Ingredients

FDA to Revise Proposal of Regulation of Spent Grain

Thursday, May 1, 2014 | Beer News, Ingredients, Summer, Sustainable

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For many years, craft breweries have been selling or donating the spent grain to farmers in their areas for livestock feed, particularly to cattle. This practice is not only helpful to local agriculture, but also reduces the waste produced by the brewing process and creates a sustainable cycle of farmers growing grain for breweries’ uses, and those breweries returning some of those resources to be eaten by livestock. New grain uses manure from the livestock, completing the cycle.

A little over a month ago, the FDA issued a proposal that would more strictly regulate the transaction of spent grain, specifically regarding packaging the by-product. This would require brewers to invest money in expensive equipment and machinery, and spend more time preparing the substance before they would be allowed to sell or donate it to farmers to feed to livestock. Thus, it would be difficult to sell the spent grain as a cheap alternative, considering the overall expenses.

However, the Brewer’s Association, along with U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y and several members of the farming community spoke out against these proposed regulations, citing tradition and the ecology of the practice, which requires little packaging waste as-is and doesn’t take a great deal of money or energy to accomplish.

Less than a week ago, the FDA came out and said that it was never their intention to disrupt this exchange of goods. They’ve agreed to revise their proposed rules to allow for this sort of commerce without additional regulation, both in the beverage industry, and also in other human food industries. They’ll be issuing revised rules this summer to provide more clarity.

Spring is Here

Thursday, March 20, 2014 | Fun, Ingredients, Spring

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Today is the Spring Equinox, the official first day of spring. And we sure are looking forward to the warmer weather after this winter we’ve had. Spring isn’t just a time for cleaning or short sleeves, though. It’s also the beginning of growth, when farmers and gardeners all across the northern hemisphere begin to prepare the earth for life and sow their seeds. Flowers, vegetables and fruits all start a new generation, so it stands to reason that the ingredients for beer–malts, hops and any adjuncts–are also beginning their new lives. Troegs’ Cultivator Helles Bock (now in season) signifies the starting of the hop-growing season with delicate floral notes. This is the first brew in the Hop Cycle series, which tracks the three steps of the growing season. Over at the Rogue Farms, their beer and spirit growing season has started.

In this very special GBOTW post, we’ll share the life cycle of several plants used to brew, and take a look at how different breweries are preparing for this very important stage of beer-making.

Malts

Barley, as a type of grass, is a relatively easy plant to grow. People have been growing it for thousands of years, and it has been used in brewing for almost as long. Although it’s grown on a primarily commercial level now, it’s fairly simple to grow in small plots on your own.

First, the soil must be prepared for sowing. Barley doesn’t like very acidic soils, so if the land has a low pH (anything below 6), lime or compost is spread in the autumn to ensure the soil is right. Phosphorus and potassium are also important to produce good malting barley. Once the chemical makeup of the soil has been amended, it’s time to turn up the dirt and loosen it for planting. This is done right after the thaw in spring, once the ground is soft enough to work with.

Sowing starts in slightly different times for different climes, but around these parts, it would be early to mid-April, around when you start your peas. Commercially, it’s grown about 60 to 90 pounds of seed per acre, which is usually just scattered on broken earth, then raked over so it’s slightly covered by the dirt to deter birds. Grains and grasses are easily taken over by weeds, so removing unwanted vegetative trespassers is important. On a farm, herbicides are usually used to kill off weeds, but sometimes flame weeders are used. If you’re growing your own plot, it’s best to try to sow your seeds in lines so that there is room to hand-weed between the plants. Buckwheat can also be grown the year before and tilled under during flowering season to hold the nutrients and smother all weeds. Bugs and pests are too much of a problem, and birds can be driven off by a good dog.

Unless the spring is abnormally dry–which it seems this one is not shaping up to be–irrigation isn’t usually necessary. Grasses usually hold up well in drought or flood–that’s part of the reason they cover 20% of the land on Earth. Six row types of barley–the most commonly grown in the U.S.–don’t tend to need as much water as two row types. If irrigation is necessary, it should be done soon after the heads appear.

About three months (90 days) after it’s sown, barley is ready to be harvested. Around here, that would set it to be ready in June or very early July. The straw becomes dry and brittle, the seed firm, and the plant takes on a golden color. On a small level, harvest is easiest with a light sickle and the seed is separated by simply beating on it over a receptacle, but large farms use specialized machines to cut and separate the seeds from the plant so that they may be malted for use in brewing.

