Interesting If True - Episode 62: Beer Bombs and Bar Tending!
Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that helps you lose weight through the proper application of diet, no exercise, and radiation!
I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me is Shea!
I’m Shea, and this week I learned that The Joker movie is the Passion of the Christ for Juggalos.
This Week’s Beer
Twisted Lemon Wheat – River Rat Brewery South Carolina
Donated by Steve-E
Style:Wheat Beer – American Pale
- Ranked #275ABV:5.2%Score:82
- Ranked #53,967Avg:3.7 | pDev: 15.14%
- Aaron: 7
- Shea: 8
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No, not Atomik, we already did that story in episode 56!
Long-time listeners will recall some of my stories about people living, brewing, and for patrons, gardening, with radiation.
It was the “light” in your delighting watch-face. The bomba in your very nearly Earth-shattering Czar. And, the nuka in your cola.
Which is where we’re at today – can you really nuke that cola and survive it?
Ah the 1950’s. It was an age of wonder… wondering if you were going to explode in a rain of nuclear fire that is. But don’t worry, between blasts Uncle Sam had you best interests at heart. He even made sure that the post-apocalyptic wasteland his armed forces were so keen to deploy had certain creature comforts… like beer!
What would Mad Max-world beer taste like? Would it still be carbonated? Would it give you bone cancer? These are the hard hitting questions that Alex Wellerstein found the answers to after unearthing a 1957 U.S. Government study called *The Effect Of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverage,” because we’d run out of other meaningful science to do, but we still had all those darn nukes and they weren’t just going to sit around and collect dust if the 50’s had anything to say about it.
Written by executives, of course, from the Can Manufacturers Institute and the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute for the Federal Civil Defense Administration. So… the most critical members of team “don’t get blown up” I’m sure.
The study isn’t clear on weather or not the executives were super duper sure that their special tins could withstand a nuclear blast or if they just had one too many bombs laying around and it was the can-people’s turn to set one off, but either way they somehow got permission to place cans of soda and beer next to an atomic test site.
And, because it was the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1950’s it needed a cutiesy name like, just spitballing here, but how about “Operation Teapot” on the count of no tea actually being used it’s the perfect ruse to keep those pesky Redcoats off your radioactive trail!
Operations Teapot, somehow, managed to detonate 14 nuclear bombs with a straight face. And, as part of those tests, on at least two occasions, they blew up someone’s Friday Afternoon Club.
Operation Cue was part of Teapot. Cue, was an “open” project. Meaning that the press was allowed to see the government blow up a “survival town” or a town made of mannequins like the one Indiana Jones survives in the my Mystery of The Crystal Skull’s Inability to Write a Script. Or whatever it was called.
As part of these tests all manner of common, household, items were explodenated, including the households.
One line of tests was Project 32.2a, which asked a simple question: If you find a nuke-cola and pick it up, will you get superpowers?
The explanation comes from the NPR’s Robert Krulwich:
“[I]n 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission exploded two bombs, one ‘with an energy release equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT,’ the other 30 kilotons, a test site in Nevada. Bottles and cans were carefully placed various distances from ground zero. …
“The closest containers were placed ‘less than a quarter mile away,’ says Alex [Wellerstein, a science historian], ‘a mere 1,056 feet’, the outliers a couple of miles off. Some were buried, some left in batches, others were placed side by side.”
Just to be clear. A can sitting on a rock 1000 feet from a 30 kiloton explosion loses that fight. Still, we as a people can learn two things from them:
1. In a game of rock, pilsner, nuke, the nuke beats everything, and,
2. Without even reading the study, we know where they put the Coors…
Now, terrifyingly, we can actually watch one of the two beer-blasting explosions from Operation Teacup. Check the show notes for the gif-vid, pic on your phones now. Astute listeners will recognize, in the lower left of the frame, a six-pack of Pabsty Blue Ribbon as it is become death, the destroyer of worlds… A title Pabst continues to win every night to this day at the Buckhorn downtown.
From the documents we can tell that they exploded 12 and 16oz metal cans of “soft drinks” and “beer”, most being flat-top cans.
They also blew up a dozen 6 to 24 fl oz bottles of water, “soft drink”, and “beer” in clear, green, and amber bottles.
Cans and bottles were staggered from 1,056 feet to a few miles away. Some were buried, some left in “batches” which I take to mean the sixer or the case, and others were placed in pretty patterns or next to objects of interest, like rocks or cactuses.
After the blasts the cans survived, insofar as they weren’t molten slag. Most of the bottle survived, though as you can imagine being made out of brittle, brittle glass didn’t help a ton.
So, after detonating 50 kilotons of radioactive super death, they sent Gomer and Gomer out to collect up the drinks and get to taste-testing.
From historian Alex’s story, the results were actually pretty encouraging. While dusty, gross, and way too hot, even the surviving bottles and cans closest to the blast had a pretty good survival rate. That is, they were still recognizable as containers.
From the… we’ll call them pictures… the cans were pretty banged up but still cans.
