Burgers and beers for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is meant to honor U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service.

Memorial Day, celebrated annually on the last Monday of May, also marks the unofficial start to summer, with public pools opening, barbecues fired up, and hockey playoffs (the last one may just be me, with game 2 of the National Hockey League finals tonight).

There’ll be a lot of beer and a lot of burgers consumed today (in our case, BBQ chicken legs, backs attached, I’ve significantly improved the recipe).

Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports writes all U.S.-based puckheads have obligations during the Stanley Cup Finals, in order to create awareness of championship round and continue The Game’s growing insurgency into popular culture.

1. Buy Nielsen Families Beer, Watch Hockey With Them
2. Insert Hockey References Into Other Sports Conversations.
3. Insert Hockey References Into Every Conversation.
4. HockeyBomb Social Media.
5. Drink Beer. This really has nothing to do with growing the sport. But we find the Finals to be much more enjoyable after a few frosties.

But not at $160 a bottle.

Australian Mik Halse celebrated the arrival of son Oliver earlier this month by treating his friends to two bottles from Scottish brewery BrewDog: Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck. As the former and current world-record holders for strongest beer made to date (32 per cent and 41 per cent respectively), they cost $150 and $160 a bottle.

Halse is among a growing band of beer connoisseurs prepared to open their wallets to indulge their palates. While the cost may seem prohibitive, these exotic brews are savoured in much the same way as a fine whisky or brandy, generally sipped slowly in 30-millilitre drams. Most can be kept for a few days after being opened without spoiling and some come with reusable stoppers.

In a world-first concept that removes the gamble of buying an untried costly bottle of beer, the newly opened Biero bar in Little Lonsdale Street (Melbourne) has installed 10 ”beervaults” – clear, cylindrical dispensers created by Footscray design company JonesChijoff.

The vaults allow bottled beer to be transferred into pressure and temperature-controlled tubes that act like kegs to keep beer fresh. They’re the $150,000 brainchild of a group of Melbourne graduates who wanted a way to sample exotic beers available only in bottles. ”This way we can showcase some really rare bottles or give people the chance to buy an expensive beer to be transferred to the vaults where it can be kept fresh for up to four or five days,” says co-founder Iqbal Ameer.

Customers can either buy a beer sample from a dispenser, or use a spare vault to store a full bottle of beer they want to savour over a few nights at the bar.

Hockey’s a game for grafters, which in Brit-speak means hard-workers.

And when cooking that burger, don’t be afraid to stick it in, using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. The magazine, Good Housekeeping, another icon of America, says that as part of making perfect burgers,

“Burgers don’t have to be well-done to be safe — just not rare. Cooking times will vary, depending on the thickness of the patties and the heat of the grill, so the only way to be sure the burgers are done is to make them all the same size, then break into one to check. Or you can use an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the patty to get a reading in seconds.”

Ignore the first part. A thermometer is the only way to tell. No one wants to make fellow hockeyheads barf. Below is a periodic table of beer styles I got from Coldmud.

Beer is good for you and your bones

John Prine famously sang in his 1973 song, Please Don’t Bury Me,

Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer

That could also apply to me. But at least my bones should last forever even if the rest of me doesn’t.

The UK Independent reports that a regular pint helps strengthen the bones and prevent fractures in old age (so long as you don’t drink too much of it and fall over).

Beer is a significant source of silicon, which is a key ingredient of the diet that helps to improve bone mineral density. The National Institute of Health in the United States says silicon may be important for the growth and development of bones, and beer "appears to be a major contributor" to the amount of silicon in the diet.

The best beers for silicon are the pale malted ales and lagers. Dark bitters and stouts contain lower levels because they are made with roasted barley, which has lower silicon content. Wheat contains less silicon than barley, so wheat beers are poorer sources of silicon.

And wheat beer tasts like crap.

Catherine Collins, a dietician at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "Beer drinking is not really relevant in terms of bone health. Silica may well contribute to bone health but in a minor way: it is not significant compared with nutrients that we know are essential for bone health and are potentially deficient in the UK diet – such as calcium and vitamin D."

That’s no fun. I’d rather go with David Allan Coe’s, Beer is Good For You.

Load Australian fridges with food, not beer, and keep it cool

In 2004, I spoke at a conference in Gold Coast, Australia. I did a TV bit on Good Morning Australia, or whatever the equivalent was to the U.S. Good Morning America about food safety. The chef at the conference center was with me, and well-versed in food safety. He had a digital tip-sensitive thermometer in his front pocket, which I asked to borrow for the interview. One of the PR types said something like, you can’t go on TV and talk about using thermometers, we have enough trouble getting Australians to store food in the fridge, which is largely used for beer.

A survey by the New South Wales Food Authority found that some household fridges were twice as warm as they should be after groceries were transferred into them and they took four hours to return to a safe temperature.

The authority’s chief scientist, Lisa Szabo, said while most fridges operated well, overloading them with food or warm products increased the chance of micro-organisms growing, as did the age of the fridge and the condition of the seals.

Of the 57 fridges checked in the study, almost 23 per cent had an average temperature of more than 5 degrees. Almost 9 per cent had an average of more than 6 degrees. The highest average temperature for one fridge was 9.5 degrees.

Salmonella infections rise in the hotter months of the year (it’s summer there right now, and everyone, including Katie, is at the beach).

NSW Health statistics show 372 people had salmonella infections in both January and February this year, compared with 129 in June and 101 in July.

Last December 240 people had salmonellosis compared with 103 in June last year.

