Drinking Contests, Frozen Beer and Pasteurization

Ask the Beer Geek by | Feb 2007 | Issue #2
Illustration by Demian Johnston

Q: I’m taking part in a local beer-drinking contest. It is the first one in our neighborhood, ever. I myself am only 5’9” and 185 pounds, and part of a five-man team. I’m probably the smallest guy in the competition. I have a pretty good tolerance for beer, I believe, but I have never had to drink beer as fast as I am going to have to for this competition. It is a quarter-keg race with four people of the five-man teams drinking at all times. The fifth man is a sub. The kicker is that you cannot throw up or you are disqualified. Are there any tips you can give me to “hang with the big boys?” Anything helpful would be appreciated. Thank you. —Bill in New Jersey

A: Yeah, I have a tip for you: You’re all pathetic.

Q: If beer becomes frozen will it be all right to drink when it thaws out? —James in Texas

A: Sure, it’ll be all right to drink, but it’s not going to taste all that great. When beer freezes, things begin to break down. The ingredients literally separate, and when you thaw the beer they don’t come back together. Sometimes insoluble flakes form too, which is not cool, and you’ll definitely notice a dramatic decrease in carbonation, or you may wind up with zero carbonation.

That said, don’t waste a frozen beer. You can always use it as part of a base for soups, stews and brines.

Q: I drink Corona Light. Someone told me the lime is placed on the mouth of the bottle to keep flies away in Mexico, not for added flavor. Is this true? —Michael in Kansas

A: Michael, your choice in beer sucks, but I’ll answer your question anyway.

Historically, some say that cans of beer were stored in dusty conditions, and that a wedge of lime was ideal for cleaning the mouth of the can. Others note that the caps on early Mexican beer bottles were unlined and created a ring of rust on the bottle rim—again, a wedge of lime was used to clean. But the idea of placing a lime wedge in the opening to keep out the flies does indeed hold some truth.

Today, however, the whole lime-in-Mexican-beer thing is a gimmick. Its only purpose is to give flavor to bland beer and add a bit of faux exoticism to the proceedings.

Q: Hi. I’m hoping you can help my husband and I figure out if there are any decent bottled, pasteurized microbrews available. We’ve been off of the mass-produced beers and into microbrews for years now. The problem is this: My husband will soon be starting a new medication to slow down the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and needs to avoid unpasteurized microbrews or anything that has live bacteria, such as sauerkraut, certain cheeses, etc. Any recommendations? Your help would be appreciated.—Sheri in Pennsylvania

A: Sheri, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s condition, but glad to hear you’ve traded up. Unfortunately, many craft beers are unpasteurized, with many also being unfiltered (sediment in the bottle) and bottle-conditioned (yeast in the bottle). As this is a serious matter, I recommend that you contact breweries directly for this information. You can start by checking out our beer directory for brewery listings and contact information.