5,000-Year-Old Tablet Shows That Ancient Workers Were Paid in Beer

In the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk, residents enjoyed many benefits of modern life. The city, located in modern-day Iraq, was home to massive ziggurats that would rival any of today’s modern skyscrapers for sheer monumentality. People in Uruk exchanged goods for money, played board games, and sent each other letters on clay tablets using a writing system called cuneiform. They were also paid for their labor in beer. We know this because pay stubs were incredibly common documents at the time, and one such pay stub (pictured above) is now in the possession of the British Museum.

Writing in New Scientist, Alison George explains what’s written on the 5,000-year-old tablet: “We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning “ration,” and a conical vessel, meaning “beer.” Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker.” Beer wages were by no means limited to Mesopotamia. In ancient Egypt, there are records of people receiving beer for their work—roughly 4 to 5 liters per day for people building the pyramids. And in the Middle Ages, we have several records of the great fourteenth century poet Geoffrey Chaucer being paid in wine. Richard II generously gave Chaucer an annual salary that included a “tonel” of wine per year, which was roughly 252 gallons.

These salaries weren’t just about keeping workers drunk so they would be more compliant. In the ancient world, beer was a hearty, starchy brew that could double as a meal. And during Chaucer’s time, people believed that wine brought good health—which may not have been strictly accurate but was certainly a lure at a time when the Black Death was decimating the populations of Europe.

Even today, some employers are still paying workers in alcohol. In 2013, Amsterdam started a controversial program to help alcoholics get their lives together by paying them beer to pick up trash. And of course, many tech companies offer employees free booze on Friday afternoons as a perk. Thanks to one miraculously preserved pay stub, we now know that bribing employees with beer is a practice as old as employment itself.

Survey Reveals That Craft Beer Drinkers Have Some Surprisingly Healthy Habits

Is binge drinking on the downward trend? Maybe, as long as the alcohol being imbibed is craft beer. According to a new study out from The Harris Poll, which looked at the drinking habits of 1,978 adults, craft-beer drinkers — especially younger craft-beer drinkers — are more likely to moderate their drinking and participate in exercise than their Bud-guzzling counterparts.

While the results don’t actually address the prevalence of binge drinking, they do paint a pretty clear picture of the lifestyles of craft-beer drinkers. For example (and stay with us here, the numbers are about to get dizzying), 73% of people who drink craft beer think of alcohol as an indulgence or special treat. It’s a small change compared to the 67% of average drinkers who view alcohol as an indulgence. But take a closer look at the youngsters — 80% of 21-34 year olds and 77% of those between the ages of 35 and 44 — and the difference becomes fairly significant. Millennial craft beer connoisseurs view their brews as “special.”

They also live their lives differently. 57% of the craft beer drinkers reported maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, compared to 52% of average drinkers. And, interestingly enough, they’re more likely to participate in group exercise: 40% reported preferring it over exercising solo, compared to 33% of average drinkers. Crossfit and craft brews must go hand in hand.

When it comes to their diets, craft-brew drinkers are similarly vigilant. Seventy-eight percent reported reading nutritional labels, compared to 73% of average drinkers. And 27% actively seek out locally-made food and beverages, compared to 21% of average drinkers. They’re even slightly more likely to track calorie intake: 18%, compared to the 14% of the average drinkers.

Surely the numbers aren’t great for breweries struggling to get their customers to drink more, but Danelle Kosmal, vice president of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice, sees the figures as an opportunity for brewers and retailers. As she told The Harris Poll:

“First, it’s important for brewers to prioritize weekends for their biggest events in-store or at the brew pub and tasting rooms. This is when craft drinkers are thinking most about beer-drinking occasions. However, there also could be new opportunities to engage craft drinkers by creating weekday drinking occasions. Many brewers are already doing this through events like brewery-sponsored yoga or weekly group runs. It is a great way for craft drinkers to stick with their fitness plans, while still engaging in a fun, social activity, and then enjoying a beer with friends who share similar fitness goals and interests.”