One fridge in the study was loaded with drinks at 1.20pm, raising the temperature from 3.5 degrees to 14.5 degrees, and it took until 5.40pm for the fridge to return to 5 degrees. The study found that ”although [loading or cleaning] is unavoidable, limiting the duration or frequency of opening the refrigerator can minimize its impact on temperature rises’.’

As fridges across the state are filled with prawns, ham, champagne, desserts and fruit for Christmas celebrations, the Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, reminded consumers to keep the fridge out of the danger zone – between 5 and 60 degrees.

Herpes, hepatitis A, swine flu — beer pong transmits disease?

No beer pong? What is college life without beer pong?

Last year, some publication at the University of California at Los Angeles – UCLA – warned students that beer pong, a communal drinking game, could be a source of infectious disease like herpes.

The N.Y Times reports tomorrow that students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., are being asked to refrain from playing beer pong after an outbreak of illness that officials feared might be swine flu.

The story notes that what used to be O.K. is not anymore, as the flu has ushered in new standards of etiquette that can be, in turns, mundane, absurd and heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking and beer pong. College life is tragic.

Beer can be made at home: so why is Whole Foods featuring beer shipped from Germany? Not sustainable

Pointing out the hypocrisy of Whole Foods is like going quail hunting with Dick Cheney: too easy, too stupid, and someone’s going to get shot in the face (or near the heart).

Whole Foods, defenders of all things natural and sustainable, is featuring beer imported from Germany — or Czech Republic, depending on who’s brewing it — this month.

Beer is one of those things that can be fairly easily produced in a local venue: hops, malt, water, yeast.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackay was right last week when he said Whole Foods sold a bunch of junk.

Forget beer – Pittsburgh wins 4-2

When I think Detroit and Pittsburgh, I don’t think professional hockey or beer, I think Austrian Mozart Chocolate Cream Gold liquor that my mother brought us, on berries (a mixture of fresh and thawed).

After those pizzas, why not cap off an exhausting evening of child rearing and hockey watching and food porn with a delightful mix of berries and booze – and bed.

Pittsburgh wins, 4-2.


Best beer movies of all time

Boatloads of beer can mean barf.

And with the opening today of the movie Beer Wars, Digital City decided to produce a best beer movies list. For those playing at home, the criteria for this list is that the movie either features great beer games or that the movie would have no story without beer. The list does not discriminate between good or bad movies.

Strange Brew (right) may be the greatest beer movie of all time. Max Von Sydow plans on taking over the world with a beer additive that allows him to control those who drink it. In one scene, Rick Moranis saves himself from drowning in vat of beer by drinking it. Their how-to on how to get a free beer: putting a mouse inside. It’s timeless because it works.

The rest are irrelevant, but are included for curiosity:

Artie Lange’s Beer League


Revenge of the Nerds (with Booger, left)

The Saddest Music in the World


Scotland’s water coolers teeming with dangerous bacteria

My friend Dave got into the bottled water biz in the 1980s in Hamilton, Ontario, providing those 5-gallon jugs for water dispensers at home and offices. I never was into that stuff, but the 5-gallon plastic carboys that people haul to the grocery store for a refill are excellent secondary fermentation vessels for home beer production.

But, for those who work in an office, the water cooler is, I’m told, the place for gossip, flirting and bacteria.

The Sunday Herald reports that tests for watchdog organization, Consumer Focus Scotland, found potentially dangerous bacteria in drinking water dispensers in workplaces, schools and care homes. The group says the dispensers need to be better cleaned and maintained, and that the Scottish government, along with the Food Standards Agency, should review existing legislation because it is difficult to enforce.

Environmental health officers found bacterial contamination in 23 out of 87 water dispensers sampled in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders. They tested for five types of bacteria known to cause illness, particularly in people who are vulnerable due to frailty or ill-health.

Water from bottle-supplied coolers was the most contaminated, with 14 out of 35 samples containing bacteria. Eight samples showed the presence of coliform bacteria, usually associated with faeces, and three contained staphylococcus aureus, which can cause serious illnesses.

Nine of the 52 samples from plumbed-in coolers taking water from the mains were also found to be contaminated, sometimes by more than one type of bacteria.

The contamination is thought to be due to the poor hygiene habits of some drinkers. Unwashed hands, putting mouths to taps and refilling dirty bottles could all be to blame.

Plate-for-one? It’s called an electric frying pan

In 1981 I moved into residence as a freshman at the University of Guelph. Back then the meal plan consisted of paper cards that were worth $20 each. There was a German-themed dining hall/bar in the basement of Johnson Hall, called Der Keller, or what we called it, Derks.

Those were the waning days of higher education. The student newspaper had just completed its annual homegrown judging contest, and students could purchase beer with their meal cards. There was also a thriving entrepreneurial culture of meal card scalping. Because new cards were issued at the beginning of each semester, the value would decline as the semester wore on. In the last few weeks, $20 meal cards could be had for $12, which could then be transformed into several pitchers of beer.

And what did those students who traded in meal cards for cash or beer eat? Cereal. Sandwiches. Whatever. For me, the electric frying pan was caloric salvation. I lived on grilled cheese, fried hot dogs, and scrambled eggs. Straight out of the frying pan.

Today, some hustler has reinvented my memories into the plate-for-one. Geeky Gadgets says,

Just cook your food directly on the plate and then once it’s done, you can eat it directly on the plate itself. … It’s perfect for those that are single (and like to keep your meals simple), as well as college students. It’d also make it so you could cook directly from your desk, if you so chose.

A better marketing slogan may be: Plate-for-one, beer for many.