The Science of Beer

Beer is made from four basic ingredients: a grain (usually barley but sometimes wheat or rye), water, hops, and yeast. The basic idea is to extract the sugars from the grains so that the yeast can become alcohol and carbon dioxide, leading to beer.

First, the grains are harvested and processed by heating, drying out and cracking – a step called malting. The main goal of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing. An enzyme is a protein molecule in cells that works as a catalyst to speed up chemical reactions.

Next, the grains go through a process known as mashing. The processed grains are steeped in hot water for about an hour (similar to making tea… but it’s beer tea). This activates the enzymes in the grains, causing them to break down and release sugars. Once this is all done, the water is drained from the mash, which is now full of sugar from the grains. This sticky, sweet liquid is called wort. It’s basically unmade beer, sort of like how dough is unmade bread.

The wort is boiled for about an hour while hops and other spices are added several times to create different brews. Hops are a vine plant’s small, green cone-like fruits. They provide bitterness to balance out all the sugar in the wort. They also provide flavor and act as a natural preservative, which is what they were first used for.

The cooled, strained and filtered wort is then put into a fermenting vessel to which yeast is added. At this point, the brewing is complete and fermentation begins. During this time, the beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or several weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers), while the yeast eats up all the sugar in the wort and spits out carbon dioxide and alcohol waste products. Yum!

At this point, alcoholic beer is born. However, it’s still in a flat and uncarbonated state. This flat beer is bottled and can either be artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’, allowed to naturally carbonate via the carbon dioxide the yeast produces.

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After allowing the beer to age for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, you can drink the beer – and it’s delicious!

 

Media Release: Brews & Bubbles Beer Tasting Conservation Fundraiser

GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is hosting Brews & Bubbles, its annual beer tasting fundraiser, on Friday, April 20, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at greensboroscience.org. Prices are $40 for GSC members and $45 for non-members, with 100% of proceeds supporting local and global conservation initiatives.

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Last year, the event raised $12,000 for conservation and this year, GSC officials hope to raise $15,000.

Lindsey Zarecky, the GSC’s VP of Conservation & Research, says, “Funds raised last year supported conservation partners around the globe, helping to protect species including fishing cats, seahorses, Komodo dragons, sharks, monarch butterflies, lemurs, and penguins. Event proceeds also helped to support our local conservation partners, including the Piedmont Land Conservancy. We’re excited to provide a fun evening event that also raises money to help sustain some of the amazing work being done around the world!”

Each Brews & Bubbles ticket includes beer samples from participating North Carolina breweries, a souvenir tasting glass, hors d’oeuvres, and live music from Graymatter and duo Blind-Dog Gatewood & Abe Reid. Capacity is limited and the event tends to sell out, so GSC officials recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

Saints, Snakes and Stout: A St. Patrick’s Day Post

Cotton Mouth 3O0A0908Do you know why one of Indiana Bones’ favorite vacation destinations is Ireland? Our resident paleontologist and ophidiophobic (snake phobia) loves Ireland because Ireland does not have any native snakes. Legend states St. Patrick, the Christian missionary, rid Ireland of all snakes in the fifth century. Upon being attacked by a slithering band of snakes he chased all of Ireland’s snakes to the sea1. While there is no doubt this is folklore, there is some truth to it. Ireland’s fossil records indicate snakes never inhabited the lush, verdant country. Researchers believe that Ireland was too cold for the reptiles during the Ice Age 10,000 years ago and with no land bridge to a neighboring country the legless species lacked the mobility to travel to Ireland2. The country did have a land bridge to England but it was overtaken by ocean long before snakes could make their way across. Sure, sea snakes could get there, but it would be too cold for their liking. While various mammal species made their way to Ireland in the past, their slithering counterparts in the animal kingdom did not make the journey.

Unlike Ireland we have many snake species in the Americas. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. From the bright green emerald tree boa, to the small worm snake these highly diverse animals fulfill a niche in our world.  With the ability to stealthily traverse on land, burrow through soil and sand and slither up trees, these ambush predators are key players in their community. They help maintain rodent, bat, frog and even other snake populations. Our native species are middle-order animals, meaning they are both prey to some animals and predators to others. They help to maintain a balance in the food web.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and in celebration of the green country we would like to spotlight the emerald tree boa.

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The GSC is home to a young, male, emerald tree boa. This vibrantly colored, non-venomous snake is native to South America. There it can be found in lowland rainforests, typically resting in the trees above water. Their bright green color helps them blend into their lush leafy background and their white pattern mimics sunlight coming through the tree leaves. They are constrictors that prey on lizards, rodents and bats.

Ireland may be known for its lack of reptiles, but it is even more famous for its beverage of choice, beer, and more specifically, Irish stout! Legend even says St. Patrick had his own brewer. And we are all familiar with Ireland’s most famous brewery, Guinness, whose humble beginnings go back to Arthur Guinness3 in 1756.

Brews & BubblesThe Greensboro Science Center is uniting the preservation of species and hoppy beverages at our annual Brews & Bubbles. Join us on April 23rd for an evening of great beers, wines and ciders, yummy snacks, live entertainment and explore the GSC’s collection of critters. Not to worry, all snakes at the GSC are safely nestled in enclosures! But do take a moment to visit the Emerald Tree Boa and see just how majestic these specialized reptiles really are!


 

  1. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140315-saint-patricks-day-2014-snakes-ireland-nation/
  2. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080313-snakes-ireland_2.html
  3. http://guides.ie/blog/history-beer-ireland