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Tuesday
Aug272013

DARK BEERS: MORE THAN JUST A WINTER TIPPLE

Dark-beer lovers are creatures that emerge each winter, shed their ales and commercial lagers and nurse rich, oatmealy, coffee-hinted brews with smug self satisfaction. 

They are also healthier than normal beer drinkers, according to Spanish research.

That may be taken with a grain of salt, given that Spain is responsible for some of the most mediocre beers known to commercial brewing and has no craft beer scene worth the name, but Spanish researchers have found that dark beer has more free iron than normal beer.

The researchers, from the University of Valladoid (try saying that drunk) analysed 40 beer brands and found that the levels of free iron, essential in the human diet, helps to oxidise the organic compounds in beer.

With beers drawn from five continents (this is starting to sound like a booze up to us), the researchers found dark beers had an average free-iron content of 121 parts per billion, versus just 92 for pale beers and a meagre 63 from (whisper it) non-alcoholic beers.

"Although these quantities are very small, the differences are apparent and could be due to the production processes or raw materials used in manufacturing," according to Carlos Blanco, professor of Food Technology at UVa and co-author of the study.

Published in the Journal of The Science of Food and Agriculture, the study suggests dark beer's higher iron levels relate to the types of malt and hops used in production, along with the extra filtering with diatomaceous earth for normal ales and lagers.

The study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, indicates that higher iron content in dark beer could be explained by the malt and hop extracts used to produce it. Diatomaceous earth is a porous, sedimentary rock with micro-algae which lightens the colour of beer but also traps the iron.

For non-alcoholic beer, most brewers use a vacuum evaporation system to lower the alcohol, which also removes iron ions.

The study tested 17 Spanish beers and 23 beers from other countries, with 28 pale, 6 dark and 6 non-alcoholic beers. The beers with the highest iron content were a dark Spanish beer (165 ppb) and a dark Mexican beer (130 ppb). Those that had the lowest levels of iron were from The Netherlands and Ireland (41 ppb and 47 ppb, respectively).

Researchers validated the technique they used to analyse iron (differential pulse adsorptive stripping voltammetry technique), which is "an ultra-sensitive, selective, rapid, reliable and cost-effective method". The team has also recently applied an 'electronic tongue' for the first time to quantify the degree of bitterness and alcohol in beer.

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