2nd Shift Brewing

I Am Become Death

St. Louis, MO


(pdf version)

    2nd Shift Brewing in St. Louis remembers one of the most significant moments in the history of the world as well as the scientist who was behind it, and they do so through one of his most infamous quotes: “I am become death”.  
    Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904.  He showed great intelligence at a young age and skipped much of his primary schooling.  He became interested in chemistry as a senior in high school and went on to study it further at Harvard College where his scores earned him a spot in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.  Oppenheimer graduated summa cum laude in three years and he then went on to study theoretical physics where he once again excelled at his studies.
    During his college years, Oppenheimer showed occasional moments of unsettling behaviors.  He was a life-long chain smoker who would sometimes forget to eat if he was too deeply lost in thought.  He once attacked a friend who joked that he was going to marry Oppenheimer’s girlfriend and he was known to have depressive episodes from time to time.  He would also dominate class discussions, irking many of his teachers and fellow classmates, but in spite of some unusual behaviors, he managed to graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the age of 23.
    Oppenheimer was offered a U.S. National Research Council fellowship and started working at both Harvard and the California Institute of Technology although he would later become a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.  During his life, Oppenheimer fell in love with the southwestern region of the U.S. and bought himself a ranch in New Mexico that he named Perro Caliente (“hot dog”).  He worked with many of the world’s top scientists including multiple Nobel Prize winners and also famously with Albert Einstein.  Oppenheimer studied theoretical astronomy, nuclear physics, spectroscopy and quantum field theory, and his work often resulted in revolutionary discoveries on which much scientific work is still based.
    There were certainly times when Oppenheimer displayed some peculiar behaviors but there was never any reason to be alarmed.  He often kept to himself and rarely paid much attention to the outside world, even claiming to not know of the 1929 stock market crash until six months after it happened, but he became much more interested in world affairs during the Nazi takeover of Europe in the 1930s.  Oppenheimer donated money to help German scientists escape the Nazi regime which ultimately led him into more involvement in American politics and he began to donate to political organizations as well, many of which would later be called Communist.  His wife, Kitty Puening, once worked for a Communist Party newspaper and when Oppenheimer joined the Manhattan Project in 1942 he admitted that he was a strong supporter of Communist principles but did not consider himself to be a Communist.  These labels would, however, stick with him for the rest of his life.
    The scientists behind the Manhattan Project developed and tested the most destructive weapon the world had ever seen.  On July 16, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped in a desert in New Mexico, a test-run that Oppenheimer dubbed “Trinity”*.  He, along with many others, witnessed the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion release a force equivalent to 22 kilotons of TNT, powerful enough to turn sand to glass and to be felt over 100 miles away.  A few days later, the U.S. dropped two more bombs, one on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki, Japan.  Years later, reflecting on the test explosion, Oppenheimer would utter the famous phrase from the Bhagavad Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
    Oppenheimer’s life was filled with political strife following WWII.  He would be accused of Communism during the Red Scare and had his reputation battered all while continuing to make even more incredible scientific progress.  By the end of his life, he had been given many awards by many different nations but the Nobel Prize fell through his fingers.  Many believe that, if he had lived longer, he would have received if for sure.  Julius Robert Oppenheimer’s chain smoking habit got the best of him and he passed away from throat cancer at the age of 62.

From the Brewer:  Our collaboration with STL Hops.  A wheat wine, whose recipe was developed by Troy Meier.  Brewed once a year, with half going into a barrel of some sort for a further 3-6 months of aging.  ABV 10.5%, IBU 100
Steve & Libby Crider - Owners


Robert Oppenheimer, 1946

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