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The Science of Stout Beer 205

An AC writes "Mathematicians invented a new method to can and bottle stout beers like Guinness while still getting that satisfying head. From the article: '... a crack group of mathematicians from the University of Limerick, led by William Lee, has modeled bubble formation in stout beers in detail. Their work suggests that lining the rims of cans and bottles with a material similar to an ordinary coffee filter would be a simpler, cheaper alternative to the widget. The team’s calculations show that a copious number of bubbles would form from air trapped inside the hollow fibers making up this lining. They have just submitted their work for publication in Physical Review E and are hoping that industry will soon begin testing their proposal.'"
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The Science of Stout Beer

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  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @11:52AM (#35493260)
    Now that's science I'll raise my drink to!
    • As an Irishman, I don't know how anyone can drink Guinness. I see tourists ordering it with their breakfast sometimes here (granted that will be a breakfast at 12 that looks more like a bucket of greese with a few sausages thrown in) and I feel like getting sick when I see it! Give me a Bulmers any day of the week and no one has formed a better way to store that than in a pint bottle.

      Good to see that University of Limerick students are hard at work though!
      • by khr ( 708262 )

        As an Irishman, I don't know how anyone can drink Guinness.

        Though a non Irishman (never mind my Irish first name or my high school sports team being the Waldport Irish) I agree... Guiness is close to one of my last choices in stouts... My preference runs towards some of the Portland, Oregon microbrewery stouts, especially the cask conditioned ones...

        • Seconded. Guinness is the Budweiser of stouts. The US craft brewing and homebrewing scene can, and regularly does, do stout beer a lot better service.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by GooberToo ( 74388 )

            This is very true.

            People love to make fun of American beers but in doing so completely expose their bias and/or general ignorance. The reality is, American beers actually re-invented beer making. The beer before the resurgence of beer making in America largely existed because their grandfather made beer and that was good enough. Whereas, American beer grew because people wanted something which tasted good. And beer sold based on that notion. Before such a market existed, people purchased beer because it was

            • by fotbr ( 855184 )

              Most people that I know of that make fun of "American beers" are making fun of the absolute shit carrying the budweiser, michelob, coors, etc "big" brands.

              As you say, there are plenty of American micro- and regional- breweries making great beer.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by GooberToo ( 74388 )

                Most people that I know of that make fun of "American beers" are making fun of the absolute shit carrying the budweiser, michelob, coors, etc "big" brands.

                But in doing so, they are exposing massive ignorance. The fact is, its far, far harder to control quality on lightly flavored beer than it is on rubusto, old world beers. This is something even Samuel Adams* [samueladams.com] is quick to point out. The fact is, when you have a light flavor, the smallest hint of skunk or a screwup in quality is immediately noticeable. Whereas, in darker, heavier flavored beers, you can almost literally place a skunk into the beer and most will hide it. That's the point.

                Now if you want to argu

              • They are often called "American-style lager" or "American adjunct lager", due to their reliance on rice and corn grains and barely-perceptible malting. The problem is that only these awful, mass-produced tasteless products have any advertising budget, so that's all most people have ever heard of. After all, to afford those absurd TV spots, sponsorships, contests and protective exclusivity rebates, they have to cut costs somewhere, right ?

            • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @05:46PM (#35497694) Homepage

              Canada has American-style beer, which dominates the market due to excessive marketing and abusive exclusivity deals with the mainstream bars.

              Many, many years ago we had a commercial for (i think) Molson Canadian, which poked fun at American beers: "If I wanted water, I'd ask for water. No thanks!" It still tasted like faded piss, but the true irony is that Molson eventually merged with Coors, so the company that compared beer to water is now selling the world's most watery beer, and at least here in Ottawa they are practically shoving it down our throats with excessive promotion and abusive exclusivity deals. I once attended a Superbowl party at a bar, where they only served Coors Light for the event. You couldn't even order a rail drink.

              I can't tell if it's a beer geek thing, but all the mass-marketed brands are repulsive to me. Coors, Keiths, Labatt 50, Heineken, Stella, Guinness. It doesn't matter what country it's from, if they pimp it on TV, chances are it's going to be awful. I guess that goes to show that marketing trumps quality, every goddamned time.

            • I am not drunk. I paid a lot of money learning to walk like this.


              Where can I buy a good ancient Egyptian beer.

