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Lighter side of the Higgs boson

Martin Thibault

Boson de Higgs beer is a wheat beer that combines sour, smoky and spicy flavors ... and it's made with real bosons. The beer was reviewed for Les Coureurs des Boires, a blog authored by Martin Thibault and David Levesque Gendron.


The Higgs-like boson that was unveiled this week at Europe's CERN physics lab is one of the heaviest subatomic particles ever detected, but it also has a lighter side. Like light beer, for example.

The Hopfenstark brewery in Montreal has been serving up Boson de Higgs beer for more than a year, and brewer/owner Fred Cormier told me today that there are 2,500 bottles waiting to be shipped to celebrate this week's discovery. About half of that batch will be earmarked for export to the United States.


The brew has gotten positive reviews from beer aficionados in Quebec.

"It's far from a gimmick with a label," Martin Thibault, who reviewed the beer for a blog called Les Coureurs des Boires, told me today in an email. "It's a delicious brew in which beechwood-smoked malts uplift citrusy, lactic subtleties. Fierce bubbling, cracking wheat and leveled banana esters also enhance the impression of refreshment. It's as complex as it is highly drinkable; a rare treat in the New World where intense flavors are often preferred by brewers and drinkers alike."

Hopfenstark's Cormier said Boson de Higgs is a fusion of three different brewing styles: Berliner Weisse wheat beer ("a bit sour"), the German rauchbier method (which imparts "a smoky flavor") and the Belgian saison style ("tart and spicy.")

Why Boson de Higgs? Just as the Higgs boson is a particle that gives mass to other particles, "this beer gives weight to other beers ... since the Boson de Higgs has been created, many breweries try to do something similar," Cormier said.

OK ...

If a sour, smoky, spicy wheat beer isn't to your taste, there's Flying Monkeys Super Collider Double IPA, a brew from Ontario. (What is it about Canadian beermakers and particle physics?) And if wine is more your thing, you could celebrate the findings from the Compact Muon Solenoid with Hedges' C.M.S. red, or the ATLAS team's contribution with an Atlas vintage from Australia. But if you're a physicist at CERN, the most apt beverage is, of course, champagne.

A few sips of champagne at the Large Hadron Collider's control center would put anyone in the mood for a few Higgs boson jokes. BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin has put together a selection of 'em, and you can find more by checking the Twitter hashtag #HiggsJokes. One joke in particular is already a classic, and it comes straight from the mirthful mind of Brian Malow, the Science Comedian:

To hear the joke as it was meant to be told, check out the archived video of Malow's routine from Wonderfest 2009. The Higgs boson wisecrack comes at the 16:30 point in the video, but if you're like me, you'll want to watch the whole thing — and catch Malow's act in person the next time he's in town.

The Symmetry Breaking blog is doing a photo-bombing contest in which users mash up images to put the elusive Higgs boson in its place. Entries can be posted to Facebook or tweeted for Twitter attention. One of my favorites is Melissa Van De Werfhorst's "Most Interesting Particle in the World," which parodies a certain beer brand's advertising campaign:

Melissa Van De Werfhorst

This video by "recreational mathemusician" Vi Hart pays tribute to the Higgs-like particle in a sonnet: 

Vi Hart presents "Sonnet on a Higgs-like Particle."

And this one suggests just how much of an impression the Higgs quest has made on the streets of Brooklyn:

Motherboard asked people in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood about the Higgs boson.

Meanwhile, Quantum Diaries' John Huth pulled off the biggest coup of all: Getting Mark Twain out of the fires of Purgatory to witness the coming of the "God particle."

"By some chance miracle, my captor-angels granted me this dispensation and directed me to a physicist as a guide," Twain writes. "He was an experimental physicist, who I am told is of the lowly caste, constantly soiling his britches in the muck of reality. Why I was not directed to a theorist, who I was told wore the wings of the eternal, I know not."

It's just a good thing Twain didn't end up with a journalist as his guide.

More of the serious and the silly:


Tip o' the Log to Jeff Foust for pointing me toward Boson de Higgs beer.

Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.