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Bringing Physics to a Bar Near You

Let's talk about beer.

This year, the number of breweries in America has hit a 125-year high, ousting 1887's former claim to the title. The US has over 2000 craft breweries and I don't think that includes the White House. Let's just call it the United States of Good Beer.

U.S. Breweries since 1887. Image Source: Brewers Association

But let's be serious. Brewing is a science and NPR agrees.

To convince you of this and to add a little skip to your next sip, the Institute of Physics in the UK has started a Cheers Physics campaign. This week, the IOP distributed 50,000 beer coasters to pubs across the country each featuring physics questions like:

"Which type of glass does your ale prefer?" and "If beer is brown, why is the head white?"

Scan the QR code on the back of the coaster to reveal the physics behind the answer.

Beer Flight. Image: Echo Romeo
For instance, IOP explains that the type of glass affects the temperature and bubbles of beer, which changes the aroma and taste of your brew. Some ales release complex and agreeable flavors as they warm. These ales get a chalice or tulip shaped glass that are shaped so the heat from your hand slowly warms the beer. Others are best chilled in a thick glass or with a handle insulates the beer from your hand. Some beer glasses are also molded to control the head and waft the bubbles towards your nose as you go in for a swig. Others have small scores at the bottom to form a constant stream of bubbles. For fizzy brews however, IOP recommends the tall and thin pilsners, whose narrow bases prevents too many bubbles from escaping too quickly, and keeps your beer from going flat.

"Physics is actually all around us, even in the pub," said Rik Sargent, outreach officer at IOP to the Guardian.

The IOP is also collaborating with the Redemption Brewing Company to produce a mini-series of films to explain more about the physics of the brewing process and the challenges of moving enormous quantities of liquid around the brewery while adjusting temperature for flavor and controlling the pressure of the beer.

Here's to hoping that this take on physics hops the pond!

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For more, watch out for Quark Twain's tweets


  1. I don't know the precise statistics, but the number of breweries is exploding also here in Europe, not only in the US.


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