Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Österreichische Biere!

"He was a wise man who invented beer." ~ Plato

Virtually every country seems to have at least one -- sometimes several -- locally brewed beers.  To paraphrase Frank Zappa, a real country has a flagship beer, airline, perhaps a football (soccer?) team, and maybe a stockpile of nuclear weapons, although at the very least, it needs a beer.  And Austria (a real country -- woohoo!), fortunately, has quite a few beers...which we set out to sample and test our skill in identifying which-was-which with several of our friends.  The setup of our beer tasting-testing party was simple:  every person would be allowed to sample/taste each of the beers then when they were ready to move onto the testing, another person would retrieve a list containing a random shuffling of the order in which the beers should be tested.  I created each beer-testing sequence using the random number generator from Stata (a statistical program I use) -- you can find the program I wrote here -- then I compared each sequence to all the others to verify that no two sequences were the same.  (And I wonder why progress on my dissertation is so s-l-o-w??)  The six beers Lisa and I chose for the party are among the more popular in Austria -- Gosser, Ottakringer, Puntigamer, Schwechater, Stiegl, & Zipfer -- and some of which a few of us were confident we'd be able to easily identify and distinguish from the others.  Turns out our confidence was grossly misplaced:  the overwhelming majority of us came up with just one correct answer.  Oh well, at least it was a reason to stock our fridge with 72 half-liter (~17 ounce) cans of beer! 

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