Alexa’s Love Affair With Budweiser

Recently, Tech Crunch reported that Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant, is about to start having her own opinions about things. They said that in an effort to make her more human-like she needed to have opinions that she comes up with on her own through what’s called machine learning. Not that she doesn’t already give opinions, but right now they have been programmed in by humans. In the near future, Alexa will start offering her own thoughts on things like TV shows, movies, books and more. But how do we know why she picks the things she recommends, now or in the future?

A recent video showing someone asking Alexa what her favorite beer is, with her answering “Budweiser,” got us thinking. Why did Alexa fall in love with Budweiser? It can’t be because it’s the best selling beer (because it’s not, that’s Bud Lite and Alexa stated as much when I asked this specific question). To see just how much Alexa loves Budweiser, I put my own Alexa to the test. I asked not only what her favorite beer was, but also “what’s the best beer?”

It turns out that not only is Budweiser Alexa’s favorite beer, but it’s also the best beer in her opinion.  The more I asked the question, the more she doubled down and stuck with her pick, showing a wide range of responses pertaining to Budweiser.

alexa

 

While I did have a lot of fun peppering Alexa with the same question over and over again, what is concerning is the level of influence Alexa has and will have over people’s choices now and even more so in the future. Furthermore, Amazon loves monetizing things, and who’s to say that they wouldn’t start selling Alexa’s opinions (or haven’t already) to the highest bidder so that she can name drop their product over and over again. Only large companies would be able to pay for this sweet product placement anyway, and maybe they already have.

So the next time you ask Alexa for her opinion, take it with a giant grain of salt. While Alexa is still just a machine, she can easily be influenced and that influence might be due to someone’s marketing dollars rather than a computer’s machine-learned opinion.

 


For the Love of Cans

The Brewer’s Association just released a report outlining Craft Beer Packaging Trends in 2017 and what was found is that people are loving beer in cans! Cans saw a nice jump in growth the last year for two main reasons. Not only are breweries switching from bottles to cans but also, breweries that have a higher can share are growing at a faster rate than breweries that have a lower share of cans. This can be attributed to the size of companies where smaller breweries tend to be able to grow faster than larger breweries.

But why the shift? There are a few different reasons why many breweries choose cans over bottles.

Light

Light is one factor that can stand in the way of optimal beer flavor and is responsible for the dreaded, “skunked” beer. This off-putting flavoring is due to the light-sensitivity of the hops in the beer. In fact, the term “skunked” is scientific in its basis. Chemists from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill studied what makes a beer skunky and found that when they hit three isohumulones (the compounds responsible for the light sensitivity in hops) with enough light, it created a compound called “skunky thiol” which has the same chemical make-up as a skunk’s noxious spray. While brown bottles help the issue somewhat, cans and kegs are really the best way to make sure that light doesn’t change the flavor of a beer.

Oxygen

While oxygen is both a friend and an enemy to beer, the process of oxidation can be damaging when it’s introduced after early fermentation. Oxidation can cause that “stale beer” taste and is most often detrimental when it occurs during packaging. Before that, if oxidation occurs, it will be caught by the brewing team and not packaged at all. Air doesn’t act alone when it comes to oxidizing beers, however. Temperature also plays a major role in oxidation and the resulting stale beer. Cans are better than bottles at keeping oxygen out because of how they are filled in the canning line. Also, there are issues with oxygen exchange through bottle caps that can tamper with the flavors.

Environment

Using cans to package beer is better for the environment for a couple of different reasons. First, because cans are lighter in weight and often can fit more cans in a specific space (like the back of a delivery truck) vs. bottles, they leave less of a carbon footprint. More beer on a truck means fewer trips for that truck and a lighter weight mean less gas is used for those deliveries. Second, cans are made from a higher content of recycled material than bottles (cans are 70% recycled materials) and people recycle cans 20% more often than they do glass.

Cans are a win/win for the brewery and the consumer so the next time you are faced with the choice of what beer to buy at the store, make it beer in a can!

