Beer is America’s favorite alcoholic beverage and it’s been that way for most of the country’s history, except for a brief stint in 2005 when wine snobs tipped the scale in favor of their boozy grape juice. That beer is so popular isn’t that much of a surprise: It gets you drunk, it’s usually cheap, and doctors agree that moderate consumption of it is actually pretty healthy. So it makes sense that we mere mortals would want to celebrate the frothy brew, and exceedingly so; beer is the focus of two holidays, National Beer Day and National Drink Beer Day.
National Beer Day is on April 7, the anniversary of when beer was made legal again in 1933, and is officially recognized by the State of Virginia. National Drink Beer Day meanwhile, seems to have been created as an event for corporate business to rally around with no real origin. But National Drink Beer Day is September 28 and that’s Thursday so let’s use it as an excuse to celebrate the very real scientific experiments that researchers have recently conducted on the national drink of choice.
From beer designed by artificially intelligent machines to beer made from recycled materials, the ancient drink is still being upgraded by modern research and inventions. Here are some of the coolest beer science experiments out there:
Beer Can Be Made From Old Greywater
Mavericks, a San Francisco-based brewery, makes an IPA called Tunnel Vision out of greywater — otherwise known as recycled water sourced from sewers. The brewery purifies the greywater with the same NASA-designed water-recycling technology that let astronaut Scott Kelly drink his own sweat and urine during his year in space. While the water used in this drink is 100 percent greywater, only one out of five judges were able to detect a difference in flavor when it was judged against other IPAs — and the difference wasn’t that it was bad just well, different. Seems like a good enough exchange when you consider that it typically takes 590 gallons of water to make just one gallon of beer.
Beer Can Also Be Made Out of Old Urine
More specifically, old urine can be used to fertilize the fields of barley that are later turned into beer. Denmark’s Agriculture and Food Council currently is leading the charge of this waste-not experiment: For example, in May they helped organize the recycling of 50,000 liters of pee collected at the Roskilde Festival and passed the pee forward to the Norrebro Bryghus brewery. Urine has elements of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which makes it valuable fertilizer, and apparently, no difference in taste has been observed.
“Just as we have seen shops sell goods that would otherwise have been thrown out,” the Food Council said in a statement, “beercycling allows us to recycle a product that is normally flushed down the drain.”
A.I. Is Customizing the Beer of Your Dreams
Last year IntelligentX Brewing Company announced that it had begun to experiment with artificial intelligence to create beer based on the feedback of their customers. The way it works is that customers are encouraged to give feedback on the brewery’s Facebook about what they did and didn’t like about the beer, and then the Automatic Brewing Intelligence tech combs through that data. It then uses reinforcement learning and Bayesian decision-making to alter the beer’s recipe to something that will suit the desires of the drinker. It’s a slow process that doesn’t actually result in that many beers being made — but it’s can make a beer a hell of lot more specific to your tastes than a regular old Bud.
Supercontinuum Lasers Will Make Better Beer
Leave it to the Danes to make beer better: Researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science recently analyzed that they became the first ever to be able to analyze whole grains with the long near-infrared wavelengths of supercontinuum lasers. This means that the grains can be evaluated hyper-rapidly, and in turn makes it easier to see if they’ve been tampered by insects or fungi. The non-destructive technology can also be used to see how healthy the grain is, and if it has enough desirable qualities to be used as the source of a new crop.
This technology also means that brewers can make better beer. Brewers don’t want to use grains that have high concentrations of beta-glucan, which clogs filters and makes beer cloudy. If the breweries of the future are equipped with this laser technology, they’ll save time — and make tastier beer.
If you liked this article, check out this video of a robot that takes beer pong to the next level.