by Bob Montemurro
When it comes to creating a Mt. Rushmore of the founding fathers of
the craft beer revolution one of the carvings just has to be of Jim
Koch, founder and President of Boston Beer Co., makers of the Sam
Adams beer line. Sam Adams lager and Boston Ale were the first true
craft beers that most bars ever carried. Koch was relentless in
spreading the word of good beer on the retail level. He proved to bar
owners that there was a large customer base that would come out to
support good beer. It was a truly significant achievement.
Over the years Mr. Koch has become a beer celebratory. Thanks to
appearing in countless commercials his face is well known by nearly
every craft beer fan and the public in general. In fact it's hard to cite
any other beer personality today with such wide ranging recognition.
So it's no surprise that when Jim Koch speaks, people (especially me)
listen. Yes, I was even one of the first people to buy his "Perfect Pint
Glass", an intriguingly shaped, angle-rimmed vessel that he reportedly
spend over six figures to design about 6 or 7 years ago. It's a
wonderful glass that holds the aromas in and enhances carbonation.
Although it's still popula, it never really became the hit I hoped it would.
I lament that fact every time I'm subjected to the ever present shaker
pints which essentially do nothing more for good beer than keep it off
When Jim Koch goes anywhere he must drink beer. After all, he is the
face of the company and the craft industry in general. It just wouldn't
be acceptable to see him publicly knocking down an orange juice,
Coke, or, heaven forbid, a glass of Pinot Noir. Ever wonder how this
billionaire brewing icon can drink so much and still be the ever sober,
responsible spokesman for most things beer? Oh, you never did. No
problem, it's something I've always wanted to know, which means I
can continue writing this column in good faith. Well Jim's secret is out.
In a word, its "yeast"!
In a recent interview Koch revealed that for years he has swallowed
standard Fleischmann’s dry yeast before he drinks, stirring the white
powdery substance in with some yogurt to make it more palatable. All
you need he said was one teaspoon per beer, right before you start
Koch credits this insight to craft beer legend, the late Dr. Joseph
Owades (PhD in biochemistry). Owades was considered the foremost
expert on fermentation and alcohol metabolism in the world. Adding to
Owades legend is the fact that Koch always called him "the best brewer
who’s ever lived.” Not too shabby. Dr. Owades eventually became a
consultant for most of America’s craft brewing pioneers such as
Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, New Amsterdam Brewing in New
York, and, of course, the Boston Beer Company.
The science behind it all is that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it
called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). ADH is able to break alcohol
molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and
oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body
metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Dr. Owades postulized that if you have
that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will
begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus,
your brain. As such the yeast will mitigate (but will not totally block) the
effects of alcohol.
Now before you rush out and patent this idea for your own medicine
business be aware that Dr. Owades did just that, calling his creation
Prequel, an all-natural pill to limit drunkenness. The product never hit
store shelves mainly because no manufacturer wanted to deal with the
potential liabilities associated with it.
I'm guessing some of the nay sayers out there will complain that Koch
and Owades were missing the point of alcohol consumption in the first
place. Perhaps so, but those critics are missing one of the points of
good craft beer - it's complex flavors and taste sensations are really
what counts, not the alcohol content.
The bottom line in this is simple- does it really work? Honestly, I'm not
sure. I was thinking trying it but somehow can't see myself carrying a
cooler filled with yogurt cups to my local bar and opening one before
every beer I order. Think of the calories, think of the expense, think of
the embarrassment. Yes, embarrassment. In some bars just saying
the word yogurt is grounds for removal. And not to gently.
I invite everyone to send me their own columns about beer just as Liv
did. I'll select the best ones and publish them here. So join in and get
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