I’m Talking at the Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery — Tomorrow!

I feel like it’s been events and announcements and self-promotion all around for the past few weeks, and that I’ve been short changing you all on substantial writing about food.

That will change very soon.  Promise.

But in the meantime, if you’re in the Philadelphia area, come out and hear me speak tomorrow night at the Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery in Lafayette Hill — on Germantown pike, not too far from Chestnut Hill.  I’ll be reprising the talk that I gave at Science on Tap in April –  “Culturing Food: History, Health and Fermentation.”  But it will be a new audience, with new questions, and (I hope) some slightly spiffed up visuals.

At any rate, it’s part of an event called Pint of Science — a multi-city, International, three day mini-festival that happens in a bunch of cities.  The people who run the Philadelphia chapter are super sharp.  The other speakers sound fascinating.  And did I mention that there is also going to be beer?

Pint of Science - Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Here’s the relevant information:  the Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery is at 646 Germantown Pike; the event goes from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm; mine is the second talk of the night.  And though they seem to want you to RSVP here using Eventbrite, registration is in fact free.

Come on out, have a beer, and have a good time.  And if you do make it, say hello.  I want to meet you!

Coming Soon to Philadelphia’s Science on Tap

Science on Tap - Culturing Food

I am pleased to announce that — thanks to the generous patronage of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and Mütter Museum, and thanks to my thoughtful friend Anna — I will be the featured speaker on April 14 at Philadelphia’s Science on Tap.

If you don’t know, Science on Tap is a monthly gathering at Philly’s National Mechanics bar and restaurant in which folks wander in to drink good beer, eat good food, and listen to an informal presentation by a scientist or other expert followed by lively conversation. The goal, say the Science on Tap folks, is to promote enthusiasm for science in a fun, spirited, and accessible way, in the sort of venue where people are at their most relaxed.

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder

Beer Braised Pork for the Super Bowl

I had thought, this year, that I might post a recipe that would be appropriate for the big game, the pigskin classic, the Super Bowl. It is, after all, one of the great calendar customs of the United States, in which folks come together to mark the passing of the winter with symbolically complex entertainment, the company of friends and family, and the life-affirming (if somewhat unhealthy) consumption of many of our native foods. It’s one of the great folk festivals, like the Palio in Siena, where the community as a whole bands temporarily into factions that compete against one another, but where that competition is ultimately about reaffirming our unity.

I explained all this to Sarah, and this is what she said: Clearly — you know nothing about football, or the Super Bowl. Not at all. So if you’re going to do this, you had better ask the advice of the Internet.

A Gem from the History of Fermentation at Sea

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term inspissated is an adjective meaning: brought to a thick consistence; thickened.

I mention it because in the 1777 volume, A Voyage Toward the South Pole, Captain James Cook speaks of having been given several barrels of inspissated wort — syrup of unfermented beer — to carry aboard the H. M. Bark Endeavour as it sailed to the South Pacific and around the world. It was thought, he writes, that the syrup would require to be fermented with yeast, in the usual way of making beer.

But things do not, apparently, always go as planned at sea. So active was this inspissated wort — because of the heat of the weather, and the agitation of the ship — that it reached the highest state of fermentation all on its own, and evaded all our endeavours to stop it.

If this juice could be kept from fermenting, Cook writes, it certainly would be a most valuable article at sea. But alas. It was not to be.

Those same shipboard conditions that proved so beneficial to the aging of Madeira wine made this particular fermentation experiment a spectacular, perhaps explosive, failure.

And the sailors — poor sailors — were left with a sticky, beery mess to clean.

Star Trek and Brown Ale

Boiling Wort

** Update: The answer, dear friends, to the question of whether my yeast problems would kill this beer, is a big, resounding yes.  I bought some additional yeast this morning, thinking that I would re-pitch.  And when I opened my fermentation vessel, what I found was kind of horrifying: colorful, clearly bacterial colonies floating on […]

Northern Brown Ale

It’s brewing time again — or at least planning-to-brew time.  Now that I have an appropriate temperature control mechanism, brewing during the summer is a piece of cake.  So I figure that when I get home from a short trip at the beginning of August, I’m going to start beer number five for the year.  […]