Hops

Hops, unlike barley, are perennial plants, meaning they come back year after year, so there isn’t a spring sowing period. In fact, hops are grown from rhizomes, the so-called heart of the plant’s root where nutrients are stored. Hop rhizomes look a bit like a stick-like bulb. Like aspen, many hop plants are connected through a single root system, and cut up appropriately, this root system can be used to start new plants.

In early spring, sometime between February and April, rhizomes are planted 4″ deep in a sunny area with well-drained soil, with rhizomes spread at least 3 feet apart for like-varieties. Too much waterlogging can result in the roots rotting, so it’s important to plant in soil that does not have a lot of clay in it, and overcrowding leads to less productive plants that are more susceptible to disease and pests. Humulus lupulus (that is, the common hop) are bines that need something to climb, such as a string, trellis or pole. This plant can grow up the 25 feet in a single season, so having enough climbing space is very important, and stunting the plants can result in over-crowding and mildew. 10-20 ft. is suggested for climbing space. Hops aren’t too picky about pH balance, enjoying anything between 5.5 and 8.

Unless the season is particularly dry, frequent watering need only be light, but fertilizers can be added occasionally to increase yield. Because your soil should be well-drained, it’s best to use a non-chemical fertilizer so it doesn’t just run off into the soil. As stated before, overcrowding is a problem with hops, so pruning is important. Weaker shoots should be cut back so only 2-3 per rhizome remain. Aphids and mildew are the most common problems associated with hops. Mildew can be stopped by trimming away the effected area and aphids can be taken care of by using a variety of different natural solutions, such as buying ladybug eggs or planting garlic or onions near the plants.

Mid-August to September is around when hops are ready to be harvested, just when the feathery bracteole (leaves/petals) are beginning to turn brown. The cone should be easily crushed and fragrant, and the lupulin gland should be sticky and yellow when the cone is split. If this is the first season, there shouldn’t be a very big yield, but plants come back next year hardier and more productive without all the preparation over again.

Adjuncts

There are so many additions to beers that we hardly have time to go over them all. So we’ll just name a few common adjuncts, and give a short explanation of when to plant and when to harvest.

Cherries*: Cherry trees are not only beautiful in the spring, but they can produce fruits in July if you have several of them.

Apples*: Apples are great for ciders and can also be added to beers, and there are so many varieties, you can find apples that will ripen anywhere between July and early November.

Pears*: These should be picked in the late summer to early fall, and allowed to ripen off the tree.

Tomatoes: A strange but tasty ingredient, tomatoes usually ripen in late July or early August, and should be planted sometime in late April, after the weather has warmed.

Peppers: Peppers can be started indoors as early as April and then transplanted later to ripen in late summer and early fall.

Pumpkins: A favorite of autumn, pumpkin seeds should be started late in the season, like late May or June. The fruit ripens in October.

Chestnuts: Sometimes added to nutty brown ales, these tree nuts are ripe when they fall, sometime between mid-September and mid-October.

Pecans: These tasty guys ripen between October and December.

*Fruit trees should be planted in the spring if they are bare-root, and in autumn if they are in a container.

Here is some information on how to grow your own hops or barley. Here is a specialized article on how to harvest hops.

Omission: Widmer Brothers’ Line of Gluten-Free Beers

Thursday, September 12, 2013 | Ingredients, Widmer

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September 13th (tomorrow) is Celiac Awareness Day. This autoimmune disorder prevents its sufferers from enjoying many delicious craft beverages, as most beers contain a fair amount of gluten. That’s why the guys at Widmer Brothers decided to create a line of craft beers with gluten levels well below the CODEX gluten-free standard. The Omission line is brewed using a process that removes the gluten, and they are brewing 3 different styles – a Lager, Pale Ale and IPA.. No longer will craft-lovers with Celiac Disease have to compromise on taste.

The Omission Lager (4.6%) is crisp and brewed like a traditional lager, with a light yellowish color and grainy flavor, touching on herbal notes and honey sweetness. Omission Pale Ale (5.8%) is a hoppy, floral-scented American Pale Ale that your friends won’t even know is gluten-free until they read the label. Omission IPA (6.7%) has a citrus and pine aroma and lots of hoppy flavor with a smooth finish.

Beer Glasses – Does it Make a Difference?

Friday, April 19, 2013 | Ingredients, Uncategorized

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As craft beers have risen in popularity, gone is the single glass system of drinking. The variety of glassware isn’t just about aesthetic, though. There are a number of different styles of glasses that each have their own advantages, including traits such as head retention, trapping aromatic qualities and maintaining carbonation. We’ll go over the different styles of glassware commonly used for beer, giving you the reason why they’re used, what types of beer they’re good for, and an example of a beer that might be served in them.

