Study finds scientists like to study beer

posted on December 31, 2008 in beerdemia

Well, it’s not a real study per se but, rather, an observation derived from having received the following two tweets within 24 hours of each other:

draftmag: Beer goes academic http://tinyurl.com/wjv5

and;

2326: Dance monkeys dance! http://tinyurl.com/3w4mzg

These two fortuitous tweets made me realize with no uncertainty that scientists quite like to study beer.  The link within the second tweet from my brother (2326) takes you to an outline of the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.  What do “The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” have to do with beer?  Sure, beer shapes many of my decisions but I wouldn’t necessarily call the force that is beer “hidden”.  In fact, it’s usually quite apparent when a decision has been beer-influenced.  But I digress.  If you scroll (or, as I first wrote that word, “scrool”) down to the last section of the outline, you will see the title “Beer and Free Lunches” which in part describes an experiment that studies people’s beer choices and their happiness with them.  The study apparently found (if you’re too lazy to read for yourself, and I don’t blame you - I’m too lazy to read the actual study) that a largely significant variable in people ordering beers is what the people ahead of them ordered.  Americans, shockingly, want to be unique.  This reminds me of certain family altercations wherein my brother bogarted the most appetizing dish on a menu…an exchange that might go something like this:
Adam: What are you getting?
Me: The unagi roll
Adam: What?  No, I’m getting that.
Me: Nerds!
Ok, well I hadn’t started saying Tina Fey’s catchphrase “nerds” back in the day but the thought was the same.   The result was always the same too: I was forced to order another dish, inevitably producing feelings of plate envy.  Little did I know my decision-making was so predictably irrational - thank you, Mr. Ariely.  This little analogy simply illustrates that the study could very well have been done about people ordering food but the scientists apparently found it more illuminating to study people’s beer preference. The good people of the world find a way to sneak beer into whatever it is they’re passionate about.
And then there are those who are passionate enough about beer that they don’t have to sneak it in at all.  Like Monique Haakensen (from the DraftMag tweet/article), who recently got her PhD in beer from the University of Saskatchewan.  More specifically, she “helped discover three new methods of detecting beer-spoiling bacteria, including a DNA-based technique” - this is cool because instead of holding the batches for months to make sure they don’t spoil, breweries can now detect whether beer will be prone to spoilage in a matter of days, translating into fresher beer for all and decreased chance of ever getting a, to use a Californian term, gnarly bottle.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the article though was the author pointed out that beer research has led to and continues to lead to important discoveries in biofuels.  Who knows, maybe it will take a beer scientist to finally figure out how to make biofuels an efficient technology.  (See, studying beer can have valuable impacts on humanity!  Hi Dad.)
The only mildly disheartening part of the Haakensen article to me was the end, reading, “beyond her PhD in beer, Haakensen says there’s not much opportunity for her to have a career doing beer research.

Microscopes are neato.

Microscopes are neato.

She recently landed a job with the university’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization to study how other types of bacteria effect humans.”  However, I’m guessing Haakensen’s passion isn’t really beer - she probably could have easily landed a job at a brewing company - but rather, academic research - specifically, bacteria research.  Well…yeast are way cooler (except in those beers where certain strains of bacteria are most welcome).  Jk, obvs — good work, good luck, and cheers for your contribution!

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1 Comment »

  1. thanks for the post!

    actually, breweries rarely(never) hire PhD’s. and i moved on from the vaccines, too boring. i’m back in biofuels now :)

    Comment by Monique Haakensen — July 5, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

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