Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Drunk on Paleontology - Tricerahops Double IPA

The next Drunk on Geology is for Tricerahops Double IPA from the Ninkasi Brewing Company out of Eugene, OR.

Although, obviously named for the dinosaur Triceratops, the Ninkasi website also states that this beer, along with three others, are part of a comic series produced by Dark Horse Comics called Legend of Ninkasi: Rise of Craft.

And according to their comic lore:
Legend has it that Tricerahops, loyal companion to the goddess Ninkasi, acquires his abilities from the goddess’ mystical hops. While our brewery is working on propagating these hops for the good of all, we brewed this Double IPA to showcase all that’s possible. Its floral aromas collide with a splendor of resinous hop notes to create a beer suitable for a magical beast like Tricerahops himself.

Triceratops horridus skeleton and cast from the Field Museum in Chicago, IL. 

The first discovery of  material attributed to Triceratops, was in 1887 by George Lyman Cannon near Denver, Colorado, who had found a set of the brow horns attached to a skull roof. He sent the material to O.C. Marsh who, assuming the rock dates were Pliocene, determined that it was from a prehistoric bison, which he named Bison alticornis. However after a more complete specimen was discovered in 1888 from Wyoming's Lance Formation by John Bell Hatcher, as well as a couple of other discoveries, Marsh reevaluated the initial find and eventually added all the finds under a new species, Triceratops, which he named in 1889, meaning "three-horned face". 

The side of the Tricerahops box notes:
This is our monument to the big and beautiful beasts that came before us. Tricerahops is an ancient field of floral hops with a deep, earthy taste and a balanced finish.
Triceratops belongs to a group of animals known as ceratopsians.

Ceratopsian wall at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Triceratops is the one located in the far right at the top.

Ceratopsians were prolific during the Cretaceous, with many different varieties evolving with various numbers of horns and frill adornments. Triceratops was one of the last ceratopsians to have evolved with remains having been found in rocks dating from ~69 million years ago to the end of the dinosaurs ~66 million years ago. It is estimated that Triceratops could grow up to 30 feet in length and weigh 12,000-16,000 pounds. There are currently two recognized species of Triceratops, T. horridus (pictured above in Chicago) and T. prorsus

The skull of Triceratops is one of the largest skulls ever discovered, approaching 10 feet in length in some individuals and not only had the three primary horns (one above each eye and one on the snout), it also had a series of spikes along the edge of the frill known as epoccipitals, and hornlike projects on the jugals (cheekbones). The horns are thought to serve multiple functions, such as defense from predators as well mating display structures. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Drunk on Geomorphology - Salt Flats Slipstream IPA


The next Drunk on Geology is for Salt Flats Slipstream Indian Pale Ale from the Salt Flats Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City, UT. 

For this post we'll focus on the name of the Brewing Company, Salt Flats. The Salt Flats Brewing Company from Salt Lake City is named after the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, a large flat pan covered with a hard salt crust which lies to the west of the Great Salt Lake. 

The Bonneville Salt Flats

Although used as a race track in the dry season, the Bonneville Salt Flats have an extensive geological history. The formation of the salt flats started when this region of North America, known as the Basin and Range Province, started to form. At one point in time the western edge of North America was being compressed by the Farallon Plate pushing up against North America, squeezing the continent as the Farallon plate subducted (went beneath) North America.

Graphic of the Farallon Plate subducting beneath North America. Image courtesy of the NPS.

Eventually most of the Farallon Plate was entirely subducted beneath North America, especially along the Californian coast, and the compression was released. This essentially allowed North America to expand outwards, like a squeezed sponge being let go. This expansion thinned the crust, while also producing a series of linear mountain ranges and valleys. 

Graphic of the Basin And Range expansion producing linear mountains and valleys. Image courtesy of ISU.edu

As the expansion progressed, the crust was broken up into a series of smaller blocks. These blocks rotated as the crust stretched out. The rotation of the blocks produced the mountains along the upper corners, with gaps along the lower corners. These gaps eventually were filled with sediment eroded off the mountains, forming the valleys between the mountain ranged. 

Coverage of the Great Basin. Image courtesy of the NPS.

With the thinning of the crust, this area also ended up being lower than the surrounding regions. Because of this, water was not able to flow out of the Basin and Range Province, also known as the Great Basin. Unlike water along the eastern portion of the country and along the west coast, water within the Great Basin does not reach the oceans. All precipitation here eventually ends up in end- or terminal basins, such as the Great Salt Lake, where the only water outflow is through evaporation.

Where the Desert Meets the Mountains

The Great Basin currently contains many end-basins with the primary basin being the Bonneville Basin, which ends at the Great Salt Lake currently. However, during the last ice age the Great Salt Lake was much, MUCH, bigger. Referred to as Lake Bonneville, the lake covered most of western Utah as seen in the map below. 

Maximum extent of Lake Bonneville. Image courtesy of the Utah Geological Survey

Lake Bonneville started to form 30,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and reached its peak at 18,000 years ago. At that point it had reached it's physical maximum volume and started to overflow the glacial moraine dam that was located to the north at Red Rock Pass in Idaho. Once the water reached this level it spilled out over the top of Red Rock Pass. This spillage eventually caused the dam to collapse releasing a mega-flood on to the Snake River Plain. This mega-flood caused to lake level to drop by almost half within a matter of weeks. As the Earth slowly moved out of the Ice Age, the climate started to dry. This drying caused less precipitation within the basin and over time the water level dropped from the imbalance between precipitation and evaporation in the Great Basin. 