              • don't laugh, but my wife is like that too.

                her partial cerebral palsy makes her the target of many an ignorant bouncer.

                it's good to see the look on their faces when they realize they're risking their jobs by refusing her entry.

                especially if she really is drunk :)

        • Guinness isn't a traditional stout by any means, but it's a tasty beer nonetheless. It's very nearly my favorite beer, but as a stout it probably belongs near the end of the list, or on a list uniquely its own. It's funny that it has this reputation for being the be-all and end-all of stouts -- but then again this is a world where Budweiser is the King of Beers.

        • Have you ever tried it in Ireland or the UK? Guinness travels really badly.

          • by dwywit ( 1109409 )
            Indeed. Guinness from a tap in Eire tastes different (better) than just about anywhere else. I was impressed with the number of Guinness company cars parked outside Irish pubs - I thought they were just out delivering promo gear (like bar towels?). I eventually asked a publican about it, and he told me that they're visited regularly for quality control purposes - all aspects of the delivery system are checked - temperature, pressure, cleanliness, etc.

            Guinness here in OZ doesn't taste as good, unfortunatel
        • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

          I like my own home brewed porters and stouts. Home brewers had problems getting good hops the last couple of years and prices are still high.

          For commercial porters that I can stand drinking I go to the Oaken Barrel in Greenwood, In or pick up Anchor Steam porter.

          I'm not interested in making foam, if I were interested in making foam I 'd be making styrofoam. It would taste better than Guinness.

      • Meh, It's not a bad stout. There are better, in Ireland, England, or the States (probably other places too, but those are the ones I've had stout in ), but it's got the advantage of being both fairly decent and readily available in a lot of places. In the US particularly it's a very common "nod" to better quality beer in places that otherwise have only crap. It and Sam Adams Lager are two beers that one can often find in places that otherwise only serve Budweiser and Miller Macro brew stuff. If I'm in a

      • As an Irishman, I don't know how anyone can drink Guinness. I see tourists ordering it with their breakfast sometimes here (granted that will be a breakfast at 12 that looks more like a bucket of greese with a few sausages thrown in) and I feel like getting sick when I see it! Give me a Bulmers any day of the week and no one has formed a better way to store that than in a pint bottle.

        Well, if tourists..especially Americans...that is about the only Irish beer they know. I mean, in mainstream US, mexican be

        • > When in Rome as they say.... ... try the pickled kolibri tongues ?

      • As an Irishman, I don't know how anyone can drink Guinness.

        Too light for you? Just because you Irish drink like you're— well, Irish, doesn't mean you have to Harp on the rest of us.


      • by harl ( 84412 )

        I don't understand. As an Irishman you are somehow able to tell everyone what is good and what is bad?

        Seriously you're judging what other people enjoy? What gives you the right?

      • As an Irishman you should know what a beer is at least, why are you comparing Bulmers to Guinness? If I want a beer I would consider a Guinness but I sure as hell won't be ordering a cider!

        • I'm not a fan of beer in general. Hence Bulmers when I order
          • Well there's the problem. You should have had a disclaimer. By stating you are an Irishman you imply that you are something of an expert on Irish beer, which you clearly can not be if you don't enjoy any beer at all.

            • Not a fan of doesn't mean I've never had it or that I don't ever have it. Sometimes a pint of beer is better. But most of the time, when I have the choice, I'll have a cider
              • I didn't say you've never had it, but as someone who is not a fan of beer your taste in beer obviously diverges from the tastes of those who are fans of beer.

      • by JacksonG ( 82656 )

        As a westcountryman I don't know how anyone can drink Bulmers - Give me a Thatchers and keep it coming!

        Definately agree with you on the storage in a pint bottle however.

      • It sounds bizarre, but Ireland is a beer desert. The selection usually consists of stout, lager, other lager, or tea. I think it has something to do with the way distribution works there. (That's still no reason to resort to looney juice - and stay away from the pear, of course.)
      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        I'm not Irish, but I agree. I hail from the "Napa Valley of beer" where the variety and quality of lagers, stouts, pilsners, pale ales, wheats, lambics, India pale ales, "reds", and more is hard to surpass. Mainstream beers don't do it for me. I used to drink Guinness, Harp, Heineken, etc. simply because it was better than the industrial junk. Now I can't stand them. When I can't get good beer I drink Pabst, the "Best of the Bad Beers".

