I am thinking about timelines and milestones these days. One of the things I am thinking about is the beginnings of the effect of science on beer. Which I thought again about when I read this story:
An international consortium of scientists has published a high resolution draft of the barley genome in a move that could not only improve yields and disease resistance but may also hold the key to better beer. "This research will streamline efforts to improve barley production through breeding for improved varieties," said Professor Robbie Waugh, of Scotland's James Hutton Institute, who led the research. "This could be varieties better able to withstand pests and disease, deal with adverse environmental conditions, or even provide grain better suited for beer and brewing."
Beer is a pretty basic thing. People make it in their homes. People made it in their homes 1,000 years ago. "Scientist" was only coined as a term in 1834. Events at that time were moving fast. As we have discussed, there is a mid-1830s Vassar brewing book but there is also one from 1808 to 1811. The difference is startling. The earlier book was about sales and purchases. Which farmer bought the grain to be malted. Who sold the brewery the staves and hop poles. In 1834, on the other hand, there were what we might call the details. Timings, temperatures and volumes like you see in the record above. The sort of detail Ron gets into. I can't be doing that. First, he's doing it already. Just look at those tables. Second, couldn't be arsed. At all.
Yet, we have to cope with knowledge and science and stuff like that. But does beer need any more of it? Really? I am a bit worried... well, I am "slightly aware" of the idea that science might seek to improve but, as it often does, bugger up what nature takes care of very nicely, thank you very much. Yet, could science recreate something that is beyond nature's ken? Like the yeast or malt or hops that got away? Perhaps diastatic straw-kilned brown malt. Or pre-industrial English pea beer? Do we really need science to go beyond that? Should beer - or at least good beer rather than popular beer - accept that limitation? Is that part of what makes good... good? If not craft craft?