There could be something in that. The poll also looked at factors that motivate drinkers to attend brewery-sponsored health and wellness events. Sixty-four percent of craft-beer drinkers reported that they were more likely to attend if a beverage or tasting was included in the price of the event — a huge leap up from the 37% of average drinkers. And the figure gets even higher when you look at the younger age groups: 73% of 21 to 34-year-olds and 77% of 35 to 44-year-olds.

The TL;DR of the study: Craft-beer drinkers are in the minority, they think of beer as an indulgence and not a habit, and they’ll work out for free beer. But come on, who wouldn’t?

Recipe of the Week: Veggie Pizza w/ Homemade Vegan Beer Crust

Ingredients:

For the Vegan Beer Crust
  • 3/4 cup dark beer (I used a local IPA)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4oz envelope)
  • 1/2 TBSP cane sugar
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour (plus about 4-5 TBSP for kneading and rolling)
For the Veggie Toppings
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 10oz bag of sliced (clean & washed) Cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8oz bag baby bell peppers (of mixed colors), sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced thin in rounds (remove the rib and seeds if you do not want too spicy)
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce, marinara or other (I used Arrabiata sauce)* see note
  • 1-1.5 cups organic shredded mozzarella cheese (or any shredded cheese you like, vegan cheese too!)
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh basil, chiffonade style
For the Vegan Beer Crust
  1. Pour the beer into a sauce pan and heat over low heat for about 2 minutes. Put your finger in to test that it is warm but not hot (if the beer is too hot it will kill the yeast!). Remove from heat.
  2. In a large glass bowl, add the yeast and sugar and pour the warm beer in. Whisk well and then let sit for about 5 minutes until it is foamy and frothy.
  3. Whisk in 1 TBSP of the olive oil. Add the salt and 1.5 cups of the flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Spread a two tablespoons of flour on a clean work surface. Knead the dough with your hands adding more flour (1 TBSP at a time) if you need to (the dough should not be too sticky, it should come together and become elastic. It should bounce back when you poke it).
  4. Add the remaining TBSP of olive oil to the glass bowl you previously used and flip the bowl around so the oil coats the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dough ball to the bowl and coat all sides of the dough in the oil. Cover the bowl with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for two hours.
  5. Take the dough ball out of the glass bowl and place onto a clean work surface or parchment paper and cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for another 20 minutes. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for a later use.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat as well.
  7. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface into a 12″ circle. Pinch the sides so that you get a slightly raised crust edge.
For the Veggie Toppings
  1. Slice all the veggies into thin rounds. Remove the ribs and seeds from the bell peppers and jalapeño. Separate the shallot slices from each other.
  2. In a skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium. Add the sliced Cremini mushrooms, salt and pepper, and sauté for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Place the rolled out dough onto the baking sheet or pizza stone you wish to cook the pizza on (if using a pizza stone careful not to touch as it will be hot!).
  4. Working quickly, spread a thin layer of the pizza sauce over the pizza dough, leaving room on edges so the crust is clean. Add the sautéed mushrooms on top of the sauce (use a slotted spoon here so that you don’t get any of the water that cooked out of the mushrooms). Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the sauce and mushrooms. Sprinkle the sliced shallot, green onion, bell peppers, and jalapeño over the top of the cheese in a colorful fashion. You may not use every veggie that you sliced, I didn’t. (Use any leftovers in a salad!) Bake for 20 minutes or until crust edges are golden brown. Once removed from the oven and cooled slightly, sprinkle the basil over the top. Slice into 8 slices, serve immediately and enjoy!

Our Picks For The Top Five Breweries in the Bay Area

When you think about craft beer destinations in North America, the sprawling network of cities, towns and highways that make up the greater Tampa Bay area likely doesn’t top the list. But over the past decade, Tampa Bay has transformed itself from a brewing backwater into one of the United States’ most innovative, under-the-radar beer scenes.

How did that happen? There’s no one answer, but it’s a fact that brewing’s long been in the region’s blood. The Ybor City Brewing Company, Florida’s first brewery, opened in 1896 after early settlers discovered a spring flowing underneath what’s now one of Tampa’s most vibrant neighborhoods. In recent years, the state’s bounty of local ingredients—citrus fruits, hot peppers, honey, even seafood—has allowed brewers with rebellious, unorthodox streaks to truly shine. And nearly year-round patio weather doesn’t hurt the cause, either.

