A Heady Tale: our quest to find a brew that will lift your spirits!

‘Tis the season for patios, beer leagues, pool parties and bbq’s. The hop from spring to summer brings cravings for thirst quenching beers! But once you’ve cracked that beer and need to step away from it, have you ever wondered how long you have to get back to it before it’s too late?  How long you have to sip and actually enjoy the beer? While most of us tend to down it before this happens, sometimes that last dip in the pool takes a little longer than expected, and your beer might be left in over its head. To see the bigger pitcher let’s go over how beer is made and how it’s carbonated.  At the beginning of the beer making process the barley, hop and water are mashed together to form a sweet liquid called wort. This wort is then boiled with the hops, and other flavours are added in. Once the mixture of wort and hops has cooled, yeast is added to begin fermentation. During this process the yeast converts glucose from the wort into ethyl alcohol (C2H6O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) through a metabolic process called glycolysis;

The concentration of CO2 is equivalent to carbonation. Higher levels of oxygen and yeast will leave a beer more carbonated and a higher alcohol content.  The concentration of CO2 depends on how much is produced during fermentation, and how much is added at the last stage before bottling.  Once the process is finished the CO2 stays nicely in the can or bottle until you break the seal.  That sweet sound of opening a beer is actually the unfortunate beginning of the end of CO2. Now the real question remains; how long do we have to knock one back before that beer comes to a bitter end? We took four common beers from around the world and put them to the test. We used one of our Halifax home brewed pale ales – Alexander Keiths, the all american-style pale lager – Budwiser, Austria’s full flavoured gold lager – Stiegl and last but not yeast the Dutch pale lager – Heineken. We put these beers through a test using our eosFD with an extended collar to monitor the flux of CO2 over a period of time.  Our eosFD flux sensor measures flux directly with no moving parts, using the Forced Diffusion technology.  We measured the flux continuously for up to 30 minutes for each beer. As the figure above demonstrates, the starting concentration of CO2 flux was pretty similar with Keiths, Bud and Heineken; however, Stiegl really raised the bar starting with almost double the CO2 flux! Within 16 minutes Stiegl declined faster than the rest and sipped into 2nd place, cutting their CO2 concentration in half.  Keiths, Bud and Heineken’s CO2 flux dropped at a pretty consistent rate. The CO2 flux half-life for each beer was:

Budweiser 62 mins
Heineken 56 mins
Stiegl 16 mins
Keiths 58 mins

Using the beers CO2 flux half-life, we calculated how long each beer would take to get flat, we decided that a beer is considered flat when only 3% of the initial CO2 remains:

Budweiser 310 mins
Heineken 280 mins
Keiths 290 mins
Stiegl 80 mins

The Results

While we were quite optimistic with Stiegl’s CO2 flux being so high to start, it lost carbonation very quickly.  Budweiser started at second place and steadily got to first! So if you are one to crack a beer and drink it quickly, then Stiegl won’t let you down! But if you crack that beer and forget about it while your BBQ’ing, you may want to choose a beer that’s carbonation will last! Now here is where a little glimmer of hop might come in, there are a few suggestions on how you could revive those flat beers:

  • inserting some air back into it with plastic pipettes – a very short solution
  • sacrifice the flavour by adding a little salt
  • a nitrogen injection using dry ice
  • using a SodaStream system
  • using a carbonator cap

And last but not yeast, if that beer just won’t come back to life, we have found some household uses for flat beer (these are for beer in general but enough beer was ruined doing this test):

  • put in a jar with plastic wrap and holes to catch unwanted insects in your home (fruit flies)
  • put in a place away from your outdoor table to distract unwanted dinner guests (bees and wasps)
  • act as fertilizer for the blossoming summer flowers
  • remove the bbq sauce stain on your shirt!

Now that we’ve made headway on figuring out how to make your beer drinking experience wort-while this summer; grab a Bud, hit a patio and you have 310 minutes to enjoy! “Beer, if drank with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health” – Thomas Jefferson

Editor’s Note: No beers were harmed (by being left unconsumed) in the making of this blog post.

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