Tumbler Pint

The most common type of glass to serve beer in, it’s not the ideal for anything, but works well for most ales. Lots of lagers are served in conical pints as well. The wide mouth and straight sides allow the beer to warm up and lose a little carbonation quicker.

Suggested use: Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale.

Nonic/Becker

Similar to the conical pint, this glass has a little bump around the top that prevents nicking (hence the name), and serves as a grip, so your beer doesn’t slip out of your hands. This style also improves stacking, and is good for most ales.

Suggested use: Ithaca Nut Brown Ale

Tulip Pint

This pint glass is classically used for dry stouts, but it’s quite a versatile glass, as the slightly tapered mouth aids most aromatic beers, like IPAs.

Suggested use: O’Hara’s Irish Stout

Pilsner Glass

This tall, slender glass is tapered to help retain a head on your beer. Its shape also plays nicely with the carbonation and light-colored brew that it usually holds. Best for pilsners (duh), witbier, and pale lagers.

Suggested use: Rogue Farms Good Chit Pilsner

Stange

This perfectly cylindrical is used to serve more delicate beers, kolsch, rye beers, and lambics. A Tom Collins glass can be used as a substitute (they’re pretty much the same).

Suggested use: Uinta Hoohoo Kolsch Style Ale

Weizen Vase

This highly recognizable glass is used for Belgian-style wheat beer. Tall and thin with a top-heavy tapered body, this glass is great for retaining carbonation and keeping a head.

Suggested use: Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat

Stein

A heavy, traditional mug-like receptacle, steins are a favorite for Oktoberfests and outdoor events. The thickness and lid of this stoneware mug helps keep the beer inside cool, and any unwanted materials (stray leaves, bugs, etc.) out. Pilsners, marzen, helles and bocks are some of the more commonly stein-served styles.

Suggested use: Redhook Pilsner

Seidel

This hefty style is great for clinking after toasts because there’s little chance that it will break, and holds quite a bit of beer. It has dimples all over the body resembling a grenade, making it harder to drop, and catching the light shining through paler brews. These usually hold lighter ales and lagers.

Suggested use: Full Sail Brewmaster Reserve 25 Pale Doppelbock

Snifter

Snifters are usually used for brandy, cognac and sometimes ports, but they can be used for aromatic beers as well. Leave a little room to swirl in this glass to take full advantage of this. Double/Imperial IPAs, Belgian ales and barleywines are all often served in this style due to their strong scents and high alcohol content.

Suggested use: Tröegs Flying Mouflan

Tulip

Tulip glasses have a similar use to snifters, but also support a large head with a widened lip, giving it a bit more flexibility. It’s best suited for Scottish ales, Double/Imperial IPAs, fruit lambics and Flanders Oud Bruin.

Suggested use: Urban Chestnut Stlipa

Goblet/Chalice

These tend to be mostly for show, but also are good for maintaining a head. Goblets tend to have longer stems and are more delicate, while chalices are heavier. Belgian IPAs, dubbels and tripels are commonly served in either a goblet or chalice.

Suggested use: Leffe Tripel

Flute

Typically used for champagne, the long, narrow body of this glass helps keep the contents carbonated longer. Saisons, gueuzes, and bocks are often found in flute glasses.

Suggested use: Ithaca Ground Break

To Garnish or Not to Garnish

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 | 5 Rabbit, Hoegaarden, Ingredients, Shock Top, Sierra Nevada, Starr Hill Brewery, Uinta

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We all know that certain beers should be paired with certain foods. However, there’s another way food can be served with beer; as a garnish. There are a number of brews out there intended to be served with a slice of orange or lime, but what’s the purpose? And where did it all get started?

There is some debate over whether a slice of lemon in wheat beers was started in the 1960s in Germany, or whether it was an American invention. However, before the US really had any wheat beers of its own, it served these sorts of garnishes in German-themed bars along with Hefeweizens, suggesting it was a tradition started across the Atlantic. The whole idea was probably adopted as an imitation of cocktails, which were the drink of choice at bars at the time.

Since then, lemon, lime and orange slices have caught on as a popular addition to American wheat beers and cervezas. Most fans agree that the tartness of the fruit complements the yeasts used in the beers, and sometimes enhance the beer’s natural citrus flavor. Citrus isn’t the only garnish that has been used with beers, though.