 


Clarity Ferm to the Rescue

2017 was a good year for gluten-sensitive beer drinkers. After growing 136% between 2013 and 2015, the gluten-free food and beverage category continued to see strong growth throughout this past year. While people who suffer from Celiac Disease have long omitted gluten from their daily lives, there are more and more people who have chosen to cut it out for diet or health reasons. Luckily, thanks to a little product called Clarity Ferm and the growing use of it by local breweries along with gluten testing, many are now able to add craft beer back into their diets.

Clarity Ferm Fun

Clarity Ferm is an enzyme that breaks down proteins and has historically most often been used in the brewing process to reduce chill haze. Chill haze is different than the haze we see in all of the New England style/hazy IPAs. It happens when proteins from the malt form a bond with the hop polyphenols, which are seen as suspended particles in the beer and create a yeasty, hazy color in cold beers. To get away from this, brewers have long used Clarity Ferm to reduce the chill haze as well as increase shelf stability of their beers. With the rise of the gluten-free movement, this enzyme is now also sold as a solution for lowering gluten levels in beers to incredibly small parts per million. In fact, using Clarity Ferm can reduce the beer’s gluten to well below the international standard of 20 ppm for calling the beer gluten-free. The U.S. has a higher standard for use of the term “gluten-free” so here in the states, these beers are considered gluten-reduced rather than gluten-free.

For many people who are gluten-intolerant and even some people with Celiac, this realization that many of their once beloved craft beers are actually ok for them to drink has been a huge boon. Furthermore, Clarity Ferm shouldn’t affect the taste of the beer so while a beer may be labeled “gluten-reduced,” it is not going to taste differently from that same beer were it not to use the Clarity Ferm and in some cases, blind tasters thought that the beer using Clarity Ferm tasted better than the original.

Gluten-reduced vs. Gluten-free

In the U.S., any beer that uses ingredients containing gluten, even if the gluten is reduced to the international standards of gluten-free, can’t be called gluten-free. The only beers that can be called gluten-free are beers brewed with alternative ingredients like sorghum and rice.

So how do you know which beers you may be able to try if you are on the wrong side of gluten? While a lot of your favorite breweries are using Clarity Ferm, if they aren’t testing the gluten levels then it’s probably not a good idea to wade into the gluten-waters unless you contact them directly or go to the tasting room and talk to the beer-tenders/brewers to find out for yourself if the beer you would like to drink is tested.

This was a recent topic of conversation on a craft beer industry Facebook group and there were some exciting additions to the list of breweries who use Clarity Ferm and also test for levels of gluten. Here is an unofficial (and incomplete) list of San Diego breweries that use Clarity Ferm in some or all of their beers:

  1. White Labs (all + tested)
  2. Bolt Brewery (all + tested)
  3. Stone Brewing (Delicious IPA)
  4. Alpine Beer Co. (all + tested)
  5. Second Chance Beer Co. 
  6. Duckfoot Brewing (all + tested)
  7. Mike Hess Brewing (all)
  8. Council Brewing (70% of beers)
  9. New English Brewing
  10. Booze Brothers
  11. Wavelength Brewery
  12. Culture Brewing 
  13. Abnormal Beer Co.
  14. Amplified Ale Works
  15. Burgeon Beer Co.

At Thorn, we often have a gluten-reduced option for people to enjoy. Most recently, we brewed an Aussie Pale Ale called Mick Dundee, a hoppy, bright and dry pale ale that tests below 10 ppm.

We would love to add more San Diego breweries to this list, so if you work in or know of a brewery that also uses Clarity Ferm in one or more of their beers and tests for gluten levels, please comment or email us at info@thorn.beer and we will update the list accordingly.

Also, please do your own research before trying these beers if you are gluten-sensitive. Most info can be found on the linked brewery websites, but if not, just give them a call and ask. Brewers are some of the most helpful and science-minded people around and many want their beer to be consumable by everyone, even those who have sworn off gluten.