Archive | August, 2011

Happy Last Day of Grad School! (to me)

25 Aug

May not be a holiday, but it’s a big event in my life and the lives of all my fellow Medillians.  But before I say goodbye to homework and classrooms for good, I just want to say some words to the rest of my cohort.

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To the Medill MSJ Summer Class of 2011-

It’s been a long year, from J-Matt’s quizzes to late nights in the newsroom to finishing up our capstone projects.  We’ve finally made it through together and I just wanted to thank you.

Thank you for being my support system and second family.  Whether personal or professional, many of you have helped me deal with problems I thought I couldn’t solve.  From deadlines that seemed impossible to frustrations with professors to feeling overwhelmed about using a P2 camera for the first time, you, my fellow Medilldos, made it all seem possible.  After spending my first Thanksgiving away from my mom, I realized that you really can pick your family and I couldn’t have asked for a better group than you.

Thank you for being my drinking buddies.  Some of my fondest memories are with this cohort.  We’re all trying to get hired here, so I won’t go into details, but thank you for helping me blow off steam when I was drowning in media law cases.

Thank you for being my competition.  When they said we were the best and brightest, they weren’t kidding.  You guys have all pushed me to go as far as I can go with a story, to keep making my reporting better and better.  But thank you too for not being catty about it.  Our newsroom has been invaluable to me to offer suggestions and tips.

I’m a sappy person to begin with, but I honestly can’t believe I have only known all of you for less than a year.  I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing you at high-powered journalism positions in the future, doing what we all love.

Happy DC Beer Week!

17 Aug

I’ve taken a long hiatus as it’s been a very busy summer, but I’m back and I’m writing about two of my favorite things: science and beer.

This chicken enjoyed a beer last night with me and Gabbi Levy, who snapped this photo.

It’s Beer Week here in the District meaning lots of good deals on good beers across the city.  Yesterday, I attended a Victory Tap Takeover at Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont and tried a couple of solid brews.

But where did they come from?  In fact, where does all beer come from?  A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago to learn the science of beer, step-by-step.  Now, in honor of DC beer week–during which a few solid Midwestern breweries will be featured–here is the science of beer.

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You may not have CO2 on the brain as you order the next round, but the brewing process is surprisingly scientific.

In fact, the process of yeast essentially eating the sugar in the brew to create CO2 and alcohol is just as constant as the not-so-scientific process of people drinking the beer to create slurred words and foggy memories.

According to Tom Korder, brewery operations manager at Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, Ill., it all begins with measuring the grain.  The dry grain is milled to break apart husks from starches, then mixed with hot water in the mash mixer.  The heat releases enzymes that break up starches into simple sugars that the yeast can consume, like glucose and maltose, and also break up proteins into simple amino acids instead of large chains.

These enzymes are as picky as you may be about your beer—they work best at a specific temperature, which affects the flavor and body of the beer.  In order to get the enzymes to stop working, the temperature is raised even higher.

At this point in the brewing process, the beer is primarily sugar and needs to be more bitter.  For the beer, this is done through the addition of hops while the beer is boiling, Korder said.  Adding the hops at high heat changes the alpha acids naturally found in the hops to isoalpha acids, which are much more bitter, essentially giving the brewers more bang for their buck.

The beer is then swirled around, like what the bar might be doing around you on a rough night, to allow solids left over from the hops to settle out.  Next filtered water, which plays a big role in the character of the beer, is added to the sugary liquid left behind.  A pilsner, for example, is from the Czech Republic, where the water is very soft.

One of the most important aspects of brewing, according to Korder, is to not allow any oxygen to get in the beer, which can make the beer taste like wet cardboard—not the ideal after work drink.  The only time oxygen is added to the beer in Goose Island’s brewing process is right before yeast is added, since it will consume the oxygen.

All the yeast is grown in a lab right at Goose Island, where colonies start out small and are cultured until there is enough to brew a whole batch.  The lab also measures color, bitterness, pH and cloudiness.  There are even microscopes so individual yeast cells in samples of beer can be counted.  When yeast is first added, there are around 10 million yeast cells per milliliter of liquid, but they grow exponentially.

Beer then ferments for eight days before it is filtered, bottled, packaged and put on pallets to be shipped to your favorite drinking establishment.  According to the government, the amount of beer actually in the bottle must be within 3 milliliters of what is advertised.  So if a bottle that says it has 355 milliliters actually has 351 mL, it gets trashed.  Just like you’d be if you drank it.