Most people don’t really question why there are mixed nuts or pretzels at the bar, but they have significance. The salt on the nuts and pretzels can complement the flavor of a beer. Some bartenders go as far as hanging pretzels from the glass with certain beers. If you have a nut allergy—or don’t want to risk eating anything out of a bowl that countless others have stuck their hands into—you can add the salt directly to your beer or around the rim. This is an old tradition that has its roots in old wives’ tales of helping with cramps, and is not as common a way to garnish beer anymore. Still, there are flavored salts made especially for adding to your brew, and adding salt to beer can deflate the carbonation, which may be a plus to some drinkers looking to avoid a gassy stomach.

Salt and lime as a mix of garnishes is especially prevalent in states bordering Mexico. A michelada is a beer cocktail that uses salt, pepper, lime, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. There are a number of takes on this simple recipe, using different beers, and non-traditional hot sauces like Sriracha. Chili peppers are another ingredient that is sometimes used for micheladas.

Chocolate is another beer garnish option, pairing especially well with stouts, barley wines, porters and some lambics. You can do this a number of ways, including powdering a glass with a coco mix, or making dark or milk chocolate ornaments.

There are a number of other less common garnishes, including green olives, which are usually paired with American or English pale ales, and cinnamon sugar rims, which go well with pumpkin ales. Fruit beers can also be paired with the fruit with which they are flavored, including berries, cherries and watermelon.

Some purists believe that adding any embellishment to a beer is just a way of covering up poor quality, though. They argue that the beer itself should be taste enough, and that adding anything to it only covers up the flavor, either to the detriment of a good brew, or the benefit of a beer with off or little flavors. Another complaint about some garnishes is that they deflate the head, and as with the case with salty choices, can affect the carbonation of the beer, which some believe should not be tampered with.

We say that garnishes are a matter of taste, and a fun way to experiment with a brew you already know and love. So, here’s a few suggested pairings that might make garnish doubters think twice.

Hoegaarden Original White Ale; garnish with slice of lemon hanging off the rim to accentuate the sweet, citrus flavor and offset the spicy clove.

Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout; rim glass with cocoa powder, or just pair with a small bar of dark chocolate.

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Ale; drop a couple of green olives into this IPA, and watch the bubbles gather around them, allowing them to float back to the top.

5 Rabbit 5 Lizard; lemon goes well with this latin-style witbier, and salt or hot sauce can also be a good choice of garnish.

Uinta Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale; powder the rim of the glass with a cinnamon and sugar mix to add a little kick to this already delicious pumpkin ale.

Shock Top Raspberry Wheat; plopping a couple of raspberries into this popular Belgian-style wheat ale slightly strengthens the berry’s flavor… and you get a little treat in the bottom of your glass.

The Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | Fun, Ingredients

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So you’ve tasted a number of different craft beers, and decided that you want to start brewing your own. If you aren’t sure how to get started, this guide will lead you through the steps of malt extract brewing, from choosing equipment and ingredients, to brewing and bottling your beer. We’ll go over the equipment you’ll need, the ingredients you’ll use, and the basic process by which you can create your very own beer.

Equipment

  • Brew Pot
  • Large stirring spoon (not wood)
  • Measuring cup (pyrex glass is best)
  • Regular spoon
  • Clean jar or bowl for starting yeast
  • Fermentor (food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy)
  • Airlock
  • Sanitizer (B-Brite or chlorine)
  • Hydrometer
  • Thermometer
  • Bottling bucket
  • Bottle capper
  • Bottles and caps
  • Bottle brush
  • Removable spigot (alternatively, a racking cane and some clean hose)

First, let’s discuss the major equipment you’re going to need to invest in. There are many homebrew supply stores, and most of them offer a beginner’s kit that includes most of the tools you will need to brew your first batch of beer for a fraction of the price you would pay if you bought all the equipment separately. It’s important to understand what each of these tools is used for, and how to properly care for and use them.

A brew kettle or pot is exactly what it sounds like: a huge pot in which you make your wort. Your brew pot needs two handles and a lid, and can be aluminum, enamel-coated metal or stainless steel. It is important to clean and sanitize the pot before brewing. With a material that absorbs flavors, it’s probably unwise to use this pot for anything other than brewing, but using a stainless steel pot for other things is fine, so long as you thoroughly clean and sanitize the pot.

Your fermentor can come in three varieties; a glass carboy, a food-grade plastic bucket or a conical fermentor. The cheapest conical fermentors start at several hundred dollars, take up a lot of space and are usually used in breweries rather than at home, so we’re going to focus on the first two types in this beginner’s guide. A carboy is the more traditional choice in home brewing, but buckets are becoming more and more popular. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two functionally, but with a carboy you can watch what is going on during the fermentation process, and buckets tend to be easier to clean, given their large mouths. Buckets can also come with a removable spigot for easier transference. You can also purchase plastic carboys if you’re worried about breaking a glass one and finding all your hard work in a big puddle on the basement floor, but make sure they are food grade. For a five gallon batch, you’ll need a seven gallon fermentor.

