The grooviest French dude ever
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 10, 2007
By Cold, Hard Football Facts sud stud Lew Bryson
Chances are that when you hear the word "pasteurized" the first thing you think is "milk." And that's why you're never going to live the exciting, non-stop-free-drinks-spree that is the life of the beer writer: because when you hear the word "pasteurized," the first thing you should think ... is beer.
Pasteurization is the process of heating packaged food and drink to kill the microscopic life in them: bacteria, yeast, and so on. It is named for the man who invented it, renowned scientist Louis Pasteur – the most important Frenchman this side of Lafayette.
Pasteur may be more celebrated for developing the germ theory of disease, or for his cure for rabies. But most of us run into pasteurization every day (usually while we're checking the milkbox to see if our picture's on it yet).
What most people (including the wine-dorks who write Wikipedia) don't know is that Pasteur first suggested the process we call pasteurization in a book titled "Études sur la Bière" ("Studies on Beer").
The studies were commissioned and funded by the French government and the French brewing industry. The book is considered a classic in brewing technology, laying down the bedrock of brewing microbiology. (French culture is far more intricately intertwined with beer than the wine snobs would have you believe. You know those fancy French restaurants, the brasseries, that food snobs always rave about? Well, brasserie is the French word for brewery. They began as what we would today call "brewpubs" – casual restaurants that made their own beer.)
Pasteurization in beer has been portrayed as "cooking" beer. Well, in the tunnel pasteurizers some big American brewers use to heat their canned and bottled beer, the beer will go up to 140 degrees for 20 minutes. If you cook your meat like that, better like it red and bloody... and still moving. American draft beer isn't pasteurized, and so it must be kept cold at all times. Some American beers are tightly-filtered and unpasteurized, in draft and in bottle.
But almost all the wonderful draft beer you drink in Europe (except the real ales in England, the kellerbier in Germany, and a few other exceptions) is pasteurized, in a process called "flash pasteurization." The beer passes over a heated plate in a thin film, or through a thin heated tube, and is only hot for a few seconds: enough to kill the microbes, but not enough to change the flavor of the beer. So say the brewers of Europe, anyway, and the way the stuff tastes, we wouldn't want them to change a thing.
Just remember. When it comes to shelf-life, and being confident that your next beer will taste the same as this one, one of the people you have to thank is a Frenchman: Mr. Pasteurization himself.
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