Monday, November 22, 2021

Drunk on Mineralogy - Ruby Hard Cider


The next Drunk on Geology is for Ruby Hard Cider from the Mountain West Cider Company

Although often referring to the strong red color, the ruby is a gemstone that comes in a pink to blood-red hue. The name "ruby" comes from the Latin ruber, meaning red. A ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, whereas all other colors of corundum are known as sapphires. Corundum itself is an aluminum oxide mineral, with the chemical formula of Al2O3

Ruby crystals from

Corundum is one of the hardest minerals on Earth and serves as the 9 index mineral on Mohs Hardness Scale (of which a diamond is 10). This high hardness means many things about the mineral, one of which is that it is very difficult to erode, often being left behind after the host rock has eroded away, but also that it can be used readily as an abrasive. Corundum also has a very high specific gravity (density), especially for a non-metallic mineral, making it fairly easy to identify. Corundum is frequently found as a metamorphic mineral in marbles, gneiss, and schists but can also be found in igneous rocks such as granite and nepheline syenite. 

Looking at the ruby specifically, the red color is created by the addition of small amounts of chromium into the crystal structure. The color can be variable though, depending on the amount of chromium and iron, with the colors themselves often ending up being region specific. Terms like "Burmese" ruby for those found in Myanmar or "Thai" ruby for those found in Thailand are then sometimes used, but the color is not always a great indication of source. 

Natural rubies, however, are extremely rare. And even when they are found, they are often imperfect specimens that require heating and chemical treatments to perfect them for gem purposes. Because of that, artificial rubies are more often used for gemstones. Artificial rubies had been produced for over 120 years and produce very high quality looking gems for a fraction of the cost. 

Text on the back of the can:
"Ruby: the cider that started it all. We sold our very first bottle back in 2015 and it's been flying off the shelves ever since. This carefully-crafted traditional dry cider is complex, yet balanced and crisp, and pairs well with just about anything. Now that it comes in a can, we hope you and your friends will find fun new places to take it."
Rubies in marble from Vietnam. Image courtesy of

Historically, the places most well known for ruby deposits are in Asia, however they have been discovered well outside of Asia including Africa, Australia, and the United States. The most notable ruby deposits are in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. It is because of the rarity of the natural ruby, as well as the beauty that a perfect crystal possesses, that lends the natural ruby such a high price point, even if it had been heat-treated to remove flaws.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Drunk on Paleontology - Soul Rex Double IPA


The next Drunk on Geology post is for Soul Rex Double IPA by Level Crossing Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City, UT. 

The Soul Rex is clearly an homage to one of the mightiest of dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus rex. As pictured on the can, the logo presents a stylized version of the T. rex in shades, a jazz type hat, and holding a bass. I had previously done a couple of T. rex inspired beers before for the Pseudo Sue Pale Ale and the Tooth and Claw Dry Hopped Lager. Both of those beers focused on one specific T. rex skeleton, SUE, located at Chicago's Field Museum. So for this one I will look at the T. rex in general.

The first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton was discovered in 1902 by Barnum Brown, the then assistant curator for the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. The bones, discovered in the Hell Creek Formation near Hell Creek, Montana, were identified by a local land owner who then told Brown. The skeleton, only 10% complete, took 3 years to excavate and was then transported to the AMNH where the paleontology curator of the museum, Henry Fairfield Osborn, named the fossil in 1905 Tyrannosaurus rex, meaning "Tyrant Lizard King". 

All fossils of the T. rex have since been found in western North America, ranging from southern Canada down into southern New Mexico and Texas. The T. rex was also one of the last living non-avian dinosaurs, having lived during the late Cretaceous period from about 68 to 66 million years ago, which is when the meteorite struck the Earth, wiping out those non-avian dinosaurs.

Although the skeleton discovered initially by Brown was only a partial skeleton, an even more complete skeleton was discovered by Brown 6 years later that became the basis for the skeleton seen above, mounted at the AMNH. It is this mount that went on to influence pop-culture for most of the next hundred years, where the T. rex was almost always portrayed in a vertical pose. Unfortunately this pose was set up mostly because of the steel armature could not do a more dynamic pose. Many of the tail vertebrae even needed to be broken in order to get the T. rex to be standing like this. 