At most recent count, the Tampa Bay area boasts at least 50 breweries, here are five of the best.

1. Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin

Dunedin Brewery’s (pictured above) been churning out high-quality ales and lagers since 1996, making them the oldest microbrewery in Florida. They moved to their current location in 2001, a friendly Scottish-themed tavern just off the Pinellas Trail and only blocks from Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. With high-quality pub food and regular live music, the brewery’s where baseball fans, Canadian snowbirds, and regular Dunedin folks get together and hang out.

As for their beer: from top to bottom, it’s an absolutely solid lineup. Dunedin says their apricot peach ale is their most popular brew, and given how well the full-bodied fruitiness goes with the Bay area sunshine, that claim makes a ton of sense. More adventurous drinkers will want to give their constantly-rotating capsaicin series a try: the brewery tries to release a new pepper-infused beer every Monday, so even if you don’t like this week’s selection, just wait seven days and another curious concoction will show up. Other locally sourced ingredients that have made their way into Dunedin’s beers include passion fruit, hemp, and Florida honey.

2. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa

It’s safe to say the Tampa Bay beer scene owes a major debt to Cigar City Brewing. Founded in 2009, Cigar City might not be the oldest craft brewery in the region (see above) but their willingness to both innovate and pay homage to the place they’ve called home means they’ve done more than anyone else to put southwest Florida on the map.

Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA is arguably their best-known brew; crisp and bold with delightful citrus and pine notes, it’s an excellent example of what an India pale ale should be. But Jai Alai—a nod to the sport that was hugely popular among Tampa’s Hispanic population from the 1950s to the 1970s—is only the beginning. Their Humidor series features brews aged on Spanish cedar or cedrela, the same wood traditionally used to make cigar boxes. Their Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is one of the few beers with a near-perfect rating on BeerAdvocate. And they’ve recently expanded into ciders and meads. The brewery lives in a cozy former police building in Ybor where in the early days of the Spanish American War Teddy Roosevelt would have stabled his horses.

Rumors that Cigar City was going to be sold to mega-conglomerate Anheuser Busch-InBev earlier this year ultimately proved untrue, but the brewery did change hands in 2016, selling controlling interest to a Colorado craft brewer and becoming part of a collective called United Craft Brews LLC. Cigar City’s owners have said they made the deal because they were out of production space and they’ve promised Tampa beer lovers will see few changes.

3. Coppertail Brewing, Tampa

When the boozy Cuban-American enclave of Ybor’s debauchery and late-night antics get a bit too much, Coppertail Brewing Company is where you’ll want to escape to.

Located in a former olive cannery and mayonnaise factory on the neighborhood’s outskirts, across the highway from a massive IKEA, Coppertail has quickly become one of the region’s most popular new breweries. Lawyer-turned-brewery-owner Kent Bailey poured Coppertail’s first pint in 2014, and since then their constantly shifting lineup of beers has included some real dazzlers. A Belgian trippel brewed with coffee beans? Check. A sour berliner weisse doused with pineapple and cilantro? Sure, why not. They even make a savory stout by boiling up about 200 pounds of Florida stone crabs.

4. Darwin Brewing Company, Bradenton

The drive across the bay to Bradenton, over the stunning Sunshine Skyway bridge, is worth it for the view alone. But it doesn’t hurt that the city of 50,000 is also home to Darwin Brewing Company, one of the state’s more unique craft breweries.

In the business since 2012, Darwin bills itself as a purveyor of “Andean-style” ales and lagers. That means you’ll likely find specialty brews on tap like the Chapo, a weizenbock made with plantains, or the Charapa, seen above: a spicy-yet-sweet porter infused with cacao beans and charapita peppers, ingredients native to Amazonian South America. The brewery got its start at a now-closed Peruvian gastropub in nearby Sarasota, which partly explains its Hispanic influences; there’s also the fact that Darwin co-founder Jorge Rosabal was born in Cuba and, for a time, oversaw production for one of the largest breweries in Honduras, as well.

The brewery’s across the street from charming Bill McKechnie Field, the third-oldest stadium in use by a major league baseball club (it’s home to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ High-A affiliate), making a postgame beer practically mandatory. There’s a welcoming patio, and the nearby food truck will keep you sated between rounds.

5. Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, Tarpon Springs

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company does one thing and does it right: Belgian-style ales. Founder Bob Sylvester has been whipping up his small-batch brews from a tiny warehouse with limited hours in Tarpon Springs since 2006, giving his beers an air of authenticity and exclusivity.

If you’re into the funky, leathery notes imparted by brettanomyces yeast (most beers use saccharomyces, brett’s less audaciously-aromatic cousin) you’ll want to spring for a bottle of Saint Somewhere’s Pays du Soleil or Cynthiana, two of the brewery’s most-loved offerings. There’s also the Saison Athene—a highly rated farmhouse ale brewed with chamomile, rosemary and black pepper—as well as one-off collaborations with other locals like Cigar City and St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing. And it’s easy to get lost in Saint Somewhere’s immaculately detailed, classically inspired labels, too.

For beer pilgrims on a tight schedule, Saint Somewhere’s not the most convenient brewery to check out: as of May 2016, they’re only open four (!) hours a week, early Thursday and Friday evenings. But thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, plans are afoot for a new taproom in downtown Tarpon Springs. Until then, take heart that select Saint Somewhere brews are also available in bottle form in more than 40 states and five countries.

Long Weekend Hack: Add Extra Flavor (and Alcohol) to Cocktails By Using Beer Instead of Soda Water

When the sun begins to shine and the temperatures rise, you’ll find me sipping on spritzes. Soda water is an obvious way to add bubbles to a drink, but you can add carbonation, flavor, and more alcohol if you swap it out for beer.

Epicurious suggests adding a good lager to one of my favorite simple cocktails, the Americano (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, usually topped with soda water) but the options are only limited by your imagination. In addition to the Beer Americano, I’ll also be making a Beer Aperol Spritz (Beerperol Spritz?), with a nice sour or Gose, and I suggest you do the same.

6 New Beers Perfect for Memorial Day Weekend

Summer may not officially begin until June 20th (so says the Farmer’s Almanac) but we all know that Memorial Day weekend marks the actual beginning of the summer season. That’s when we all try to squeeze into our bikinis for the first time of the year, dust off our croquet sets, and gas up our motorboats or inflate our inner tubes. Summer’s first weekend of festivities deserves a fresh batch of beer. So we’ve curated the ultimate Memorial Day Weekend Six Pack, chock full of brand new beers.

Sweetwater Brewing Goin’ Coastal IPA with Pineapple

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those super saccharine fruited IPAs that may or may not give you a pre-diabetic condition. Sweetwater takes it easy with the pineapple in this killer IPA, showing some welcomed restraint in a world overrun with fruity beers. Sure, there’s some pineapple on the nose and the sip, but it’s a mellow adjunct that adds just the right amount of sweetness. Part of Sweetwater’s limited Catch and Release seasonal program, you can find the 6.1% ABV brew in 12 ounce bottles or 16 ounce cans. It’s Memorial Day, so go with the Tall Boy cans.

Victory Brewing Cage Radler

The radler is about as divisive as a beer style can get. Part beer, part lemonade, the radler is about as far from the Reinheitsgebot as you can get. But if you can get over the impurity of the style, you might just realize that the radler is summer in a glass—the original beer cocktail built for hot days and long drinking sessions. Victory’s take on the style doesn’t disappoint. The lager base adds a crisp element to the concoction, while there’s plenty of lemonade attributes to keep it light. And it’s only 3% ABV, so you can have another. And another…

Dry Dock Sour Apricot

Your cooler doesn’t have to be stocked entirely with lagers this weekend. There’s room for something a bit off-center, like this new beer from Dry Dock, which promises to balance the sweet with the sour. Tart, effervescent, and full of fresh apricot, the new beer is now part of Dry Dock’s year-round series. Thankfully, they’re releasing it in cans starting this week, just in time for the big weekend.

Stone Brewing IPA…In Cans

Okay, this isn’t a new beer at all. It’s been around since ’97 and has helped define what a West coast style IPA means today. But for the first time, Stone is releasing their signature IPA in cans.This is about as excited as I’ll ever get over a piece of aluminum. And it’s just in time for Memorial Day. It’s 6.9% ABV (so be careful) and available year round, of course.

