- Published on Friday, 14 June 2013 17:46
- Written by Mikael Cho
Drink Beer for Big Ideas, Coffee to Get Them Done
I didn’t know what I was going to write about today. When this happens, normally I grab a coffee to help get the ideas flowing, but for the last few days in Montreal, no one’s been allowed to drink the water due to a bacteria leakage. This also means: no coffee. So instead, I grabbed the next best thing to help me get going: a beer.
This got me wondering about coffee and beer and which one would actually help me be more creative and get work done. Hopefully, what I found out will help you decide when it’s best to have that triple shot of espresso or an ice cold brew.
What is Creativity Really?
From a scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain. These connections are controlled by chemicals called neurotransmitters. One of these neurotransmitters is adenosine, which alerts your brain when you’re running out of energy and reacts by slowing down the connections made between neurons by binding to adenosine receptors.
Adenosine is kind of like your brain’s battery status monitor. Once your energy levels get low, adenosine starts to slow your brain function down. This is why after a few hours of intense work, you begin to feel tired, like your brain has run out of juice. The only way to recharge it is to take a break, unless you’ve got a secret weapon handy.
Your Brain on Coffee
Every coffee drinker is familiar with the feeling after drinking a fresh cup of java. I know after I’ve had a latte or espresso, I feel more focused. If I’m having a conversation with someone, words seem to flow without pauses, ums, or ahs. If I’m writing, my fingers never stop typing. This happens because caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, preventing adenosine from binding to it’s receptors and tricking your brain into thinking you have lots of energy. (Check out The Oatmeal's comic illustration of what caffeine does when it makes it to your brain.)
This effect happens within just five minutes of drinking your coffee. When adenosine receptors are blocked, chemicals that increase the performance of your neural activity—like glucose, dopamine, and glutamate—are allowed to work overtime. So while you may feel that coffee is giving you more energy, it’s simply telling your body that your energy reserves are good to go even when they’re long gone.
Coffee is Like a Bottle Rocket
The peak effect of caffeine on your body happens between 15 minutes and two hours after you consume it. When caffeine from coffee enters your bloodstream, you become more alert from an increase in the production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The problem is: if this over-stimulation of adrenaline and cortisol occurs too regularly, your adrenal glands— which absorb adrenaline to help make you feel energized—gradually begin to require more adrenaline to give you the same "pick-me-up" feeling as before.
When researchers at Johns Hopkins University looked at low to moderate coffee drinkers (as little as one 14-ounce mug per day), they found that even this little amount of coffee can cause your body to develop a tolerance to caffeine (and require more of it to get the same stimulation). Just like the thrill of lighting a bottle rocket and watching it explode all within a few seconds, the good feelings associated with coffee are short-lived, and pretty soon you need another hit to feel good again.
There Are Lots of Famous Drunk Artists, but No Famous Drunk Accountants
While caffeine pulls a number on your brain to make you feel like you have more energy, alcohol has it’s own way of influencing your creativity. After you’ve had a couple beers, drinking makes you less focused as it decreases your working memory, and you begin to care less about what’s happening around you. But as researchers at the University of Chicago discovered, this can be a good thing for creativity’s sake.
The researchers devised a game where 40 men were given three words and told to come up with a fourth that could make a two-word combination with all three words. For example, the word “pit” works with “arm”, “peach”, and “tar”:
Half of the men drank two pints of beer before playing the game, while the other half drank nothing. The results showed that men who drank solved 40 percent more of the problems than sober men. It was concluded that a blood alcohol level of 0.07 (about two drinks) made the participants better at creative problem-solving tasks, but not necessarily working memory tasks where they had to pay attention to things happening in their surroundings (like driving a car).
By reducing your ability to pay attention to the world around you, alcohol frees up your brain to think more creatively. It looks like author Ernest Hemingway was on to something when he said:
“When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky?”
Alcohol Produces Better Ideas
In an interesting study on the topic of alcohol and its effects on creativity, author Dave Birss brought together a group of 18 advertising creative directors and split them into two teams based on their amount of career experience. One team was allowed to drink as much alcohol as they wanted while the other team had to stay sober. The groups were given a brief and had to come up with as many ideas as they could in three hours. These ideas were then graded by a collection of top creative directors.
The result? The team of drinkers not only produced the most ideas, but also came up with four of the top five best ideas. While alcohol may not be the drink of choice when you need to be alert and focused on what’s going on around you, it seems that a couple drinks can be helpful when you need to come up with new ideas.
A Creative Prescription: The Optimal Way to Drink Coffee and Beer
Both coffee and beer (in moderation) have shown to be helpful when you’re working on certain types of tasks; however, you shouldn’t drink either when you need to do detail-oriented or analytical projects like your finances. The increase in adrenaline from caffeine and the inhibition of your working memory from alcohol will make you more prone to make mistakes.
