the strains made any decent beer. The others didn’t ferment fully, making for “nasty-tasting” brews, he said.

The strain they ended up using, combined with some darker malts to create an amber ale, have yielded what Akerboom considers a tasty, well-balanced brew. The beer wasn’t made in the Belgian style, but it is “Belgian-esque,” he said, because the yeast has a slightly fruity flavor profile common in Belgian beers.

Lost Rhino plans to launch the beer June 18 at the brewery and begin distributing it to its networks after that, so it could be appearing at D.C. area bars in the next couple of weeks. A portion of the proceeds from the beer will go to Osborne’s nonprofit, Paleo Quest, which runs educational programs in the sciences.

For his part, Akerboom will keep experimenting with yeast in the lab he runs at Lost Rhino. It’s not necessarily common for a small microbrewery to have a quality assurance scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology on staff. The Netherlands native previously isolated wild yeast from the air in Ashburn for Wild Farmwell Wheat, an “All-Virginia” beer Lost Rhino made in 2012. He now runs a yeast business on the side, and believes that focus on quality control is a big part of Lost Rhino’s consistently good beers.

“I think it adds a lot to the brewery. You have to make sure what you put in those cans is actually clean,” he said. “And you can do these kinds of projects, which keeps it fun.”

Thanks to Dr. Rajadhyaksha for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/top-shelf/2014/06/whats-the-key-ingredient-in-lost-rhino-s-newest.html?page=2