It wasn't until 1993's Jurassic Park, that movie and tv makers really started to take a look at the advancing science behind the dinosaurs and adjusted their models accordingly. For the movie, the T. rex is presented in a much more accurate model, where the body of the beast is balanced over the legs, with the tail acting as a counterweight, forming a giant see-saw. This remodeled T. rex also gives us a much more accurate depiction of its size, where an adult can grow up to ~12 feet tall at the hip and ~40 feet long from tip of the tail to snout. But one of the most notable features of a T. rex were its teeth, that ranged in size up to 12 inches long, which included the root, still leaving approximately a 6 inch tooth exposed.

Text from the back of the can:
Soul Rex Double IPA - A hefty but cultured pint. Sweet notes bellow from a cellar cabaret... you're unwavering to behold who's onstage... as your eyes come into focus in the dark dank chamber... just so you know, he's got soul! This badass beer has a deep golden hue exposing a sophisticated world of tropical fruit whiffs with melon and citrus as the opening act. For the encore, stone fruit and juicy hop bitterness steal the show. This beet performs as intended, a highly drinkable brew to enjoy again and again.
Since the release of Jurassic Park, the science of T. rex has continued to advance. With the discovery that birds are descendants of dinosaurs, and many dinosaurs discovered with feathers, it is now believed that even the T. rex likely sported some variety of plumage, although it is currently unclear how much plumage a T. rex  may have had at any given point in its life. 

It is unclear how much this current model of the T. rex will change as more fossils are discovered and analyzed, but as one of the most famous dinosaurs, there are sure to be many people hunting for the next big breakthrough. Will those future discoveries include that T. rexes liked to hang out in jazz clubs and play the bass? The world may never know.  

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Drunk on Geomorphology - Colterris Monumental Cabernet Sauvignon


The next Drunk on Geology is for Colterris Monumental Cabernet Sauvignon from the Colterris Winery in Palisade, CO. 

Colterris Monumental Cabernet Sauvignon features prominently the Balanced Rock of nearby Colorado National Monument. Balanced Rock, named on the bottle, is presented on the bottle by an absolutely striking picture of the rock being highlighted by, what I am assuming, is a sunrise. The picture is a painting by Colorado based artist John Lintott

Balanced Rock is part of the Wingate Sandstone, the dominant rock formation within Colorado National Monument. The Wingate Sandstone is Early Jurassic (~200 million years old) in age and was formed from eolian sandstone. This means that these rocks were sand dunes that were once part of a desert (eolian meaning "wind blown"). The rock is made up of nearly entirely of quartz sand grains glued together with a mineral known as calcite, or calcium carbonate. The Wingate also includes some slight amounts of iron oxide, otherwise known as hematite, or rust, which gives the rock it's characteristic yellowish-red hue. 

Over time, this formation was solidified from the sand dune into a sandstone. And then this sandstone was uplifted along with all of the other formations that lie both above and below it. These formations then started to undergo erosion, breaking down the rocks slowly over time through wind, water, dissolution of the cement, and frost action. Water works its way through natural joints, or fractures, in the rock. As the water works its way through the rock, it dissolves the calcite cement, much in the same way water dissolves the calcite of a cave. Then during the winter time, without the cement holding the rock together, the water freezes and expands, forcing the rock slightly apart. Over the course of many thousands and millions of years, that small degree of movement compounds and slowly the rock is broken up. Gravity then carries away the pieces broken off, slowly eating away at the cliff face. 

Differences in the bedding and joints in the formation preferentially direct the water into specific areas, creating isolated pieces of rock that withstand erosion better then other places. You can see the vertical joint along the right side of the rock that had preferentially been eroded, isolating the column of rock. This likely was sourced by water running off of the plateau that we can see the end of on the right hand side. With the separation of the Balanced Rock pillar from the plateau, water likely has more difficulty getting to the Balance Rock, and therefore prolongs its existence. 

Weathering/erosion also attacked the bedding plane below the the Balance Rock, which eroded more than the overlying ball of rock. This same bedding plane can be traced back to the cliff face itself, where that same layer was also eroded more than the overlying rock. It is likely that those weaker areas of the rock also have higher amounts of erodable minerals like clay. 

The question on the display asks the most pertinent question of "How will Balanced Rock eventually topple?" but they do make note to point out that Balanced Rock is a snapshot in time that we are privileged to be able to witness.