A fermentation lock, or airlock, is used to allow carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation without allowing air in. A few different types of airlocks are available, including an S-curve airlock and a 3-piece airlock. Both of these work essentially the same way: you fill the device partially with liquid, creating a barrier between the fermenting solution inside the fermentor and the air outside. This keeps the brew from oxidizing or being contaminated by bacteria in your household. Once fermentation starts, you will notice gases escaping from the fermentor as little bubbles through the liquid. Most people use water in their airlocks, but some use vodka or sanitizing solution. The best policy is not to use anything that you would mind getting in your beer. You also need a rubber stopper for your airlock in order to provide an airtight fit.

You’re going to need a food-grade bottling bucket with a spigot. This is the bucket you’re going to use to transfer your beer into bottles. It’s also where you will prime your beer for bottle conditioning. You’ll also need a bottling tube, which is a long, hard tube with a valve at the end for filling bottles. It attaches to the spigot.

Bottles, caps and a capper are all necessary for conditioning and storing your beer. Cappers are mechanical devices that use a lever system to seal caps onto bottles.

A triple-scale hydrometer and graduated cylinder are needed for determining the gravity of your brew, allowing you to calculate alcohol content. It’s a simple design, with a weighted glass bulb being lowered into a cylinder full of your homebrew. Familiarizing yourself with how to read a hydrometer is a good idea if you want to know how much alcohol your yeast has created.

Finally, you’re going to need supplies to clean all of this. This includes bottle brushes and sanitizing agents. There are some sanitizing solutions sold specifically for home brewing, such as B-Brite, but simple chlorine works well for a fraction of the price. Be sure you choose an unscented variety, though. Sanitation is key for keeping your brew from being infected by molds or bacteria. Everything that will touch your beer must be sanitized, especially after the boil. This website has some good tips on sanitation, as well as a lot of other good home brewing information.

Ingredients

Malt Extract

For your first (and second, third, etc.) home brewing experience, it’s best to use malt extract rather than whole barley. Using the whole grain makes the process of creating wort much longer and more difficult than it’s worth for such a small amount of beer. The easiest way to begin brewing with extract is to buy an extract kit and follow the recipe in it, because these come with their own packet of dried yeast. All you need to do is choose the style of beer you want to make.

Malt extract comes in two forms; a syrup and a dried powdered. The syrup usually comes in 1.5 kilogram (3.3 lbs) cans or 1 pound bags. You’ll need about two cans to make five gallons worth of beer, but recipes vary. The powder is more expensive but easier to use than syrup. Malt extract also comes in a number of different varieties, allowing you to choose from a whole array of different colors and flavors. These are usually labeled based on the type of beer they are meant to produce.

Hops

Hops come in all sorts of different flavors, each one contributing to certain beer type’s flavors and aromas. They usually come in 1-ounce packages, and recipes can call for vastly different amounts of hops. When you add the hops during the brewing process also determines what qualities the hops impart, which we’ll discuss when we get to the brewing portion of this guide.

Yeast

Like hops and malt, there are many different types of yeast. If buying an extract kit, your yeast will be chosen according to the beer type you’re brewing. Typically, the yeast you will get is dried, but there are wet-yeast varieties out there; they just need to be kept refrigerated.

Sugar

To create that lovely carbonation that gives beer its foaming head and crisp texture, you need to use sugar to prime the beer before bottling. You can either use dextrose (corn sugar) or cane. You’ll only need ¾ cup for the corn sugar or 2/3 cup cane sugar mixed with two cups water for a five gallon batch.

Water

This is an important ingredient that many people forget to put any thought into. You can use tap water, but the quality of your brew might suffer due to minerals or chlorine in the water. We suggest using bottled water to ensure the best beer possible.

The Brewing Process

Now that we’re done explaining what equipment you need and the ingredients you use, we can get down to the business of brewing. For this guide, we’ll be assuming you are making one batch, or five (5) gallons of beer, and using a bucket-style fermentor with a spigot.