As the water in Lake Bonneville evaporated, salt that was dissolved in the fresh water lake started to concentrate. Each year several million tons of dissolved salts are added to Great Salt Lake basin from its tributary rivers. Most lakes worldwide have an outlet and therefore salts and other erodes chemicals don't concentrate within those lakes, being washed out as the water cycles through. However, in terminal lakes while the water is able to evaporate away, the salt is left behind, increasing the salt concentration year over year. 

Where the finish line meets hoppiness

After the water level of Lake Bonneville (which turned into the Great Salt Lake) dropped below the elevation of the Great Salt Lake desert, the Bonneville Salt Flats started to be born. Over time the salty groundwater wicked its way up to the surface, evaporated, and left the salt behind creating a thin crust of salt across the surface of the salt flats. Over time this thin layer of salt built up into a significant hard pan. In places the salt reaches several feet thick in the center of the salt flats and peters out towards the edges. Today these evaporative processes are help along by the addition of salt brine added to the salt flats from the nearby potash operations to prevent the too much salt from being removed from the area through industrial collection lakes. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Drunk on Petrology - Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc

The next Drunk on Geology is for Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc from the Greywacke Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand.

The term "greywacke" (pronounced "grey wacky") is a rock name like sandstone or granite. However, the term is typically used as a "garbage" or "trash can" term, meaning that it is often used when better names aren't known. Greywacke is a grey sedimentary rocks composed of various cemented rock and mineral fragments like a sandstone or an arkose. While the term "greywacke" is often used without a specific meaning, there is a specific meaning to the term according to the Dictionary of Geological Terms 3rd Ed.:
Graywacke: (Note: this the the American spelling of the term "gray" for "grey") - An old term, now generally applied to a dark gray firmly indurated coarse-grained sandstone that consists of poorly sorted angular to subangular grains of quartz and feldspar, with a variety of dark rock and mineral fragments, embedded in a compact clayey matrix having the general composition of slate and containing an abundance of very fine-grained illite, sericite, and chlorite minerals. Graywacke commonly exhibits graded bedding and is believed to have been deposited by submarine turbidity currents. 
A piece of New Zealand greywacke. Image courtesy of The University of Auckland

Greywacke is a variety of argillaceous sandstone that is highly indurated and poorly sorted. It comprises a large percentage of the basement rock of New Zealand, and so is an important rock type throughout the country. Because it has been subjected to significant amounts of tectonic movement over a long period of time (some New Zealand greywacke is over 300 million years old), greywacke is commonly extremely deformed, fractured, and veined. Although greywacke can look similar to basalt, it differs in that it is commonly veined (with quartz being the vein mineral), and lacks vesicles.

Greywacke from New Zealand's Southern Alps. Image courtesy of teara.gov.nz

Here are New Zealand's Southern Alps, which are almost entirely comprised of the Torlesse greywacke. Some more information from the Greywacke website:
New Zealand does not have a designated national rock, but if one was ever chosen, it would have to be greywacke. This drab grey stone is found everywhere in New Zealand – on the mountains, in the rivers, on the beaches. It consists of layers of hard, muddy grey sandstone alternating with thinner layers of darker mudstone (argillite). Technically, the term greywacke refers to the sandstone (wacke is a German name for a type of sandstone), but it is also used as a general term for the entire rock. 
The label on the back of the bottle has a bit more geological context:
"Named after New Zealand's prolific bedrock, Greywacke (pron Greywacky) is the label of Kevin Judd, one of Marlborough's pioneer winemakers. Grown in prime vineyard sites in the central Wairau and Southern Valleys, this is a deliciously aromatic, finely balanced wine." 

More from the Greywacke website:
Greywacke (Grauwacke) was first used in the 18th century to describe rocks in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Ernest Dieffenbach, a German scientist who travelled widely in New Zealand between 1839 and 1841, was the first person to use it for local rocks. English geologists regarded greywacke as an uncouth foreign term, but it was adopted in Scotland. Archibald Geikie’s Text-book of Geology, published in 1903, gave descriptions of greywacke, and helped persuade New Zealanders that it was an appropriate term for their most widespread rock. In the 1960s, some geologists argued that the term greywacke was vague and imprecise. A subcommittee of the Geological Society recommended that it be dropped, but this was widely ignored. The term is possibly used more widely in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.
Sets of turbidite deposits along the coast in Zumaia, Spain

As noted above, the greywacke "is believed to have been deposited by submarine turbidity currents". These submarine turbidity currents are also known as turbidites. Generally, these are underwater landslides. The landslides are denser than the surrounding water with the sediment tumbling down from higher to lower elevations. During the tumbling, sediment is kicked up into the surround water creating a "turbid" cloud. Once reaching a stable platform the cloud will settle out with the larger sediment fragments settling out first, followed by smaller and smaller sediments until the top layer is made up of a fine clay.  

As seen in the image above, when you have areas which are prone to turbidite deposits, these will often result in packets of rocks that cycle through that course to fine cycle. The above picture is from Zumaia, Spain where the rocks, once horizontal, have since been rotated almost vertically. 

Geologic Map of New Zealand. Image courtesy of Geologictimepics.com

Greywacke is a primary component of the Torlesse Composite Terrain of New Zealand. Looking at the above geologic map of New Zealand, we can see how much of the islands, especially the southern island, are covered with the Torlesse. And besides just these areas where it is exposed, the Torlesse is found below most of the younger rocks across the islands. The composition of the Torlesse Composite Terrain includes not only greywacke but also argillite, as well as metamorphosed rocks that were altered from the original greywacke and argillite.

The Torlesse Composite was deposited by submarine turbidites in deep marine water which ranges in age from Middle Permian (~260 million years old) to the Early Cretaceous (~100 million years old) with the primary deposition taking place in the Late Triassic, or approximately 216 million years old.