Atomic Ale

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Author Brent Zundel

By Brent Zundel
For the MSU Exponent
October 11, 2012

Quick: What would you do if a nuclear bomb exploded over Bozeman? After the shock wave passed, what would you do amidst the roiling chaos that surrounded you? Futilely wish you’d joined the Church Universal and Triumphant so you could live out the rest of your days in their underground end-of-times bunkers near Corwin Springs? Drive as fast as you can against the prevailing wind?

What about cracking a cold one, sitting on your porch and just watching the world go to shit?

But how would you know that your beer was safe to drink, that it hadn’t been turned into radioactive “atomic ale?”

Thankfully, before the end of the world, you paid your taxes, and the U.S. government spent them conducting tests to determine whether or not beverages that had been exposed to a nuclear explosion were safe to drink.

A true bottle of Atomic Ale. Illustration by Micah Rauch

A true bottle of Atomic Ale. Illustration by Micah Rauch

In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission exploded two atomic bombs in a God-forsaken corner of Nevada, while carefully placing bottles of soda and beer at distances varying from a measly thousand feet to a couple miles.

Their conclusion? “These beverages could be used as potable water sources for immediate emergency purposes as soon as the storage area is safe to enter after a nuclear explosion.” If you’re still alive, you probably deserve a beer.

The bottles themselves were indeed mildly radioactive, but their contents were “well within permissible limits for emergency use,” according to the study.

Because the government wouldn’t want to waste your tax dollars, they also did taste tests on the irradiated beer and soda (presumably, less-valuable interns were used for this part). Most drinks were declared of “commercial quality,” but those nearest the blast site were “definitely off.”

What’s the take-home message here? Next time you make a beer run, think of it instead as restocking your emergency preparedness kit for the impending apocalypse. But don’t expect the beer to taste perfect; it just survived a nuclear explosion, after all.

This study was originally reported by NPR’s Robert Krulwich on Sept. 18.

Beer Bulletin

Head over to Bozeman Brewing for their Terroir Fresh Hop Ale. Pronounced “tear-wahr” (a French term describing the effects geography has on coffee and wine), this beer uses freshly picked hops (instead of the usual dried ones) grown in the Gallatin Valley, making it unique to both our little valley and the harvest season. If you like IPAs, this 7% ABV ale is just the ticket, with a pleasing bitterness and unique aroma. Hurry — it’ll be gone in mere weeks.


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