For a beer geek, knowing beer – really knowing beer – is one of the greatest joys in the world. Some may scoff at the idea of acquiring knowledge about beer, but when one considers how vast the beer universe is, beer knowledge is a true accomplishment. Archaeo-anthropologists have found evidence of beer tracing back ten thousand years. Ancient carvings and pictographs in stone walls detail the goddesses who gave them beer. Some demonstrate how the royal families drank it, while others detail ceremonies surrounding it.
Laws governing beer endeavored to control economies within countries, and were implemented to funnel wealth toward, and away from, religious communities. Beer laws did not just come about in modern times, but have been around for hundreds of years. Some forbade the use of hops; others forbade the use of gruit; still others stipulated barley as a necessary ingredient, with exceptions made for the king. He was regularly presented with wheat beer, even though wheat was in short supply and provided bread for the masses.
Included in beer knowledge is the vast field of brewing. Ingredients, sensory perception, or conditions which induce off-flavors are important pieces of the puzzle that come together in the final product. Great discoveries have been made by scientists regarding yeast, water, and agricultural products – all because of beer. Historical figures have built fortunes with beer, while breweries throughout Europe were cannibalized by the affects of war. Beer’s history goes on and on in a fascinating litany of the human condition.
How strong is your beer knowledge? Are you well-versed enough to write beer trivia questions? Ask those who have competed in the annual Philly Beer Geek competition. Before a panel of seven or eight illustrious judges, each finalist is challenged with a segment called “Stump the Chumps.” Each chooses a judge and asks him, or her, a beer-related question, with the intention of stumping the bench. The judge can answer the question or call upon one other judge to assist. The judges on the panel evaluate the question for accuracy and level of difficulty. Some questions are truly brilliant; others are not well researched or have multiple answers that the finalist did not explore. Bazzinga! A beer geek exposed!
Here are nine beer questions to feed your frenzy for knowledge:
Q. Although it was unusual for a woman to take pen-in-hand at the time, this figure is credited with authoring Physica Sacra, circa 1150 CE, and documenting the use of hops in beer. It may be the earliest record of such a practice. Who is this woman?
A. Abbess Hildegard of Bingen
Q. What ingredients are used in the fermentation of sake?
A. Koji and Sake yeast
Q. When was the “Great Molasses Flood” in Boston, Massachusetts?
A. January 13, 1919
Q. In that Great Molasses Flood, the massive storage tank that burst was filled with two and a half million gallons of molasses. What company was responsible for its construction?
A. Purity Distilling Company
Q. How many gallons does a keg hold?
A. 15.5 gallons
Q. There are eight different tapping systems in use today. Name four of those systems.
A. Any four of these: The American D system – most North American beers use this coupler; The European S system – many Import beers use this system; A system – the German slider; M system – recent to the US market, this system has the same body as the A system, but uses a different probe; G system – Grundy system; U system – named after the English manufacturer UEC, and used by Guinness and Harp; Twin Probe – used by some craft breweries; Home Brew – has ball lock fittings for homebrew tanks.
Q. What program was founded in 2007 as the brainchild of Ray Daniels, author of Designing Great Beers? This program was created to “ensure that consumers receive the best possible beer and enjoy its flavors to the greatest extent possible.”
A. The Cicerone Certification Program
Q. From what country do Fuggles and East Kent Goldings commonly hail?
Q. Are all beers vegan friendly?
A. No. They may be filtered with gelatin and casein as clarifying agents or they may be fined using Isinglass, made from the dried swim bladders of tropical fish. They may also use foam-control agents such as glycerin, made from animal and vegetable fats, and glyceryl monostearate, derived from natural stearic acid and glycerin. Lastly, if a beer is experimental in nature, it may have special ingredients such as bull testicles or goat brains to grab the attention of the market.