Burial Brewing Ceremonial Session IPA

Burial is a small brewery in Asheville’s South Slope that’s managing to make waves, especially since they began canning recently. Ceremonial is built for summer—a 4% ABV session IPA, with just the slightest bitter bite, but dry-hopped for maximum citrus aroma. And it comes in big boy cans. Look for it on shelves now.

Dogfish Head Biere de Provence

Consider this the beer for your fancy Memorial Day party. This saison was brewed with lavender, bay leaf, marjoram and chervil for an herbal, earthy nose and taste. I don’t know what chervil is, but whatever, it’s Dogfish, they know their herbs. And they released it earlier this month, on the anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, because as president Sam Calagione put it, “we have always believed this law is nothing more than a relatively modern form of art censorship.” You can find it in fancy bottles all over, but be careful, it’s 8.3% ABV.

Florida Brewery’s Edible 6-pack Rings Protect Marine Animals

A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic, and a lot of that plastic comes from the rings that hold together six-packs of beer, soda and other beverages. The marine life that lives in the oceans ingest plastics, too. These toxic plastics harm the health of our sea life, often killing them.

Saltwater Brewery in Florida created a six-pack ring that feeds animals instead of killing them. Many six-pack rings from beer end up in the ocean, so the brewery took barley and wheat remnants from the brewing process and turned them into an edible, compostable, biodegradable product that holds together a six-pack but doesn’t harm birds or sea life if it ends up in the ocean. It’s also strong enough to handle the weight of a six-pack.

This is the first time a 100 percent edible and biodegradable packaging has been implemented in the beer industry. The manufacturing cost of the edible six-pack ring raises the price of the beer, but the narrator of the video points out that if most breweries implemented this safe and sustainable product, the cost would be competitive with the plastic six-pack rings. Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

Why has no one thought of this before? In addition to being impressed by this product, I’m wondering how quickly I can put together a business plan, get funding and partner with Saltwater Brewery to open up a plant that can produce edible six-pack rings for all breweries.

I bet there’s money to be made from this smart, responsible idea.

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World of Beer Debuts Summer Seasonal Menu in Conjunction With American Craft Beer Week

With summer on the horizon, World of Beer is celebrating the season in the perfect way — with awesome beer and craveable summer food favorites. For the first time, WOB is introducing a summertime menu that offers elevated twists and enhanced flavors on time-honored American dishes for the season, that were created to pair perfectly with seasonal craft beers. Guests can anticipate a menu that encompasses classics they look forward to enjoying every year, that will surely make them nostalgic for the patio.

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The new menu also highlights a summer partnership with Oskar Blues. The collaboration between Oskar Blues and WOB will give guests a taste of the brewery’s innovative beer and food offerings in WOB taverns nationwide including:

  • Oskar Blues Peel and Eat Shrimp — In a collaboration between WOB’s chef Mark Adair and Oskar Blues chef Jason Rogers, these shrimp are steamed in Oskar Blues American Summer Hoppy Wit broth and served with grilled garlic toast.
  • Oskar Blues American Summer Hoppy Wit – Limited release beer — A spiced Belgian Wit that is hopped with Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe multiple times in the fermenter. Spicy and citrusy with fruit flavors from the yeast and hops alike, with a tart twist at the finish.

On May 21, at the end of American Craft Beer Week, WOB taverns nationwide will host the Oskar Blues Revue, a day to celebrate summer with beer, food and music.

“When developing the World of Beer seasonal menu, I drew upon my own childhood memories to romance and combine classic summer favorites into unique dishes for our guests,” said World of Beer’s Executive Chef Mark Adair. “One of my favorite parts of this seasonal menu design was collaborating with Oskar Blues’ Chef Jason Rogers and their head brewer; as a longtime fan of their beers, I knew their brewing style and focus on key flavors would help enhance our peel and eat shrimp dish in a way only they could.”

