Friday, May 9, 2008

Hey Barkeep! I’ve Got A Lot of Questions

Usually with "Hey Barkeep!" we try to answer one question in detail. This month we're going to take a few questions – some from real live folks, but some from the searches that end people on this site. As I'm sure you are aware, I have the ability to see how many people visit this site each day (for those interested, it's around 100 per day, plus another 100 from RSS feeds). About one-third to forty percent of those visits are from search engines. Did you know that I can also see what people searched for that resulted in them being at my site? It's great fun.

But first. Trust me we will do a much bigger piece on this closer to Memorial Day, but on Wednesday we were talking about beers for grilling and BBQs. So, what would I recommend for drinking with grilled chicken? On the first day that the ol' MBR grill got busted out for the year, we had grilled chicken marinated in tandoori and garam masala spices and a lemon artichoke salad (with some carrots and potatoes thrown in for good measure). Paired with this wonderful food, we had the De Proefbrouwerij Saison Imperiale, a Special Reserve Belgian Farmhouse Ale from the Brewmaster's Collection. It was purchased for $9.99 + tax (about $10.25 or so) at Steve's on the west side. Also under consideration for this meal was the Thiriez Blonde ($12.99 plus tax). The Imperial Saison (nomenclature aside) complimented the chicken well. While I would have preferred a bit more hops (maybe the Blonde would have been better), the pleasant fruity tartness cleaned the palate well and the additional body on a traditionally lighter-bodied beer didn't make me full. The musty, cherry and lemon aromas complimented the chicken's earthy spices and the salad's acidity. All-in-all, a good choice.

On to the searches; these are all real search terms that resulted in hits on this website in just this past week:

Q: "Steam beer is classified as which general beer style"
A: Back in January we talked about a taxonomy of beer. We talked about how the "family" of beer has two "genus" types – ales (top fermenting yeast) and lagers (bottom fermenting yeast). Steam beers use lager yeast, so they are technically, lagers. We then discussed how you can group the genus of ale or lager into two species: warm fermenting and cold fermenting. And in each genus you will have beers of each species. Most ales are warm fermented (temperatures above 55 degrees F), but porters are cold fermented ales. Similarly, most lagers are cold fermented (temperatures below 45 degrees F), but steam beers are warm fermented. So, to answer the question: steam beer is a warm-fermented lager.

Q: "Average amount of alcohol compunction"
A: Compunction: a feeling of deep regret. Despite my guess that the person meant "consumption" not "compunction" I would guess that the average amount of feeling of deep regret related to alcohol is fairly high and directly proportional to "consumption" on a rising logarithmic scale.

Q: "Drank too much and vomited"
A: Yeah. That'll happen. Probably a great amount compunction (see above).

Q: "Alcohol spending in Wisconsin"
A: For the most recent data I could find online (Fiscal Year 2002), the state of Wisconsin collected $9.6 million in excise taxes on beer. At $2 per barrel (although there are some breweries that only pay $1 per barrel), that's more than 4.8 million barrels (31 gallons) of beer. Given that Wisconsin only has 5.6 million people, 24% of whom are under 18, that's over a keg of beer per adult in 2002. To get a rough idea of the amount that we spend on beer, we can multiply the number of barrels sold by the going-rate for a keg (31 gallons, also called a "half-barrel", but one of these days we'll get into this weird naming system). Ranging from $45 (Natural Light) to $150 (Guinness), we can take a weighted average and call it, maybe $80? Would you agree that that's fair? So $80 a keg for 4.8 million kegs is $384 million or thereabouts. A third of a billion dollars on beer alone in the state of Wisconsin. Nice.

Q: "What is rauch ale"
A: Rauch beers are smoked beers. They can be either ales or lagers. In either case, the malts are smoked before use, traditionally over beech-wood, in some cases hickory or apple woods. For the smoking process, the malted barley is confined with smoking wood for a period of time (as little as a few hours, as much as a day or two) then used in an otherwise normal brewing process. I haven't heard of breweries "cheating" and using "liquid smoke", but I'm sure it happens.

Q: "Returnable beer bottle Indiana"
A: Don't know. Why don't you ask the Hoosier Beer Geeks?

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