Wolf Files: Cutting-Edge Beer

A Strange Brew Is Coming Your Way

By Buck Wolf

July 29, 2003   — There's nothing like waking up in the dead of night in the wilds of New Jersey to start thinking about the future of beer. After a long night of toughening my liver with an old friend, something was definitely ale-ing me.

Sprawled on a hammock, I thought about the barbecues of tomorrow. In the age of cloned sheep and blue ketchup, what strange brews await our children?

Can science build a better beer? Are we ready to complicate one of life's last simple pleasures?

Here's a look at where science and marketing is taking hops and barley. Pop open a cold frosty brew, and let's contemplate how barflies of the future will sip suds.

Technology on Tap

Nicotine Beer: Imagine having a beer and a cigarette in one sip — that's like a vacation in degenerate heaven.

For other people, just quitting smoking as painlessly as possible would be the answer to a prayer. That's the intention behind work from Duke University researchers who have developed a liquid nicotine solution that can be added to a beverage to satisfy a nicotine craving.

You've heard of "the patch." Why not "the pint" as a treatment for reformed smokers? Now in the experimental stage, the liquid nicotine solution can be added to any beverage, not just beer. I just like the idea of working on one bad habit while weaning yourself off another.

Drinkable nicotine might be better than the nicotine gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, and other stop-smoking aids, in that it's easier to control the dosage, researchers say. In places like New York City, where smoking is now banned from bars, a nicotine beer seems ideal. Besides, you can actually have an extra round and explain it away by saying, "I'm trying to cut down."

Freeze-Dried Beer: Are you ready for the Tang of beers? Perhaps one day astronauts will down pints of freeze-dried ale to celebrate an intergalactic Octoberfest with strange new life forms.

Certainly, little green men with antennas start to look a little more appealing after you've finished a second round and slipped on your beer goggles.