      • Amen, brother. I spent a full year trying to get the taste of Guinness and had to give it up in the end. Bulmers/Magners or Strongbow is pretty hard to beat, and cider is my drink of choice if I find myself in a round with beer drinkers. (I'm usually a cocktail man, but they're not practical when drinking in a group dominated by beer drinkers.)

  • Hell Ill test Guinness for free :D

  • Stout Shako for 2 refined.

  • The science of liquid bread?

    Get me a pilsner, please. It goes well with this pudding.
    • tThere is more barley in a pilsner than a stout. Guinness is one of the lightest beers ut there.

      • by pthisis ( 27352 )

        Yep. At 120 calories/12oz, Guinness is much closer to light beers (Bud Light is 110 calories/12oz) than to a standard Bud, Heineken, MGD, Coors, Corona or the like (generally in the 140-160 calories/12oz range).

      • This seems like the place for people who know their Guinness, so has anyone noticed that the bottles being sold in the last 6 months or so are missing the widgets? I can't say for sure if there's a difference between with and without, but I've wondered what the heck happened to them.

    • The science of liquid bread?

      Get me a pilsner, please. It goes well with this pudding.

      A lot of people don't know this but the best thing you can sample in Ireland is not the beer but the multitude of breads, particularly in the north where bread is a very important part of the diet, on a par with the spuds in its importance. There's the soda bread (white, light, fluffy and to-die-for when fresh, comes in an infinite number of configurations), wheaten (very heavy, almost a meal in itself, pan (that would be a normal loaf everywhere else), batch (AKA 'plain' bread, which Ulster people think of

  • a *practical* use for mathematics.
    • Actually Guiness has quite a history of practical application of mathematics.

      Namely, the Student distribution (or t-distribution), known to any statistics student, was developed by Gosset of Guiness brewery.

      More here:

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @11:58AM (#35493340) Journal

    That's appropriate. Canned and bottled beer has always helped me get satisfying head.

  • I was hoping they re-discovered how to split the beer atom.

  • This is the type of science that wins an Ig Noble.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      This is the type of science that wins an Ig Noble.

      Nope. It's far too useful. It also connects nerdy mathematicians with the general public, which isn't a bad thing.

      A bit too late for this St. Patrick's Day, but maybe next year.

      More of a Twisted Thistle man, myself these days.

    • This is the type of science that wins an Ig Noble.

      Knocking a few cents off the cost of every can of beer sold? Sounds like a big deal to me.

      • It is a big deal. I am a little taken aback that people on slashdot don't seem to grasp the Ig Noble. It isn't a bad science award. It is, as their site says:
        The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.

  • Late to the game (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pthisis ( 27352 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @12:15PM (#35493560) Homepage Journal

    Their work suggests that lining the rims of cans and bottles with a material similar to an ordinary coffee filter would be a simpler, cheaper alternative to the widget.

    The good people at Guinness have already figured out the widgetless bottle; as of early this year, their draught bottles no longer contain a floating widget (at least in the US).

    • by adeft ( 1805910 )
      I've read a few posts from beer snobs on other forums saying it's a travesty of justice and doesn't get the same pour. As an American Irish, I still very much like this beer.
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )

      You would be amazed how many projects proudly announce they've solved problem "X" (where problem "X" is one that was solved in the real world 12-24 months previously).

      Or, even more absurdly, proudly announce (complete with great big long academic papers explaining in excruciating detail) how problem "X" cannot be solved, and how it's not really that desirable to solve it anyway. Naturally, "X" is something that has already been solved by someone else and is now one of the biggest selling points they offer.

  • Not the same (Score:5, Informative)

    by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @12:25PM (#35493700) Homepage Journal

    I can only assume the post is talking solely about stouts like Guinness Draught in a nitro-can that has a widget to release nitrogen. There is more to what that widget does than just give the beer a nice creamy head. It gives the entire beer a different mouthfeel, and that's because of the nitrogen, not carbon dioxide (though the beer does already contain carbon dioxide. So, if they want the same effect, you'll still need a widget (or in the case of the bottled Guinness Draught, the proper mix of the gases). However, nitrogen dulls the flavor of the beer. So the effect this story talks about would not leave the beer the same...

    • Why would you want a tasteless Guinness Draught when you can get a Guinness Original, which has a much richer taste?
      The latter also doesn't have that nitrogen thing.

