Lesson #422: Fruit Beers

It’s the holiday weekend, and some friends and I are headed to a zoo brew event tomorrow. They get money for the zoo, I get beer. It’s an excellent trade — though it would admittedly be better if the beer were allowed into the zoo! I want to drink with the giraffes, you guys!

As a general rule, I do not like fruit beers. I do okay with fruit sours* because they’re sour, but fruit beers that aren’t sours are generally too sweet and, well, fruity for me. And I despise radlers. The exception to this rule is the summer blueberry beers. I am a whore for blueberry beers. My friends make fun of me about this at length.

Fruit beer has an interesting history in that it’s not linear. There are enormous gaps of time between periods of fruit beer brewing. The ancient Chinese brewed an alcoholic drink related to beer with fruit and honey. The Egyptians used dates and pomegranate in their beer.** And then fruit beers fell off the map.

For a long, long while. The Germans were (and remain) decidedly anti-bastardization of their beer, so no fruit in the modern tradition until…

…the Belgians came along and started brewing lambics and krieks in the 1930s. And people liked those. So for about 70 years, that was the standard. And then the American microbreweries started in with pumpkin beers in the fall.*** And those were really popular. So more breweries started playing with more fruits.

The recent trend of adding fruit to beer is a decidedly American thing — as are most of the trends like the spate of sours that have come out over the last three or four years, and the addition of chiles**** and lactose.*****

For more, read here, here, and here.

*But not watermelon sours. Watermelon does not belong in beer. It’s delicious on its own and disgusting in beer. It is also not a vegetable.

**I have a can of a special pomegranate sour release a local brewery did while my dad was visiting two weeks ago in my fridge.

***I’m very picky about pumpkin beers. If they taste of pumpkin, I like them. If they taste of pumpkin spice, I don’t.

****I am a big fan of putting chiles in beer. The Midwest has some great chile beers. Crow Peak in Spearfish, SD makes a really good one, as does One Well in Lansing, Michigan. The one at Bent River in Moline, Illinois is also decent. All three you’ll have to travel for. If they’re still making them. We were at all of these almost a year ago.

*****These are hit and miss for me, but one of the only IPAs I’ve ever liked was a coconut lactose IPA I had last summer at Drekker in Fargo, ND. They also had a great blueberry basil sour called Purple People Eater, which was both delicious and amusing.

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Lesson #421: Find Out the Temperature From A Cricket

This week’s lesson I learned from one of my nine-year-old students, who learned it on a field trip he was very excited to tell me about: if you count the seconds between a cricket’s chirps, you can tell the temperature.*

Crickets are cold-blooded. Because they’re insects. And, as the temperature increases, it allows for more frequent initiation of the chirp mechanism. Think of it as operating the same way heartbeats do in cold-blooded creatures. Because science knows by how much each degree of temperature increases the cricket’s ability to chirp, it also knows how to gauge temperature from the rate at which the cricket chirps.

The actual figuring takes some effort, but here’s how to do it with degrees Fahrenheit.

Step one: Find a cricket.

Step two: Count the number of chirps the cricket makes over a 14-second span.

Step three: Repeat the second step twice more and average the numbers.

Step four: Add 40. This is the temperature.

To ascertain the temperature in degrees Celsius because you live in a sane country that uses the metric system, follow these steps:

Step one: Find a cricket.

Step two: Count the number of chirps the cricket makes over a 25-second span.

Step three: Repeat the second step twice more and average the numbers.

Step four: Divide by three, and add four. This is the temperature.

Disclaimer: this information is accurate only between 55-100 degrees Fahrenheit/12-38 degrees Celsius.

More here and here.

*In this situation, you have been separated from your phone. Or are hiking with no reception. But you have a stopwatch on you.

Lesson #420: Oklahoma’s State Vegetable

Buckle up, guys, because we are in for some serious ??? here.

The state vegetable of Oklahoma is…the watermelon.

I know.

In 2007, the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 78 people who clearly don’t know what a vegetable is to 19 sane people who have eaten watermelon before, declaring the watermelon the state vegetable.*

I think the best part of this is that the man who introduced the bill in the Senate was all “FAKE NEWS!” about watermelon being a fruit nearly a full decade before Donald Trump decided that facts are optional. Nothing to see here. Move along.

It has not, however, been smooth sailing for the vegetable watermelon. In 2015, a bill designed to revoke the watermelon’s official status — on the basis that everyone except for the 78 people in the Oklahoma House who voted for the bill in the first place knows that watermelon is a fruit — was put forth in the Senate. It seems not to have passed. The watermelon remains listed as the state vegetable.

*For the record, the state fruit is the strawberry. Which is a fruit. Batting .500, there, Oklahoma.

Lesson #419: The Oldest Palimpsest

I was reading an article this week about the only known palimpsest that effaced the Bible to create a copy of the Koran. Which got me wondering about the oldest known palimpsest.

A quick note for those of you who don’t read a lot about religious history: a palimpsest is any document in which the original text has been scraped off and replaced with a later text and in which the original text may be read — in the days before technology, this often had to be done by eye, but now technology allows for the original text to be read more easily and without damaging the current text. Palimpsests are often religious in nature — the largest collection (around 130 texts) is at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt — particularly on the surface text, but don’t necessarily have to be. Palimpsests are usually written on parchment, though some have appeared on paper or papyrus. The reason parchment is the most frequent source of palimpsests is a combination of both its durability and its cost. Because parchments were expensive and in short supply and because they were durable, the original writing could be stripped from the medium (using oat bran and milk) and a new document could be written over top.

As for the oldest known palimpsest, this is a bit tricky. Of the known palimpsests, many — including the Archimedes Palimpsest — originated in the 4th – 6th and 9th and 10th centuries BCE. From what I can find, the oldest is a second century BCE Greek grammar text produced for the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which is housed in Vienna.

You can read more here, here, and here.