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#1
Old 04-28-2010, 07:44 PM
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Why is Beer Carbonated Whereas Wine and Liquor Generally Aren't?

Beer's carbonation can be artificial, but is often natural and is caused by fermentation, but that is the same process that produces the alcohol in wine and liquor, as well, so why aren't they fizzy too?
#2
Old 04-28-2010, 07:50 PM
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Some wine is... the methode Champenoise is broadly identical to the way that homebrewers naturally carbonate their beers, i.e. ferment it out, add some sugar, bottle tightly, and let the CO2 formed dissolve into solution.

Carbonated liquor would be strange; distillation by definition would remove any gas from the original fermentation, and I pretty much doubt you'd be able to even effectively carbonate an 80 proof spirit- the alcohol & water would have very different properties than water alone.
#3
Old 04-29-2010, 08:26 AM
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If you want carbonated liquor, you add club soda.
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#4
Old 04-29-2010, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
If you want carbonated liquor, you add club soda.
Or Tonic Water, if you're feeling particularly Colonial.
#5
Old 04-29-2010, 09:36 AM
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The critical words above are "bottle tightly". Fermentation of wine does create lots of CO2, and partially fermented wine is slightly fizzy because of this. (I think it tastes rather nice.) But wine is fermented and processed at atmospheric pressure, and the CO2 won't stay dissolved. By the time fermentation is complete the CO2 created has vanished. An ordinary cork won't hold enough pressure to retain dissolved CO2 anyway - hence the crown caps used on beer bottles and on champagne bottles prior to the final wired cork being installed after disgorgement.

Secondary fermentation in the bottle is used to create champagnes, and also naturally sparking beers. An example of primary fermentation creating a sparkling drink is homemade ginger beer. Again, a pressurised bottle is needed.

I am reminded of a favourite story from the bar manager at my old university. Back in the day, the bar used to have wine on tap. 18 gallon kegs of quite awful riesling and moselle. The kegs were coupled into the same cooling and tap system as the beer. The only difference was that the wine was pressurised with nitrogen, whereas beer kegs are pressurised with CO2. One day a junior barman got it wrong and coupled a CO2 bottle to the wine keg. They were pouring sparkling white wine that day. It tasted even worse.

Last edited by Francis Vaughan; 04-29-2010 at 09:37 AM.
#6
Old 04-29-2010, 09:47 AM
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For most of the world's history, beer wasn't fizzy. It wasn't until the invention of the crown cap that people started drinking beer with lots of bubbles.

Try a real ale in England sometime. Almost completely flat (by American standards). What bubbles there are come from residual fermentation in the cask.

You can't do bottle carbonation of liquor because no yeast can live in that high a percentage of alcohol.

Last edited by silenus; 04-29-2010 at 09:48 AM.
#7
Old 04-29-2010, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Martini Enfield View Post
Or Tonic Water, if you're feeling particularly Colonial.
Colonial referring to what? Tonic water was most widely used by the English.

Tonic water was used originally by the British East India company to prevent malaria in India.

Of course, it tasted nasty, so they started adding gin. That's how the Gin & Tonic was born.
#8
Old 04-29-2010, 10:33 AM
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Okay, next time I'm home, I'm going to try to force-carbonate a bottle of Don Julio tequila. I can't wait to see what happens, or how it tastes! Problem is I need two litres of the stuff, because my carbonation setup won't fit on smaller bottles.
#9
Old 04-29-2010, 11:40 AM
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Having vomited tequila-based drinks involuntarily in the past (more than once, of course), I cannot imagine the ick-factor of 'foamy tequila' returning through mouth/nose. Or creating pressure within my belly that must be burped out at risk of bringing the stuff back up with it. Risk factor is pretty high there, imho. Makes me kinda queasy just thinking about such a beverage (serious, my belly just told me "ya better not think more on it!!").

To each their own, but none for me, please
#10
Old 04-29-2010, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khendrask View Post
Colonial referring to what? Tonic water was most widely used by the English.

Tonic water was used originally by the British East India company to prevent malaria in India.

Of course, it tasted nasty, so they started adding gin. That's how the Gin & Tonic was born.
Wait...they added gin to IMPROVE the flavor? That had to be some incredibly nasty tonic water, then. I've never been able to tell the difference between the way gin tastes and the way rubbing alcohol smells.
#11
Old 04-29-2010, 02:03 PM
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Um... colonial referring to the colonies? As in, India, one of the colonies of the British Empire? What the hell else would it refer to?

