Some people enjoy a drink now and then.   And it’s interesting to note that the pleasure of indulging usually happens with very little idea of the actual process and ingredients behind the creation of the preferred alcoholic beverage.  For instance, did you know that beer, whiskey, and ‘moonshine,’ basically share the same ingredients?

Beer is typically fermented from water, grain– usually barley— and yeast.

Hops are nothing more than a flavoring agent, which lend a little bitterness and act as a mild preservative.   Take the hops away, and you’ve got the same ingredient list for whiskey:  grain—rye, corn, wheat, etc. — water, and yeast.  Yes, much whiskey does get flavoring from being aged in wooden barrels, but this is in the same realm as the hops—more of an aside to the process itself.  Whiskey making basically involves distilling some kind of grain ‘beer’ to the neighborhood of 40-50 percent alcohol, or 80-100 ‘proof.’  And finally, ‘moonshine’ is really just highly distilled whisky, typically bereft of barrel aging and at a much higher percentage… as high as 100% alcohol, or 200 ‘proof.’

Alcohol creation at its core belongs to the lowly yeast—the same organism that makes bread rise turns grape juice into wine and grain into beer.  Yeasts love sugar.  It’s the starchy compounds in both whole grains and flour that yield the sugar for the yeast to consume.  As the yeasts digest the sugar, the by-product is carbon dioxide—which makes the bread rise and the beer bubbly—and alcohol.  At the risk of putting it indelicately, yeasts eat sugar, and then excrete gas and alcohol.  We’ll leave it up to the scientists to determine which comes from which end of the yeast…  If indeed there is an end…   What is known for certain is that as the yeasts consume more and more of the sugars from the grain, the yeast activity slows until there is no more sugar left.

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For flavor’s sake, beer is typically ‘brewed’ in this fashion until it’s about 5-7% alcohol.  The yeasts, after consuming the available sugar, are still alive.  In the old days, another ‘dose’ of sugar was added just before bottling, which gave beer an all-natural effervescence as the consumption/excretion process began all over again in the bottle, and the carbon dioxide was dissolved in the liquid—yielding that snappy sound as the bottle is opened and poured.   Same thing for champagne—it was called the ‘dosage,’ prior to corking.

But anything past 15% alcohol creates problems for the yeast.  The yeasts begin to die in their own, well, alcohol.  To get a higher proof, the base ‘beer,’ must be distilled.  If you have ever wondered what that twisty copper wire was when looking at a distillery, it’s basically just a cooling tube.  The base beer is heated, and since alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, it rises quickly in the steam, is run through the tube, and drips out the far end with a more potent ‘kick.’  Repeat the process and it gets stronger each time.

I like to think about this process when considering the vast amounts of information that we get on a daily basis.  There is a lot of time and work involved with finding, arranging, and sharing data.  Teams and individuals spend even more time deciding what is really important—distilling data down to its essence, if you will.

But just as a single ounce of 200 proof liquor can be far more intoxicating than 12 ounces of beer, distilled information can be very powerful.   The legal teams that use E-Discovery software from 5i Solutions, Inc. know this.  They must comb through every piece of data that might or might not relate to a particular case, and find everything that is important.  This data might be in paper records, electronic files, or in emails.  It might be pictures or audio.  It might be out there in social media.  It all must be examined, and the legal team must decide what pieces are most relevant, and how each piece relates to the case as a whole.  And the entire production must rigidly adhere to chain of custody rules and be completely audit proof.

The next time you’re enjoying an adult beverage, now you know it couldn’t have been done without the yeast.  And the next time you hear about an important court case, you’ll know that in this day and age, that case could not logistically be handled without legal E-Discovery software.

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