Interesting news today out of Germany:
“When arsenic level in beer is higher than in the water used during brewing, this excess arsenic must come from other sources,” Coelhan noted. “That was a mystery to us. As a consequence, we analyzed all materials, including the malt and the hops used during brewing for the presence of arsenic. They concluded that the arsenic was released into the beer from a filtering material called kieselguhr, or diatomaceous earth, used to remove yeast, hops and other particles and give the beer a crystal clear appearance. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae that lived millions of years ago. It finds wide use in filtering beer, wine and is an ingredient in other products.”
A couple of months ago, a very oddly spirited defense by someone not really wanting to identify themselves was made in the comments against customers knowing everything that touched their beer. Diatomaceous earth was mentioned in the argument as an obvious example of something benign. Yet here we are. Potential source of badness. Maybe. I distrust pop articles of scientific studies as much as I distrust the adamant anonymous comment maker. But it does raise interesting questions. How useful ultimately are our understandings?
Craig posted about errors found in a Huffington Post infographic today. I don't know what screams more of distrust than (i) Huffington Post or (ii) infographic. One error was related to the well worth myth-ridden path to the beginnings of IPA. Yet, something struck me about that error. As I commented, I read this weekend in the Montreal Gazette about how brandy was created because wine was not enduring the new longer sailing trips the Dutch were able to make in the 1300s and 1400s. There may be a similar story related the development of port and sherry as a means to make the stuff get to its intended destination. And for any number of other goods for all I know. So, it is not entirely far fetched as, based in large part by the Baltic trade of the 1700s, it was the case that strong drink was known to travel better than weak drink.
Is it possible that something was known and not needing recording about characteristics of successful long distance booze travel? Traders' trade knowledge? I don't know. I do know that it is entirely possible any maybe even likely that Ben Franklin did make that statement about beer as much as he made a very similar one about wine. He certainly was not against re-purposing in other parts of life. Which is all a bit of a way to suggest could it be that we are too attached to fragments of evidence seen up close and guide ourselves away from patterns which may be presenting themselves if we just drew back and looked? But what patterns? Is it that adding any process or ingredient to brewing could find us looking at a trace of arsenic... or maybe that a trace of arsenic is no different than, you know, cyanide in kriek?