Equipment for Brewing

  • Brew Pot
  • Large Stirring Spoon
  • Fermentor and Lid
  • Airlock and Rubber Stopper
  • Hydrometer and Cylinder
  • Bowl or Jar and clean spoon
  • Measuring Cup
  • Thermometer
  1. Fill your clean brew pot two-thirds of the way with water and put that sucker on about medium-high heat on the stove. Some people boil all five gallons of water (which is certainly sanitary), but it’s difficult to bring that much water to a boil, and you can always add bottled water after the boil.
  2. If you’re using malt syrup, heat it within the packaging by putting it in hot water for about five minutes. This will make it easier to work with. After it’s soft, open it up and use a clean spoon to scoop it into the brew pot. Stir to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot. You can just add dry extract directly, but be careful; the steam will make the dust very sticky.
  3. Boil this mixture uncovered for about an hour. You’re going to need to stick around and stir it to keep it from boiling over or burning on the bottom of the pot. If the foam is threatening escape from the pot, be prepared to turn the heat down or off. Adding ice-cubes to cool it off at this stage is also an option.
  4. Add your hops. Adding hops early in the boil creates bitterness, and hops added late in the boil add aroma. If hops are added in the last half of a one hour boil, they should impart some hop flavor to the beer. A kit recipe should tell you when to add your hops based on what style of beer you’re making.
  5. You can take this waiting period to sanitize all the equipment you will need for the next steps in the process. Remember: everything that touches the brew after the boil NEEDS to be sanitized. No exceptions. You should sanitize the fermentor and lid, airlock, rubber stopper, the bowl or jar for yeast proofing and your hydrometer.
  6. After your hour-long boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. Your solution is now wort! Now you’re going to need to cool that down to keep molds from getting a foothold. You can do this by filling your sink with cold water and bathing the brew pot in it, making sure not to allow any outside water into the pot. You can add ice cubes to the sink water, and refill the sink each time the water gets too warm, but do not add any ice cubes or water to the pot itself. The pot will need to be cool to touch before you do anything else with the wort; around 80 degrees is the temperature yeast is the happiest at.
  7. While your pot is cooling, you can proof your yeast. You do this by filling your jar or bowl with lukewarm, sanitized water and sprinkling the package of yeast over it. Cover this with plastic wrap to prevent contamination and let it sit for 10 minutes. Keep this out of sunlight. Some people add a little bit of sugar to wake the yeast up at this point; if you do this, the yeast should foam a bit after thirty minutes of sitting. This helps you tell if your yeast buddies are still alive.
  8. Once your wort is cool and your yeast has been proofed, it’s time for fermentation. Add or pitch the yeast to the fermentor you’re using, and then carefully pour your wort over it. This movement and aeration should mix the two together thoroughly enough and give the yeast enough oxygen.
  9. Top off the mixture to the five gallon mark with sanitized or bottled water. If you want, you can add the wort first, then the yeast, then the water, because this movement will also be sufficient for aeration and mixing. Just be sure that yeast is not the last thing you add.
  10. At this step, you can take a hydrometer reading if you like. Here is a helpful video for using and reading a hydrometer. Do not return any brew you’ve measured in the cylinder to your fermentor; there’s a good chance it’s been contaminated.
  11. Now put the lid, put your fermentor where you want it—dark and cool, like a basement or closet, is best—and place your rubber stopper and airlock. Gently pushing on the lid of your fermentor should cause bubbles to come through the airlock. If they don’t, you have a leak you need to seal.
  12. It’s time to hurry up and wait. Fermentation takes seven to ten days, so don’t open your lid, move your airlock or otherwise tamper with the fermentor for the minimum of a week, otherwise you’ll be contaminating your hard work. After about 24 hours, you should see some bubbles coming through your airlock. This is proof that fermentation is happening.

Bottling Your Beer

This is really a job best done by two people; one to pour the beer into bottles and the other to cap them. It’s best to try bribing a friend with promises of delicious homebrewed beer to enlist their help.