As for radiation, those closest to ground zero were pretty radioactive, but by 1950’s standards they were “well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” which is to say, “cancer takes a while to kill you so drink up”
But I promised you taste tests. Apparently, they had “volunteers” chug pretty much as soon as soon as the cans came away from the Geiger counters.
Representative samples of the various exposed packaged beers, as well as un-exposed control samples in both cans and bottles, were submitted to five qualified laboratories for carefully controlled taste-testing. The cumulative opinions on the various beers indicated a range from “commercial quality” on through “aged” and “definitely off.” All agreed, however, that the beer could unquestionably be used as an emergency source of potable beverages. Obviously, if a large storage of such packaged beers was to be trapped in a zone of such intense radiation following a nuclear explosion, ultimate usage of the beverages beyond the emergency utility would likely be subject to review of the taste before return to commercial distribution.
Apparently the labratory tests came back with a similar conclusion. It’s probably safe-ish considering you just survived armageddon, but it was warm and tasted like nuclear piss, which was the only reason they hesitated to approve it for return to sale.
“For me, the takeaway here is that the next time you find yourself stocking up on beer, remember, it’s not just for the long weekend,” Alex says. “It might be for the end of days.”
Which is all good and well if you’re a 1950’s in-shape out-of-shape strongman. But what if say, Shea and I survived and had to live off nuke-brew?
Well, turns out we might have a better chance with it than ground water.
I found some articles talking about drinking beer to help with “radiation poisoning” and thought to myself “finally, a radium mixer that doesn’t cost an arm and mandible” but no…
Most of these articles talk about tritium contamination, which isn’t what happens when you get sucker punched my 100 megatons of Devine fury, but it’s not what you want either.
Often tritium contamination of groundwater is caused by runoff from power plants who aren’t doing their god damn jobs.
Weighed down by two extra neutrons, decay reduces one to a proton, turning hydrogen to helium. The process releases a low energy electron but can also kick out high-energy beta radiation. You skin will filter beta, but you don’t want to drink it… remember that groundwater? It’s not for you man.
Inside the body beta radiation causes the Radium Girls story we recently aired and don’t no one want that.
Fortunately, you can flush some beta radiation out of your system before it settles in your bones by increasing the “turnover” of water in your system. Which is apparently the science way to say, drink a bunch and piss a lot. Now, people who know about drinking beer know that it’s really a two step process: you drink a lot, then you piss a lot.
That connection between drinking and pissing is why beer is among a number of recommended drinks on the EPA’s guidelines for tritium safety. Though I’m pretty sure they mean for you to take the beer after exposure, not during your work with tritium.
In the section entitled “dose reduction” the report enthusiastically states that enough consumption can reduce the biological half-life – the time it takes for a substance to lose half of its effect in the body – from ten days to only four or five days. The report also recommends chemical diuretics, but cautions that they should only be used after consultation with a doctor.
So… don’t chase your radiation bender with ex-lax unless your doctor recommends it.
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that beer is a friend of all creatures, radioactive and human alike.
- E. Roland McConnell, George O. Sampson, and John R. Shari, “Report to the Test Director – Operation Teapot – Project 32.2a – The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages, February-May 1955,” WT-1213 (24 January 1957), copy in the Nuclear Testing Archive, Las Vegas, NV, document NV0011597.
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We’re back in the studio this week after I’ve been moonlighting as a bartender so I thought it would be fun to teach you about the origins of some of your favorite cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails the word is a bit of an etymological puzzle: Originally only a nickname for an animal that rears up when irritated, by the late 1700s it had become another word for a horse with a “cocked” or shortened tail. But how or why it then made the leap to alcoholic mixed drinks in the early 1800s is a mystery.
One theory claims it’s to do with the drinks making you feel energized and sprightly, like an energetic horse, while another suggests it’s because cocktails were popular at the races. Alternatively, the two meanings could be entirely unrelated—one equally plausible explanation is that cocktail might in fact be an anglicized version of the French coquetier, meaning “egg-cup,” which was perhaps once used to serve the libations.
The origins of the names of individual cocktails are often just as tricky to pin down, with rival explanations and rivaling claims of invention often competing against each other. Here are the stories—and theories—behind a few of your favorite tipples.
One of Jenn’s favorites, the mimosa takes its name from the mimosa plant, Acacia dealbata, which produces bright orange-yellow flowers the same color as mixed champagne and orange juice.
The exact lineage of the martini is unknown, but it may have evolved from another cocktail created in Martinez, California, during the mid-1800s gold rush . As the story goes, a miner who had struck gold mosied into a bar for celebratory Champagne, but there wasn’t any, so the bartender used what he had on-hand — gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters and a lemon slice — and called it the Martinez Special.
The supposed origin of the Bloody Mary is a bit unclear and a variety of tales about the vodka-and-tomato-based cocktail have popped up over the years.
One of them involves an American bartender at Harry’s New York Bar, which is actually an eatery located in Paris, France. Per Esquire, Fernand Petiot, the bartender who supposedly was one of the first to develop this drink in the 1920s, served this cocktail to a patron who dubbed it the Bucket of Blood. He apparently suggested the name because it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood nightclub in Chicago. Some believe this name later developed into Bloody Mary.