Beer For the Idea
The best time to have a beer (or two) would be when you’re searching for an initial idea. Because alcohol helps decrease your working memory (making you feel relaxed and less worried about what’s going on around you), you’ll have more brain power dedicated to making deeper connections.
Neuroscientists have studied the “eureka moment” and found that in order to produce moments of insight, you need to feel relaxed so that front brain thinking (obvious connections) can move to the back of the brain (where unique, lateral connections are made) and activate the anterior superior temporal gyrus, a small spot above your right ear responsible for moments of insight:
Researchers found that about five seconds before you have a "eureka moment" there is a large increase in alpha waves that activates the anterior superior temporal gyrus. These alpha waves are associated with relaxation—which explains why you often get ideas while you’re on a walk, in the shower, or on the toilet.
Alcohol is a substance that relaxes you, so it produces a similar effect on alpha waves and helping us reach creative insights. Coffee doesn’t necessarily help you access more creative parts of your brain like a couple pints of beer.
Quick tip: If you drink coffee, do so before noon so it doesn’t affect your sleep. On average, it will take 5-10 hours for the caffeine from a cup of coffee to be removed from your system, and messing up your sleep cycle can have a negative impact on your creative output for days to come.
Always in Moderation
If you decide to drink coffee and beer while you’re working, you should stick to no more than two cups of coffee or a couple of beers per sitting, and try to do this no more than once or twice per week. Coffee and beer shouldn’t be thought of as magic bullets for creativity. They are ways to create chemical changes that occur naturally in your brain with a healthy lifestyle. (Quality sleep patterns and allowing yourself to take breaks by splitting your day into sprints will do the same trick.)
But, if you have to choose between coffee or beer, think about what type of task you are about to do and make sure you don’t over-drink. Too much of either and you’ll lose the benefits of both.
Mikael Cho is the co-founder of ooomf, a creative marketplace connecting mobile & web projects with vetted, first class developers and designers from around the world. Mikael writes more posts on psychology, startups, and product marketing over on the ooomf blog. Find him on Twitter @mikaelcho.
Illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge.
- Published on Thursday, 06 June 2013 19:45
- Written by Greg Kitsock
What started as a trickle has become a torrent.
In 2002, the number of small breweries canning beer stood at one. Now, according to the Web site www.craftcans.com, that number has swelled to 290.
Lost Rhino Brewing in Ashburn rushed out 12-ounce cans of two of its beers — Rhino Chasers Pils and Face Plant IPA — in time for Memorial Day cookouts. Heavy Seas Beer in Baltimore plans this week to ship two canned brands: Loose Cannon, its American-style IPA, and Davy Jones Lager, an amber lager in the Anchor Steam mold. Devils Backbone Brewing in Lexington was prepping for a second canning run of its Striped Bass Pale Ale this month. And DC Brau has doubled the number of canned offerings, with Penn Quarter Porter, On the Wings of Armageddon (a super-hoppy imperial IPA) and summer seasonal El Hefe Speaks (a Bavarian-style wheat beer) joining its three pale ales.
But the banner headline might be the conversion of the industry’s leading naysayer.
Jim Koch, chairman of Boston Beer, once had little regard for beer in aluminum cylinders. When he purchased a Cincinnati brewery in 1994, he got rid of the canning line. In 2005, he circulated a Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights that stated in part: “Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal.”
Fast forward to 2013: The first 12-packs of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Samuel Adams Summer Ale cans are stacked in supermarkets. Samuel Adams Oktoberfest will join them later this year.
“What changed is the quality of the can lining,” explained Koch of his about-face. “Beer used to pick up a solvent-like character from the solvent-based linings. Now they use water-based linings.”
What’s more, “the new linings are more flexible,” he contends, less likely to tear and allow the beer to come into contact with metal. “They’ve proven out, but I wanted to make sure. They crossed a threshold two years ago.”
Nevertheless, Koch says he has spent the past two years and about $1 million designing a better beer can. At first glance, it looks identical to the standard model, but closer examination reveals a wider lid and an opening positioned farther from the edge. The design, says Koch, forces you to open your mouth wider, letting in more air, which enhances the beer’s aroma and flavor.
“It makes a slight but noticeable difference,” he maintains.
Boston Beer isn’t the only craft brewery pioneering a new design. Sly Fox Brewing has found a foolproof way to eliminate the glug-glug-glugging of a can being poured. The Pottstown, Pa., brewery recently became the first North American company to market a beer can with a lid that peels off completely, turning the can into a drinking vessel. Sly Fox has released two brands — Helles Golden Lager and Pikeland Pils — in the package.
Sly Fox’s range extends into New York and New Jersey, and there are plans to expand into the District, Maryland and Virginia by the end of the year. But the 360 End cans (as the peel-off design is called) will probably be limited to Pennsylvania. Brian Thiel, regional sales manager for Crown Cork & Seal (the can’s manufacturer), concedes one major problem: anti-littering laws in 36 states might prevent the can’s proliferation. Most of those laws were passed during the 1970s, when sharp-edged pull-tabs were lacerating bare feet and winding up in the gullets of wildlife. Thiel notes the 360 End can is designed to be environmentally friendly. Crown is promoting the can for use at ballparks and concert venues, where the lids can be collected and recycled. The cans also could reduce the need for disposable cups.