Equipment for Bottling

  • Bottling Bucket
  • Bottling Tube
  • Bottles (around 48 should be needed)
  • Plastic Hose
  • Bottle Brush and Bottle Washer
  • Bottle Caps
  • Bottle Capper
  1. If your airlock is letting out less than a bubble a minute—or no bubbles at all—it’s done about all the fermentation it can.
  2. Sanitize your equipment, including bottles, your bottling bucket, bottling tube and plastic hose.
  3. Prepare your priming sugar. If using corn sugar, boil ¾ cup, and if using cane sugar, boil 2/3 cup of sugar in two cups water. You really don’t want to add more than this, unless you’d like to have all your beer go to waste due to exploding bottles. Let this solution cool.
  4. Set up your work station. You need to place you fermentor with the brew in it up on a table or other raised surface, with the sanitized bottling bucket beneath it. Attach the plastic hose to the spigot on the fermentor, letting it hang into the bottling bucket.
  5. Pour your priming sugar into the bottling bucket, then let the brew run through the hose into the bucket. It should mix with the priming solution pretty well, but avoid splashing during this process. It’s best to let the hose sit below the surface of the beer as it’s filling the bucket. Don’t worry if you don’t get all of the brew into the bottling bucket; the bottom of the fermentor has a bunch of yeast and organic sediment that you don’t really want to drink.
  6. You can release a little brew from the hose into a cylinder and take a hydrometer reading to check the alcohol content. Don’t pour your sample back into the fermentor or bottling bucket; if you’d like, you can drink it. It’s not carbonated, but it should taste like beer.
  7. Once all the beer has been drained into the bottling bucket, set aside the fermentor and hose for later cleaning. Place your bottling bucket on the table, being careful not to drop all your work on the floor. Gather your sanitized bottles, caps and bottling tube.
  8. Open the spigot and start filling bottles. Softly press the bottling tube against the bottom of the bottle to start the flow of beer. Don’t worry if it foams some. Remove the tube from the bottle when liquid or foam has reached the top, and check that the space left in the bottle is about the same as with commercial bottles. Now move onto the next bottle.
  9. If you failed to bribe a friend into capping these for you, it’s okay—more beer for you! You can cap them after all the bottles are full without any issue. To cap the bottle, place the cap on the top of bottle and pull the capper lever down slowly and steadily.
  10. Put your bottles in a cool, dark place, such as where you left your fermentor. Let them rest for two weeks, then check to see if they’ve clarified. The yeasty cloudiness should have settled at the bottom of the bottle. You can put a couple bottles in the fridge for a taste test. Like all beer, you should decant your homebrew before drinking it.

Now you can enjoy the fruit of your labor!

This guide doesn’t include every little thing about home brewing, because that can fill several books. So, for more information and detail about the process, there are a number of resources that you can reference before starting your brewing process. Below is a list of books and websites you can use for research and buying supplies.

Books:

How to Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Beer Right the First Time by John J. Palmer

The Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian

Clone Brews: 200 Recipes for Brand-Name Beers by Tess and Mark Szamatulski

Websites:

Keystone Homebrew Supply

Homebrew Talk

John J. Palmer’s How to Brew

How to Home Brew

Ingredients Series: Barrels

Thursday, February 28, 2013 | Ingredients

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When someone mentions barrel aging, you generally think of wine or whiskey, but beer can be barrel-aged as well. More and more brewers are using this method to imbue beers with the aroma and flavor of the wood and whatever occupied the barrel in the past. The taste of the barrel-aged beer is more complex, and as the beer is aged, it becomes more mellow.

Brewers generally use barrels that have housed another alcoholic liquid in it before. The most common types of barrels used are probably bourbon barrels. Widmer’s Barrel Aged Brrrbon takes advantage of the sweet flavor from the bourbon, which adds to its sweet malt flavor. Many of the beers chosen to be aged in bourbon barrels are stouts or porters. Rye Whiskey also makes a good choice, as can be tasted in Goose Island’s Bourbon County Cherry Rye.

Both white and red wines can be used, too. Victory’s new White Monkey was aged in a Chardonnay white wine barrel from Wente’s vineyard, and Moa’s Imperial Stout uses a Pinot Noir. It’s not uncommon for lighter beers to be aged in red wine barrels, either. Sour beers, like lambics, are suited well for wine barrel aging, too.

A less common choice is Gin, like Rogue’s John John Juniper, which showcases a fresh, piney flavor. Tequila might seem like a strange choice, but it complements the agave and fruity flavor in Golden Road’s El Hefe Anejo well.

Some brewers prefer to use unused barrels to add a woody taste, which can be overpowered if using a barrel that once housed spirits. The flavor of aging in a new barrel comes from microbes and tannins in the wood. Usually, French or American oak barrels are used, inspiring the term ‘oaking’ as an idiom for aging beer in a barrel. However, sometimes chestnut and redwood are used.

The history of aging beer in barrels is a bit muddled and hard to confirm. The use of barrels to store wine began with the Gauls of ancient France, but the idea of aging beverages on purpose didn’t come about until after the 17th century. The first beers to be aged in wine barrels were sour brews in Belgium. If other beers were stored in barrels, they were generally lined with pitch to prevent any flavor being passed on to the beer. However, in 1992, Goose Island was one of the first—perhaps the first—to age beer in a bourbon barrel with its Bourbon County Stout, starting a trend that other brewers have expanded on.

