After nearly 40 years in the beer business, Charlie Bamforth holds the crown as “The Pope of Foam.” The now-retired UC Davis professor kicks off Unfold’s first Bonus Bite episode in a light-hearted discussion about the hoppy beverage. Bamforth describes some of the strangest beers he’s come across throughout decades in the business and takes some playful jabs at beer’s rival, wine.
In this episode:
Charlie Bamforth, Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences Emeritus.
ALEXA: All of this unfolding has my brain tired.
AMY: Well Alexa, since we've been talking food I think we have time for just one more little bite don't you?
ALEXA: I guess, maybe a little bonus?
AMY: A Bonus Bite! Yeah!
(BONUS BITE MUSIC)
ALEXA: Well, this is where we get to talk about all of the other cool stuff that we have going on here at UC Davis. And you know that we can't really talk about food without talking about the other thing that we do really, really well here.
AMY: I think I know where you're headed and I think it pairs well with food.
ALEXA: An icy cold adult beverage maybe...?
AMY: That sounds good.
ALEXA: Well you know that we have one of the best beer programs right here at UC Davis. And we've been lucky to have had Charlie Bamforth lead that program before he retired. And if you're a beer fan maybe you know Charlie as "The Pope of Foam".
AMY: In fact one of my co-workers here was in of all places, Lebanon, and ran into somebody that knew Charlie Bamforth.
ALEXA: No way.
ALEXA: Well Charlie taught brewing sciences for more than 20 years here. And luckily he sat down with us before he left and told us a thing or two about all those weird craft brews that seem to be popping up everywhere now.
CHARLIE: You know there's a lot you can do with malt, hops, yeast and water. And why do you need to keep pushing- pushing the envelope all the time? And if you go globally there's some bizarre things that have been put into beer and some bizarre story lines. Like the beer that was made with the yeast that came out of a guy's beard or Rocky Mountain oyster stout in Colorado. And I'm thinking I don't- I don't even want Rocky Mountain oysters on the plate. I mean I think they should be left exactly where they came from.
AMY: So Alexa, I guess that's no bull.
AMY: So bull... is where Rocky Mountain oysters come from. So again, Rocky Mountain oysters are balls of bull.
AMY: Well that's why I said that's no bull.
ALEXA: I did not know that. Eww. That's disgusting. I thought they were actual oysters. Oh my God. Oh my God. Wait so do you think- Does everybody know this?
AMY: Well as Charlie likes to say, drink in moderation.
ALEXA: Yeah. I don't think I would- I don't think I would drink that ever. Speaking of moderation he did say that there's a few beers that are getting way too high in alcohol content.
AMY: And there's something wrong with that?
ALEXA: There is if it involves a dead squirrel.
AMY: Oh yeah. That story was so strange.
ALEXA: No seriously, Charlie told us about this company in Scotland that actually made a beer from a stuffed but real squirrel.
CHARLIE: Brew Dog in Scotand. And I like the guys, they're very good people, they're very smart. But you know shoving a beer of 55 percent alcohol inside a dead squirrel is- is a wee bit on the bizarre side, you know? And I understand why it's, "Oh those the crazy guys who put the beer in the squirrel. You know, let's try the beer." So it's all about marketing.
ALEXA: So the beer is called The End of History.
AMY: Well it certainly was the end for the squirrel.
ALEXA: Oh, that poor squirrel.
ALEXA: That's the thing with beer. It can be delicious but beer can be a little bit too much for me too like the older I get the more that I start cutting things out and being a little bit more careful with what I put my body and I ended up confessing to Charlie that beer was one of those luxuries I cut out and it turns out that I've been depriving myself for like no reason.
CHARLIE: People talk about beer bellies. It's a myth it's all about calories in and calories out. And the main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is alcohol.
AMY: Why is there this myth?
CHARLIE: It's a very good question, why is there this myth? And it's all tied up with wine snobbery I think. And I think also it's confused by lifestyle. What I'm fond of saying is you know wine drinkers jog. Beer drinkers don't jog. Wine drinkers eat lettuce leaves, beer drinkers eat burgers and sausages. And so you know, you might expect that some beer drinkers who have a somewhat sedentary lifestyle and probably drink too much- they may be a little bit bulky because they're not exercising. Whereas plenty of people who will have a glass of wine and nibble on a tiny amount of salad and belong to health clubs and punish themselves on treadmills and so on and so forth and they look kind of fit. But it has nothing to do with the drink.
AMY: See, Alexa? Beer can pair well with lettuce leaves. I couldn't believe all the stuff that Charlie told us about how healthy beer is. It's full of antioxidants that absorb into the body. It's got B vitamins it's got folic acid- all this stuff.
ALEXA: Well if I didn't need more convincing now there's even more excuses to drink beer.
CHARLIE: Beer contains the minerals is the richest source of silica in the diet and that's good for the bones. As I like to say to people, the next best source is the granola. You choose.
ALEXA: So beer or granola? Or is that even a question?
AMY: I don't know. But there is something that we need to take a little bit more seriously and it's something that affects us all. And it could also affect beer and that's climate change.
CHARLIE: I worry about climate change a great deal and I think everybody should be sensible and take heed of it. It will change the availability of malting barley. It will change the availability of hops and the quality of hops and so it's already a sensitive issue with something like malting barley. You can't just take any barley. It's got to be good quality malting barley. And it's a high risk crop to make because if it's not right, It'll be rejected by the maltster and therefore the brewer.
ALEXA: So basically, the key ingredients in beer could be at risk, right? Meaning farmers would switch to other crops meaning less beer and probably higher prices for us.
ALEXA: That's really upsetting.
AMY: Well there's only one thing really that we can do.
ALEXA: What's that?
AMY: As Charlie says, pour with vigor. Pour with vigor.
ALEXA: He says it so nice.
AMY: He says it way nicer than I do. Thanks for listening.
(BONUS BITE MUSIC)