Making beer is an art, but it’s also a science. So it seems fitting that Durham’s Museum of Life and Science would partner with one of Durham’s newest micro-brew pubs, Bull City Burger and Brewery, to bring out the science behind the beer at last Thursday evening’s first Bar Science event.
Staff from the museum’s Museum After Hours program, appropriately attired in white lab coats, took over the back room of the brewery to demonstrate some fun facts about beer. At one station, liquid nitrogen ice cream beer floats were created with a Harry Potter flair. Ultra-cold liquid nitrogen (it boils at 198.5 degrees below zero celsius!) was poured into a large bowl of cream, vanilla, and sugar. A witch’s cauldron’s worth of “smoke” then erupted across the table, and in seconds, the ingredients were transformed into real ice cream. Patrons were then served sample-sized beer floats, with the ice cream scooped into cups of BCBB’s Jack Tar Stout, which proved to be the perfect vehicle with it’s chocolatey richness complimenting the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream.
Another opportunity to have a taste (literally!) of beer science involved hops. Attendees were invited to experience the difference between boiled and dry hops. It turns out that boiled hops are actually more bitter. A similar fun fact is that not everyone can taste bitter, or at least not to the same degree. Participants could place a specially-treated strip on their tongues to test their ability to taste bitterness. To my wife, it was sharply bitter, while to the gentleman beside her, it tasted like paper. Thus, we learned that people like my wife will be more able to discern the difference between “hoppy” beers.
The event appeared to be a great integration between a beloved community institution and a very popular new brew pub. No tickets or reservations meant resulted in few barriers to participation. It was clear that some patrons had come out specifically for the Bar Science event, and others were simply grabbing a burger and a beer at one of their favorite Durham bars. What made it special, however, was seeing many of the latter group wander over to the Museum After Hours tables to satisfy their curiosity.
By early in the evening, it was clear that the artisans of Bull City Burger and Brewery and the scientists of the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science were able to brew up a tasty batch of knowledge and fun.
Photos by Karyn Traphagen (@lifeandscience), the Twitter voice of the Museum of Life and Science.