Karen Lamb and David Farmer in The Conversation:
This St Patrick’s Day, revellers around the world will crowd the streets seeking one of Ireland’s national drinks: a pint of Guinness. But besides this tasty stout, one of the most fundamental and commonly used tools of science also has its origins at the Guinness brewery.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Guinness was scaling up its operations, and was interested in applying a scientific approach to all aspects of Guinness production: from barley growth right through to the Guinness taste.
Before adopting a scientific approach, brewers at Guinness relied on subjective methods, such as the appearance and scent of hops, to assess produce quality.
Once scientific brewers were recruited, a more objective approach was taken. The first scientific brewer, Thomas Bennett Case, was hired in 1893 and he believed that the amount of soft resins in hops was related to the quality of Guinness. He was therefore keen to estimate the amount of soft resin in particular crops of hops.
The challenge facing Case was that he, like any scientist, could not measure everything at once. It was not possible for him to assess the amount of soft resin in every single one of the countless hop flowers (added by the thousands to enormous vats of soon-to-be Guinness) in his charge.