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How Beer Saved the World - DVD review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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The thing about the duck pond

One of my favorite sequences of the program came during the conversation about disease in Europe. As you have probably heard before, the water in Medieval Europe was undrinkable. Beer, however, changed that. Where the water was full of bacteria, after it was boiled during the brewing process then stabilized with a bit of hops and alcohol, it was fit for human consumption. In order to demonstrate this, Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Professor of Brewing Science at the University of California and some of his students brewed up a batch of beer from some pretty filthy water they dipped out of a duck pond. Before brewing, they turned the water over to the biology department where is was determined that it contained fecal matter along with loads of bacteria. After brewing it was tested again and found to be disease free.

They then took that beer down to the bar where the young, pretty people were drinking and passed it around. It was generally judged to be good. One guy said that seemed a bit salty, which it both amusing and horrifying to me.

So, that is HBSW. It’s a fun little piece, definitely entertaining but, keep you skeptic’s hat on while you watch it.

And the extras...

Since this is a DVD, one might expect extras and one would not be disappointed. While there’s no making-of or outtakes chapters in the extras section, there are a couple of other beer programs which, I suspect, are individual episodes of Discovery Channel series, although I have never heard of either.

The first is “How Stuff Works: Beer Connoisseurs.” This a nice little piece that is kind of a general knowledge guide to beer and the beer industry. It switches back and forth between showing the viewer how beer is made and giving the viewer something of a snapshot of the brewing industry. It gives equal time to Anheuser Busch, Dogfish Head and Pilsner Urquell as it tries to create of portrait of the tradition, industry and innovation of today’s brewing world.

“How Stuff Works” is perhaps a little drier that HBSW but, it also seemed more fact based. While there was more new information for me in HBSW, I felt more informed after watching “How Stuff Works.”

The other extra is called “Emeril Green: What’s Brewing.” For reasons that were never made clear, this show, which is basically a cooking show, takes place in a grocery store. This episode is focused on organic beer. So, Emeril Lagasse and a homebrewer wander around the store and pick out ingredients for a meal. Then, they chat with the guy in the liquor section about organic beer. Finally, they make the meal in a little kitchen set up in the middle of the store while extras with shopping baskets wander the aisles behind them. It is distractingly strange.

Odd stagecraft aside, this is an interesting show. I generally like cooking shows anyway so when they are combined with beer I cannot look away. Besides all that, some of the dishes they prepared looked mighty good and I am probably going to give them a try.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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