But another supposed origin of the cocktail involves an early campaign for Smirnoff vodka. In it, American actor George Jessel said the drink was actually named after his friend Mary Geraghty, per Esquire’s report.
But, of course, one of the most popular origin tales is that the drink is named after the English monarch Queen Mary Tudor, whose nickname was famously “Bloody Mary” because of how many Protestant heretics she burned at the stake. Like the spiked garnish you put in the glass.
The mudslide was allegedly invented at the Rum Point Club Wreck Bar on Grand Cayman during the 1950s. Legend has it a customer came in for a White Russian (vodka, Kahlua and cream), but the bartender had just vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream. There are different variations today — many of which include ice cream and chocolate syrup — but the recipe at Rum Point has always remained the same.
In 1874, there was a mass prank going around in New York in which people used to tell their friends that a man named Tom Collins had been spreading nasty rumors about him or her in a nearby bar. People would then run into the local pub and demand to see Tom Collins. The bartender of the pub heard that joke one too many times and decided to make this refreshing gin cocktail. After that, the next time somebody ran into the bar demanding to see Tom Collins; the bartender gave him the drink. Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda.
One might assume that the Moscow mule hails from Russia, but it was actually invented in Los Angeles, California. One night in 1941, a man named John Martin (president of liquor company Heublein) walked into his friend Jack Morgan’s bar, the Cock ‘n’ Bull. The bartender there, Wes Price, was trying to get rid of ginger beer because no one was buying it, and Martin’s company had just acquired Smirnoff, so he had a surplus of vodka. They put the two together and it was an instant hit. As for the famous mug, Morgan’s girlfriend, Osalene Schmitt, inherited a copper goods business, so they deemed it a match made in heaven (and very effective marketing).
Gin and tonic is my favorite mixed drink and has semi-medicinal origins. When British soldiers were stationed in colonial India, they had to deal with malaria. However, to keep them safe from this disease, they were given tonic water with quinine that would taste terrible. So, the soldiers mixed it with gin, and that’s how the Gin and Tonic drink was born. Extra lime for me please.
In the 1950s, a Southern Californian bartender Donato Antone had a frequent customer named Harvey. Harvey was known to add Galliano, a sweet herbal liqueur to his Screwdriver cocktail. However, after getting drunk, he used to stumble into the walls of Antone’s bar. Seeing that, Antone decided to name the mix of vodka, Galliano, and orange juice after Harvey and his wall-banging ways.
A bellini is a blend of white peach puree and Prosecco. Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Venice’s beloved Harry’s Bar, started mixing up the fruity tipples in 1934 and the pink color of the drink reminded him of a saint’s toga from a painting by Italian Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini. Thus, Cipriani named his concoction ‘Bellini’ in honor of the painter and his artwork.
The mojito — often touted as one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite alcoholic beverages — was born in Havana, Cuba, although the exact location is disputed. One story dates back to 1586, when British privateer Francis Drake sent his men ashore to acquire medicine to remedy dysentery and scurvy. They reportedly came back with a concoction of aguardiente (a precursor to rum that literally translates to “burning water”), lime, sugarcane juice and mint, which remain the cocktail’s primary ingredients.
Staying in Cuba, a classic daiquiri cocktail—basically a mojito without the mint—is named after the village of Daiquirí on the far southeast coast of the island. Legend has it that the drink was invented by local American mining engineers around the time of the Spanish-American War when they ran out of gin and had to use the local rum instead.
The Screwdriver is another classic gateway drink for people who love cocktails. Its origin goes back to Turkey, around the 1940s, when a group of American engineers working in a Turkish oil field used to secretly add vodka in their orange juice and mix it with the help of a screwdriver. Well, now you know why this cocktail has an odd name.
An Irish car bomb is made by dropping a shot of Irish cream (like Bailey’s) and whiskey (usually Jameson) into a glass of stout (preferably Guinness). The drink was created by Charles Burke Cronin Oat at Wilson’s Saloon in Connecticut in 1979. The name was inspired by the small explosion caused by dropping the shot glass into the pint, though it has been the subject of controversy because some tie it to the IRA’s 1972 attack against Northern Ireland, when more than 20 car bombs were detonated in Belfast. Whatever you do, don’t order one of these in Ireland.
In the 1940s, Foynes in Ireland was Europe’s biggest airport for flying boats. Because celebrities and politicians flew in regularly, a new restaurant opened to welcome them. Weather in that part of the world can often be cold and rainy, so head chef Joe Sheridan mixed Irish whiskey into their coffee to keep guests warm and fuzzy. San Francisco writer Stanton Delaplane claims he brought it to the U.S. after drinking it at Shannon Airport. It was first served internationally at Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, California, on November 10, 1952.
The fuzzy navel is made with peach schnapps and orange juice, and it was created by Bartender Magazine founder Ray Foley during the 1980s. Foley was reportedly cutting orange garnishes when a man mentioned that he could smell peach schnapps through the scent of oranges. Foley noted that he was slicing up navel oranges, and he added “fuzzy” to the name in reference to peaches… So much less cool than a hairy bellybutton.
I’m Aaron, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.
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