Tonic water doesn't taste foul. It just happens to have an affinity with the juniper in the gin.
#12
Old 04-29-2010, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Balthisar View Post
Okay, next time I'm home, I'm going to try to force-carbonate a bottle of Don Julio tequila. I can't wait to see what happens, or how it tastes! Problem is I need two litres of the stuff, because my carbonation setup won't fit on smaller bottles.
I anxiously await the results of your test.
#13
Old 04-29-2010, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Aesiron View Post
Beer's carbonation can be artificial, but is often natural and is caused by fermentation, but that is the same process that produces the alcohol in wine and liquor, as well, so why aren't they fizzy too?
Wine can be made fizzy, too. Just bottle before it's fully fermented out or add additional fermentables at bottling. (The traditional methode champenoise is a bit more involved than just this, but the same general principle.) The yeast eats the additional sugars, farts it own CO2, there's no place for it to go (unless pressure builds up so much that the cap, cork, or bottle pop) so it remains in solution until you open it. Then it gets fizzy when it comes out of solution.

Liquor is distilled from the product of fermentation. When you ferment something, you generally can't get anything higher than about 15%-20% alcohol tops. What happens then, in the process of distillation, is you basically boil it off and, because of the different boiling points for water and alcohol, you have a rig set up in such a way to catch the alcohol condensate (which boils off before the water.) When you're done, you'll have a clear liquid which is your distilled alcohol. You then age it, and then dilute it down to 40% (or whatever you want) using an alcohol hydrometer (just a simple glass device that floats in the water.)

So, there's just no opportunity for distilled alcohol to naturally carbonate. The yeasts are all dead from the distilling process but, even if you were to reintroduce the yeasts, they would die from the high alcohol concentrations. Besides, what would the point of carbonating liquor be? With alcohols you drink by the glass it makes some sense, for adding to the mouthfeel and maybe accentuating the aromas, but for something that it usually drunk in 1.5-2 fl. oz. increments, I don't see the appeal.
#14
Old 04-29-2010, 03:12 PM
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I watched a movie recently (not sure which) where the characters used dry ice to carbonate and cool liquor without having to water it down with soda. I don't know for sure if it works, but I intend to give it a try the next time I have dry ice and liquor in the same place at the same time. (Unfortunately, that could be never).
#15
Old 04-29-2010, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
I watched a movie recently (not sure which) where the characters used dry ice to carbonate and cool liquor without having to water it down with soda. I don't know for sure if it works, but I intend to give it a try the next time I have dry ice and liquor in the same place at the same time. (Unfortunately, that could be never).
yes it works.

you need to do this with caution. an alcohol beverage can be liquid below the freezing point of water, the higher concentration of alcohol the colder it can get and still be liquid.

if you swallowed a liquid below the freezing point of water you could freeze mouth tissue, tongue and throat giving yourself frostbite. this could be anywhere from a minor to a major injury.

if you did this use a thermometer and keep it above the freezing point of water.
#16
Old 04-29-2010, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Wait...they added gin to IMPROVE the flavor? That had to be some incredibly nasty tonic water, then. I've never been able to tell the difference between the way gin tastes and the way rubbing alcohol smells.
The difference in taste between really cheap gin and premium gin is considerable. The cheap stuff does taste awful, but the good stuff is, well, pretty good!
#17
Old 04-29-2010, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
The difference in taste between really cheap gin and premium gin is considerable. The cheap stuff does taste awful, but the good stuff is, well, pretty good!
I'll have to order something made with top-shelf stuff then, because my first experiences with gin & tonic were at wedding reception open bars, and those experiences made me wary of spending any extra money for the top brands to see if the quality improved.
#18
Old 04-29-2010, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
I'll have to order something made with top-shelf stuff then, because my first experiences with gin & tonic were at wedding reception open bars, and those experiences made me wary of spending any extra money for the top brands to see if the quality improved.
One word. Bombay.
#19
Old 04-29-2010, 10:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khendrask View Post
Colonial referring to what? Tonic water was most widely used by the English.

Tonic water was used originally by the British East India company to prevent malaria in India.

Of course, it tasted nasty, so they started adding gin. That's how the Gin & Tonic was born.
You're new here, aren't you? (I'm the board's resident Colonialist/Imperialist/British Empire Military Historian, you see)

Quote:
Originally Posted by The dread simoom View Post
One word. Bombay.
The second word, lest you're currently booking flights to India, is "Sapphire". Bombay Sapphire gin was the stuff they served aboard Concorde, and under no circumstances should you even think about considering another brand.
#20
Old 04-29-2010, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
If you want carbonated liquor, you add club soda.
I don't.
#21
Old 04-30-2010, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Martini Enfield View Post
The second word, lest you're currently booking flights to India, is "Sapphire". Bombay Sapphire gin was the stuff they served aboard Concorde, and under no circumstances should you even think about considering another brand.
The third word would be - Hendrick's.
Ignore all other words.
#22
Old 04-30-2010, 01:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Wait...they added gin to IMPROVE the flavor? That had to be some incredibly nasty tonic water, then. I've never been able to tell the difference between the way gin tastes and the way rubbing alcohol smells.
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Originally Posted by Teacake View Post
Tonic water doesn't taste foul. It just happens to have an affinity with the juniper in the gin.
Modern tonic water doesn't taste foul, because it contains trace amounts of quinine, and is sweetened. The amount of quinine in modern tonic water (83 parts per million in the US) isn't enough to prevent malaria, or do anything other than add a hint of bitterness.