World of Beer’s limited-time offerings, available May 16 through July 10, celebrate summer favorites and include:

  • Summer Corn Hush Puppies — Served with warm bacon onion jam, jalapenos and Sriracha lime aioli. Pairs best with a Pale Lager.
  • Pimento Cheese Stuffed Cherry Peppers — Spicy pickled cherry peppers stuffed with World of Beer’s creamy house-made pimento cheese. Pairs best with a Kölsch.
  • Beer-Brined Crispy Chicken Sliders — Beer-brined chicken breast, fried crisp, Southern style, with dill pickles and WOB’s local IPA sauce, served on two toasted brioche buns. Pairs best with a Pilsner.
  • Mac-N-Cheese Dog — Grilled all-beef hot dog smothered with World of Beer’s own pepper jack mac-n-cheese, and topped with crispy applewood smoked bacon bits in a buttery King’s Hawaiian® split-top bun. Pairs best with a Pale Ale.
  • Colorado Chili-Cheese Dog — Grilled all-beef hot dog covered in World of Beer’s hearty Colorado chili, beer cheese sauce and Applewood smoked bacon bits and topped with fresh onions in a buttery King’s Hawaiian® split-top bun. Pairs best with a Dark Lager.

World of Beer is also offering seasonal sangrias including:

  • White Peach Sangria — Traditional sangria gets a twist when a bright Moscato meets WOB’s house-made Peach-Lambic syrup and a slice of peach.
  • Red Raspberry Sangria — World of Beer’s take on the Red Sangria features house-made Framboise-Lambic syrup, a splash of ginger beer and an orange slice.

Seasonal menu offerings will vary tavern to tavern so be sure to check with your neighborhood WOB on its summer menu items.

The Rise of Nitro Beers

Nitro beers are far from new, but the category is getting a lot of hype in the U.S. thanks to big brewers like Samuel Adams and Founders releasing their respective Nitro Beer Project and Nitro Draft Series. And while it might not be a noble gas, nitrogen definitely results in noble beers.

The vast majority of the beer you’ve consumed in your lifetime is force-carbonated. It’s a method in which additional CO2 is dissolved into the beer before it’s bottled, kegged, or poured directly into my cupped hands. The result is beer that’s fresh for much longer than the cask ales of ye olden days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t options beyond additional carbonation though, like say… nitrogenation. But what is nitro beer?

Guinness is the most well known nitro beer on the market, even if you never realized that’s what made it different. There’s a good reason for their status, too. They invented nitro beer. In the 1950s, Michael Ash had the brilliant idea that beer could be made using nitrogen, and he was hired by Guinness to make it happen. The process took 4 years to perfect, but in 1959, pints of Guinness began using nitrogen to achieve the creamy taste and signature cascading effect for which it’s known.

Nitro beers are created by adding a mixture of gasses that’s 70% N2 and 30% CO2. And while there’s plenty of chemistry at play that’s well beyond me, there are a few easy ways to recognize differences between nitrogenated and carbonated beer.

N2 bubbles are significantly smaller than CO2 bubbles. Their small size makes N2 bubbles more stable, resulting in a thick, long-lasting head. It’s a frat party’s worst nightmare but a beer lover’s wet dream. The bubble size also contributes to the telltale cascading effect.

If you’ve ever watched the bubbles in a Guinness, you’ll know what we mean by cascading. Many have wondered how it’s possible for gas filled bubbles to sink instead of rise, but the answer is pretty simple. As the bubbles rise in the center of the glass, beer is pushed up and to the side. As the beer falls back down along the side of the glass it pulls some of these tiny bubbles with it, creating the mesmerizing visual.

Nitrogen doesn’t just affect the visuals of a beer either. You can tell the difference the second the heavenly nectar hits your mouth. Whereas carbonation helps make a beer crisp, lively, and in some cases bitter, nitrogen smooths out the flavors and makes the overall mouthfeel much creamier. The same beer side by side, one nitro and one standard, will be worlds apart. Try both if you happen to be in a bar with options on tap. It’ll figuratively blow your mind.

Speaking of taps, they play a big roll in nitro beers. Not only does a special gas blend (also 70% N2 and 30% CO2) force the beer to the tap, the nozzle itself is unique. Unlike Frank the Tank’s Red Dragon, the nozzle on nitro taps have a restrictor plate added to slow down the pour and aerate the beer.