“If we had more lawyers on our staff, we’d try to get these laws overturned,” says Tim Ohst, Sly Fox’s brewery operations manager, with a laugh.
Another advance in canning is the number of sizes available. Indeed, breweries can now peg the volume of the container to the strength of the contents. San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewerysells its potent Lower De Boom barleywine in 8.4-ounce mini-cans, perfect for a before-bedtime nip. Conversely, Oskar Blues in Longmont, Colo., and Brevard, N.C., recently released its lighter, more refreshing Mama’s Little Yella Pils in 19.2-ounce “stovepipe” cans, ideal for a hot summer afternoon’s quaff.
Oskar Blues, which fomented the revolution 11 years ago by releasing its Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, is experimenting with a more radical package: a pint-sized metal bottle with a resealable screw-top cap. So far the brewery has released two beers in the container: Chaka, a Belgian-style pale ale, and the Deuce, a hoppy brown ale. (Both are collaborations with Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis.) Distribution has been limited to Colorado and Indiana, says Oskar Blues spokesperson Chad Melis, but the brewery would like to go national. The big obstacle is cobbling an assembly line to fill and seal the uniquely shaped cans. Oskar Blues has been packaging the metal bottles on a two-head manual filler, which can’t spit out enough liquid for the brewery’s 32-state territory.
But that’s a problem even for many breweries sticking with the standard flat-top can. Heavy Seas is contract-canning its brands at F.X. Matt Brewing in Utica, N.Y., which possesses a higher-speed packaging line. Seven Virginia breweries have deals with Old Dominion Mobile Canning, an Ashland company with a portable cannery, which can package up to 60 barrels in a day, according to the company’s Web site. Owner Mike Horn says he hopes to line up 20 to 30 clients within the next two years.
“They did their first run with us,” says Mitch Roessing, marketing manager for Wild Wolf Brewing in Nellysford, Va., which cans its Alpha Ale and American Pilsner. “We open the garage door, they slide the machinery in, we work six to eight hours. They pick it up, and the mess is gone with them.”
“It’s an easy way to dabble in canning without going into debt to buy a high-speed line,” notes Josh West, operations manager for Devils Backbone. And it’s an avenue for even the smallest and newest microbreweries to join the rush to aluminum.
By Greg Kitsock, Published: June 4 in The Washington Post
Kitsock is the editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.
- Published on Friday, 17 May 2013 13:14
- Written by Beernewb
UTICA, N.Y. — F.X. Matt Brewing Company, brewers of Saranac, invite customers to celebrate the company’s 125th anniversary with a pint “on the house.”
In commemoration of this special anniversary, F.X. Matt Brewing Co. is introducing the first-ever Brewer’s Dozen for a limited time. This unique package includes 12 Saranac beers with a bonus pint of the limited edition Legacy IPA.
“We didn’t want this anniversary to be about us,” said company President Fred Matt. “Instead, we are celebrating by giving thanks to the loyal and adventurous Saranac customers who have been along for the ride.”
The new Legacy IPA is inspired by their founder’s original IPA recipe, which used the most innovative ingredients available at the time. Similarly, the Legacy IPA features a blend of historic, traditional and innovative hops for a heavenly aroma and full-bodied flavor.
“Great beer is our family’s legacy, and Legacy IPA is our way of bottling and sharing that passion,” Fred said.
Actively run by third and fourth generation Nick and Fred Matt, the family credits the innovative philosophy instilled by their grandfather and great-grandfather, F.X. Matt I, for the longevity of the company.
“We’ve had our ups, downs and times when we didn’t know if we could keep the doors open,” CEO Nick said. “But thanks to the support we’ve had from customers to try new things, we’ve been able to continue to grow and thrive.”
Brewer’s Dozens can be found starting mid-June as specially marked packages of White IPA, Pale Ale, and seasonal trail mixes.
Celebrate with us. Use #Saranac125 and connect with F.X. Matt Brewing Company and Saranac on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Saranac), Twitter (@SaranacBrewery), and Instagram (@SaranacBrewery). For more information, visit saranac.com.
F.X. Matt Brewing Co. asks you to drink responsibly.
F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica, N.Y., was founded in 1888. Today, under the leadership of the third and fourth generations of the Matt family, the brewery is celebrating 125 years of brewing. Through a commitment to innovation and brewing excellence, the company has earned a reputation as one of the country’s most respected brewers of craft beers, including the premium Saranac line. In each bottle of Saranac, you’ll find exceptional quality, distinctive ingredients and a refreshing twist on tradition – the signature of the F.X. Matt Brewing Company.
Ask us anything. We promise not to blush.