Tonic water originally contained large amounts of quinine, and was unsweetened, and hence tasted foul.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martini Enfield View Post
The second word, lest you're currently booking flights to India, is "Sapphire". Bombay Sapphire gin was the stuff they served aboard Concorde, and under no circumstances should you even think about considering another brand.
This. Although regular Bombay Dry gin is fine too. Sapphire is the premium stuff.

ETA: If you can find Plymouth, buy that instead. It was Churchill's gin.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 04-30-2010 at 01:37 AM.
#23
Old 04-30-2010, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by bump View Post
Some wine is... the methode Champenoise is broadly identical to the way that homebrewers naturally carbonate their beers, i.e. ferment it out, add some sugar, bottle tightly, and let the CO2 formed dissolve into solution.

Carbonated liquor would be strange; distillation by definition would remove any gas from the original fermentation, and I pretty much doubt you'd be able to even effectively carbonate an 80 proof spirit- the alcohol & water would have very different properties than water alone.
While posted to Jordan, I went on a group tour to the local brewery. Christian owned, if anyone asks. They brewed Beck's beer and other brands under license. They also "bottled" soft drinks and liquor. The Liquor was carbonated in the cans. --One woman said it was "Scotch and Soda". After finishinig a 33cl can, she was pored back onto the bus. --When the Dutch brew master was asked, he said that the carbonation kept the cans from being crushed when they were smuggled into Iraq on camels and donkeys.
#24
Old 04-30-2010, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
The third word would be - Hendrick's.
Ignore all other words.
I suppose Hendricks is acceptable if you find yourself out of Bombay Sapphire and your valet is unable to get to Fortnum's to acquire more.
#25
Old 04-30-2010, 11:10 AM
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I'm a fan of Junipero, Boodles and Plymouth more than any other brands. Hendrick's is great for mixed drinks, but doesn't do as well in a G&T IMO. because it's not as juniper-centric as some of the others.

Plymouth's a great all-around gin though- good for martinis, good for mixed drinks, and makes a decent G&T.

And what I meant by "distillation by definition would remove any gas" is that if you take something that might be carbonated, and then boil it, and condense the vapors, that resulting condensate is going to be uncarbonated. You'd have to somehow carbonate it, and I don't know how much CO2 you can dissolve in solution in an 80 proof drink- a lot less than plain water for sure.
#26
Old 04-30-2010, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
For most of the world's history, beer wasn't fizzy. It wasn't until the invention of the crown cap that people started drinking beer with lots of bubbles.

Try a real ale in England sometime. Almost completely flat (by American standards). What bubbles there are come from residual fermentation in the cask.

You can't do bottle carbonation of liquor because no yeast can live in that high a percentage of alcohol.
There's a few styles of English ale that are carbonated, especially if bought in bottles. Spitfire is an example. Bitter is always flat, though.

Last edited by Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party; 04-30-2010 at 11:30 AM.
#27
Old 04-30-2010, 01:03 PM
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Other ideas for beer vs. liquor; the order is debatable:

1. Maintaing proper carbonation is key to maintaining the taste. A single serving of alcohol in beer is more or less a pint; liquor is about 1/10th that. Thus, a bottle or can's carbonation level is easy to maintain all the way to fnal consumption. Liquor in larger bottles would be more like a 2L soda - you've got to go through a lot quickly to avoid it going flat and tasing bad. Beer recipes are tuned so they taste good carbonated. This could be done with liquor, but...

2. Beer yeasts are still viable at 5-10% alcohol levels, so naturally carbonating in the bottle is simply a matter of adding a dollop of sugar, capping and waiting a week or three. This was practical for pre-to-early industrial beer production. Liquors are distilled to concentrate the alcohol beyond the yeast's ability to survive, so natural carbonation is out.

3. Beer is more of a refreshment when you're thirsty, and carbonation enhances that. Liquor is for savoring; drink it straight as a thirst-quencher and you'll be out in no time.
#28
Old 04-30-2010, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by tallcoldone View Post
3. Beer is more of a refreshment when you're thirsty, and carbonation enhances that. Liquor is for savoring; drink it straight as a thirst-quencher and you'll be out in no time.
I'm guessing you don't drink a lot of Imperial stouts, barleywines, and the like. They are definitely made for savoring.

For the average 4-5% abv lager drinker, though, I'd agree completely.
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