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Beer. Science? Beer science.

Free Science Literacy Week chat features beer
1409 BeerScience 8566 km
BEER SCIENCE – Matthew Atkins of Endeavour Brewing demonstrates how he uses hydrometers and pH meters to see if the beer he makes is ready to drink. Atkins will be hosting a free talk Sept. 19 at his brewery on the science of beer as part of Science Literacy Week. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Beer fans can ponder the science behind the perfect pint over a pint next week as part of a free lecture night organized by the St. Albert Public Library.

The library is holding a free lecture night at Endeavour Brewing on Thursday, Sept. 19 as part of Science Literacy Week. The adults-only event is meant to promote Canadian research and get people interested in science.

Science literacy is all about being able to appreciate the nature of research and the role of science in our everyday lives, said Michele Pagliuso, who organized this event for the library.

“Science literacy shines a light on how science underlies all our daily activities,” she said. “We can understand beer through that kind of scientific lens.”

Beer and physics

A beer fan herself, Pagliuso said she asked the folks at St. Albert’s Endeavour Brewing if they wanted to take part in this event. Owner Matthew Atkins turned out to be a library supporter and science enthusiast, and agreed.

Thursday’s event will feature a talk by Atkins on the science of beer and a tour of his brewery, as well as beer for purchase.

“It’s great to have a beer while listening to some interesting topics,” Pagliuso said.

Beer brewing is a complex scientific process that has direct links to Louis Pasteur’s work on pasteurization and germ theory, said Atkins, a mechanical engineer by trade.

“Science makes the world go ’round,” he said, and if you know the science behind a building or a beer, your can better appreciate it.

“It’s fun and cool to learn how things are made locally.”

Atkins said beer is made up of four ingredients – water, hops, yeast, and malts – that interact in a complex series of chemical reactions. The enzymatic power of the malt, the hardness of the water, the breed of yeast, temperature, pH, pressure – all these elements and more come together to affect a drink’s look and taste.

“It’s all in the process and the science of how you make it. You change one thing, and you have an entirely different beer,” Atkins said.

Also speaking at Thursday’s event is University of Alberta PhD student Pramodh Senarath Yapa, who submitted the winning entry to the 2018 International Dance Your PhD Contest (Superconductivity: the Musical!).

Senarath Yapa said he grew up listening to his father read him pages from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and ever since has had a passion for physics. While he doesn’t drink himself, he has taken part in the Pint of Science speaker series (which has scientists give talks in bars).

“Quantum physics seems very remote from everyone’s idea of everyday experience,” he said, but it’s actually something we rely on every day. Transistors work because of quantum effects, for example, and physicists cannot explain how electrons flow through wires without quantum theory.

Senarath Yapa said he planned to talk about the history of quantum mechanics and how Alberta will fit into the next quantum revolution, and hoped to share his excitement for the subject with others.

“Being able to understand the universe by writing down symbols on a page is just a beautiful, beautiful thing.”

The Science for Literacy event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Endeavour Brewing Company (215 Carnegie Drive). You must be 18 or older to attend. Visit to register.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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