A Masterclass in Brewing with “The Pope of Foam”

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DAVIS, Calif. – The subtle, yet distinct smell of fermented hops filled the air, strong and slightly floral like a good IPA. Charles Bamforth, Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at UC Davis, showed me the rows of silver and chrome brewing equipment that lines the walls at the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, enough gleaming tanks and beeping, whirring digital readouts to make NASA jealous.

Charles Bamforth, also known as “The Pope of Foam” is an expert brewer, specializing in psychophysics of beer perception, on polyphenols and on the residues from non-starchy polysaccharide digestion that constitute soluble fiber and potential prebiotics in beer. Basically, how to make really, really good beer.

Professor Bamforth presides over the brewing program at UC Davis, a multi-million dollar endeavor that puts many of Boulder’s most ambitious micro-breweries to shame with its high-tech approach to the art of beer.

“To understand science, you must first understand beer,” said Bamforth.

He explained that though brewing is an ancient practice, there are many modern developments that can help us better understand and manipulate the brewing process. He offers sound, scientific advice for beer fans and aficionados alike; pour your beer into a freshly cleaned glass at a 45-degree angle – foam and presentation are everything. Not all beer should be refrigerated, the darker it is, the closer to cellar temperature (about 55-60 degrees) it should be.

What does a beer expert think about the thriving craft-brew market and the abundance of malted, hopped and stout selections?

“The best beer is the one you like”, said Bamforth.

In an era with so much focus on climate change and the California drought, he is particularly interested in how to reduce the role of water in the brewing process. UC Davis is working with Anheuser-Busch  to develop onsite washing techniques that save water and produce a clean, consumer-safe product.

The good news?

“Hops are antimicrobial,” said Bamforth.

Yet another good reason to grab an IPA.

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