Guinness has had a monopoly on “that one weird tap” for decades, which will likely cause problems as more breweries jump into the fray. Some bars are adding more nitro lines, but it’s not a big focus for many. Unfortunately that means most of these awesome nitro beers being produced might never find a home in your local bar.

Thankfully Guinness also invented the widget. No, not the kids’ TV show about an adventurous alien. They invented a little plastic ball that releases nitrogen into the beer once the can or bottle is opened. It’s almost as fun to watch as the show, and it means you can have the same great experience from a can as you would from a tap. Left Hand Brewing took it a step further in 2011 by introducing America’s first nitrogenated bottle of beer without a widget.

Brewing great beer is certainly an art form, but it’s mostly science. Beer has been around since the negative 30th century, and it’s been brewed in its current form since the 9th century. Using nitrogen to replace some carbonation is just one of the latest of many tweaks experienced over those 1,200 years, so enjoy the variety; it’s the spice of beer life.

Here are a few nitro beers to try:

Sam Adams – Nitro IPA:

Jim Koch experimented with nitro beers from ’93-’96 and it was an epic failure. Thankfully the consumers are ready this time around because they’re back with the Nitro Beer Project. In the past nitro has primarily been used in stouts and porters, but Sam Adams cranked the hops to normally absurd levels and managed to make an incredibly interesting Nitro IPA.

Oskar Blues – Old Chub Nitro

This is the perfect beer to use as a comparison tool. Grab a can of Old Chub and a can of OC Nitro, pour them into pints, and try one right after the other. Who knows which one you’ll prefer, but you’ll be able to see and taste the difference in an instant. Plus, people need to buy more scotch ales so that more breweries start making them. That’s just me being selfish though.

Founders – Nitro Rubaeus

Rubaeus is proof that fruit beer can be a glorious style when made well. It’s also a great example of a beer that changes significantly with the use of nitrogen. The signature tartness is reined in and the confusing experience of creamy raspberries will cause you to repeatedly sip, seeking some sort of explanation, until the pint is gone in mere minutes. Order another and try again.

Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro

These guys are the OGs of American craft nitro. They even have videos demonstrating the proper way to pour their beer. Hint: aggressively. You’ve most likely had Milk Stout Nitro or Sawtooth Nitro by now, but I’d lose my license to drink if I didn’t include them

Budweiser Has a New Name, and That Name is America

Let’s just get this out of the way quickly because you’re probably not going to understand it the first time I say it: Budweiser is renaming its beer “America.” The beer Budweiser will henceforth be known as America. When you gingerly lift a tall boy of Budweiser out of your bodega’s fridge, what you’ll really be lifting is a tall boy of America. Got it? Budweiser, the King of Beers, will now respond only to its new chosen name, America.

America, as you may be aware, is also the name of a country. Budweiser doesn’t seem to mind this conflation, and instead seems to view its name choice as something of a patriotic duty. The rebranding is a nod to the 2016 presidential race, Fast Co Design reports, and the cans will reportedly go back to normal after the November election. Tosh Hall, the creative director at the branding firm behind the name change, delivered a really perfect nonsense statement to Fast Co: “We thought nothing was more iconic than Budweiser and nothing was more iconic than America.” Nothing is more iconic than Budweiser, except perhaps America, and nothing is more iconic than America, except perhaps Budweiser.

bud-america-cans

I am both sincerely giddy and honestly disturbed by this news. While it’s true that I do love spectacle, and I do love to yell “AMERICA” in a husky voice every time I crack open a can of Bud, I don’t like my beer-fueled patriotism foisted upon me like some red, white, and blue cold sore. And while this is delightful to me in the same way that dogs who walk on two legs are delightful to me (i.e., completely unaware of their own absurdity), there are definitely some people out there who will respond to this news with entirely straight-faced statements like, “It’s about time someone named their beer after the greatest country in the world.” Dear God. Or should I say, Beer God.

One more thing: does this mean we can now use the terms “Budweiser” and “America” interchangeably? The United States of Budweiser? Budweiser’s Got Talent? Budweiser Ferrera? Who knows! Throw everything you used to know in the trash, and crack open an America, because this is Budweiser country now.