Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flammable beer

It was late 1995. Clipper City Brewing Company was set to open.

The local fire marshall paid the obligatory visit and said this: the fermentation tanks in the brewery needed to be fireproofed, or he would not allow the brewery to open.

His reason?

Beer was a flammable substance. Beer?

Beer does indeed contain solids, but the amount is minuscule. Water comprises 95% of most beers. Thus, it might be conceivable for beer to ignite ... but at a temperature greater than the melting point of steel (i.e., greater than 1000 *F).

If entire Clipper City Brewery were engulfed in flames, God forbid, ignited from some terrible catastrophe, only then, when the very stainless steel tanks which held the beer began to melt, only then, might the beer actually combust.

Well, that was a deal stopper, a bureaucratic atomic bomb.

Clipper's Hugh Sisson, thinking quickly (and I would assume, frantically) placed a call to the G. Heilemann brewery down the street (formerly National Brewing Company). If fermentation and maturation tanks needed to be fireproofed, then G. Heilemann, a major local economic contributor, would also have to cease its operations.

The head brewer there took Hugh's call. He hung up the phone and placed a call.

The next day, Clipper City was cleared to begin brewing operations. Fire Marshall 'Bill' had changed his verdict.

And, then today, I read this story in the science news: Radio Frequencies Help Burn Salt Water.

A researcher has discovered that salt water burns ... easily.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

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