  • Forget widgets. Here's what you need.

    And, of course, a keg of stout from your better supplied liquor outlet.
    Stout nirvana awaits.

  • They've "invented" nothing more than the same concept behind the Mentos/Coke thing, nucleation. If you give enough surface area for the bubbles you can vary the amount from the average can/bottle opening to the geyser. A few trial and errors would get you there for something trivial like beer, not complex math and modeling and academic journals.

    This is also the reason why super new mugs/glasses can "superheat" water in a microwave for the opposite reason, they are too smooth.

    Oh, and Nitrogen is what does th

    • Is this why you should never use a non-dairy creamer with the microwave at work? Because the water may become superheated without nucleation, and then when you add a non-dairy creamer to the superheated coffee you suddenly get massive nucleation, a steam explosion, and hot water and superheated steam all over your arms?
      • That's exactly it. But honestly it's a bit misguided because anything would have the same effect, dropping in a spoon, some sugar, even just jostling the mug a bit can be enough. The safest bet is to just heat the water for a sane amount of time roughly 2-2.5 min max in a home microwave and 1-1.5 in a commercial one. That is plenty hot for almost anything and almost no chance of danger, I see people put water in for like 4+ minutes... that is asking for trouble.

        I once worked for a university and one of the

        • The real solution is to use hot water instead of a microwave. My mom won't use a microwave to boil water because "the radiation changes the stuff in the water to make it a poison" (talking about straight water, not coffee or noodles), but she'll cook other stuff in it; I attribute this to her being a retard, but being an even bigger retard than physically possible. I won't use a microwave because I've never bought one and don't need one. I always hated the results I got from a microwave anyway.
  • Irish science is finally catching up to life before the fall.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECkA216RL4Y [youtube.com]

  • Guinness has a nice history of using math and science in improving their product.

    Student's t-distribution [wikipedia.org] was conceived by William Sealy Gosset while working at Guinness.

  • I bet I'll get modded troll for this but I gotta say it.

    Whats with all the beer snobs nowadays? 10 years ago, I could enjoy a cold Coors Light without having to worry about Joe Hipster giving me crap for drinking it. When I drink a beer, it doesn't have to be an excursion in the history of beer making and I don't need to have the perfect glass for a pilsner. To me, drinking beer is about getting shit faced, usually with friends. I don't give a crap if it tastes less hoppy or has carmel undertones. I usua
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      try a nice 8 pct ale with lots of hops. Hops btw are related to marijuana. After two pints you will start to feel a bit "shit faced". Then again on a hot summer day, Coors Light hits the spot. It's good for keeping you hydrated.

    • Think of something you do care about.

      Now imagine all the people that just use the absolutely worst available (of whatever you care about.)

      That is you.

      Coors light is not even beer. It's a cereal malt beverage like Zima.

      For simply getting drunk you should switch to Vodka. Making Vodka is a science, the moderately cheep stuff is as good as it gets.

      • Thank you for helping make my point. Coors light is most definitely a beer, and my beer of choice when i'm out drinking, especially if I'm gonna yorsh. Zima is nothing like it but that won't stop Joe Hipster from telling me they are the same and that coors light sucks.

        Critiquing beer has become trendy and those doing the critiquing usually have no idea what they are talking about. "Beer advocates." lol. What constitutes a "good" beer is a matter of opinion, and I think Coors light is just fine for gettin
  • Clearly, this event justifies a limerick:

    A student at Limerick college
    Expanded our stout beer knowledge,
    As a means to the end
    of drinking with friends;
    This much he should acknowledge.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:25PM (#35496812) Journal

    At a near by Uni. where I live they have a brew master's program. There is great enthusiasm among new undergrads until they learn what the pre-requirements for the program are: biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and all the math courses required for those courses. Then except for a dedicated few, their enthusiasm fades. Even so there is a waiting list.

    In the course they brew up a batch of good beer which is then only sold at the beer garden of the Uni. The proceeds go back into the program to fund it. Having sampled a bit I will tell you it is very tasty. Hats off to those students, their professors, and their advisers. Or perhaps "cheers" would be more appropriate.

  • Okay, this article had me at:

    "Mathematicians invented a new method to can and bottle stout beers like Guinness while still getting that satisfying head."

    Most everything is better while getting head. Mainly when it is satisfying. Power to the math dudes!!!!!

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