Ingredient Series: Adjuncts

Thursday, February 21, 2013 | Ingredients

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Although the primary ingredients of beer are water, malts, hops and yeast, there is still one other ingredient, or rather group of ingredients in beer; adjuncts. Adjuncts are pretty much anything in the beer that is not one of the four main ingredients. Some people use a stricter definition, only including grains like corn and rice, but the broader definition includes all sorts of foods, and even some non-foods. An adjunct is anything in the beer that is not necessary for it to be beer, but supplements the solution in some way.

The German Beer Purity Law from more than 500 years ago declared that only four ingredients could be used to brew beer, but brewers had been using all sorts of ingredients in their beer before that. Fruit, herbs, spices and grains have been important ingredients in making beer since man first brewed the beverage. Now, craft brewers are experimenting with new and strange ingredients in their beers. Where it was once hard to find a new flavor to try, now you can choose from countless options, including tea, donut and pizza.

Adjuncts can be used to provide a particular flavor or aroma, increase the sugar in the wort, better foam retention, or adjust the fermentation of the beer. Solid starchy adjuncts should be added during mashing to convert the starch into sugars, while liquid adjuncts, like syrups, can be added directly to the wort kettle or after fermentation, depending on what it is being used for.

Here is a list of different types of adjuncts, highlighting the most common and some of the strangest additions to beer.

Grains:

Grains are a very common ingredient, and are many times used because they are a cheaper form of carbohydrates than malts. They can affect the consistency, carbonation, alcohol content and taste. However, many grains are added to beers not as adjuncts, but as a primary ingredient.

Corn is used in a large number of beers, including Starr Hill Monticello Reserve Ale, and can improve clarity. It provides a smooth, fuller taste to the beer well-suited for lagers. Wheat beer, of course, uses wheat as well as malted barley. Added protein gives the beer a fuller mouth-feel when wheat is used. Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale uses buckwheat, which can be used as an alternative to grains for gluten-free beer.

Rice is often used in light-colored lagers, and fosters dry, crisp flavors. Rye, which is used in Magic Hat’s Ticket to Rye, is more subtle, and can provide a more complicated flavor. However, it’s somewhat difficult to brew with due to its tendency to increase the viscosity of the wort.

Fats, Oils and Sweets:

Coffee is one of the more famous adjuncts, used almost exclusively in stouts and porters, such as Evolution’s Rise Up Stout. Coffee can be used in a number of different ways, just like how it is served on its own. Depending on sugar content, coffee beers can be quite sweet, or very bitter. Brewers can simmer fresh coffee grounds for about five minutes before sparging, or cold extract the coffee and add the essence to their brew. Chocolate or cocoa, as is in Victory’s Eclat Cocoa Lager, are very popular ingredients as well. If added into the mash, chocolate can provide an earthy flavor and aroma, but if added during fermentation or conditioning, it provides a richer, more chocolate-y taste.

Syrups and sugars are often used in beer to add sweetness or increase the alcohol content. Prism’s Bitto Honey IPA uses (you guessed it), honey, which has a high percentage of sugars that can be fermented.  Honey has been fermented for centuries as mead, so adding it to beer makes sense. Maple syrup, used in Long Trail’s Harvest Ale, adds a rich flavor, but if added too early, the flavor can be lost.

Fruit:

Fruits beers are very popular, and give beer lovers a sweeter option. Sterilizing and pureeing the fruit is best before adding to the secondary stage when brewing. There are many different kinds of fruits popular in beer, including peaches, apricots, raspberries, apples and cherry. Fruli is a popular strawberry beer. Tropical fruit adjuncts, like in Kona’s Wailua Wheat, are less common, but not unheard of. Pumpkin is a very popular choice of adjunct, especially in the harvest season. Ithica’s Country Pumpkin, like most pumpkin beers, is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

Vegetable/Herb:

Vegetable and herb-flavored beers aren’t as common as fruit flavors, but there’s a wide variety of options there, too. Short’s Bloody Beer uses tomatoes, reminiscent of a Bloody Mary with some hints of black pepper and celery. 5 Rabbit’s 5 Vulture is an Oaxaca-style dark ale that uses chiles ancho, a dried, mild pepper. There are many beers that use just herbs and spices to add flavor, including 961’s Lebanese Pale Ale, which has a blend of Middle Eastern spices. Blue agave, carrot and mustard are some of the stranger choices.

Dairy:

The most common way to add dairy as an adjunct is lactose, as is in Widmer’s Milk Stout, which also has some cocoa flavors. It serves the same function as when sugar is added, but gives a slightly creamier taste and opaque appearance. There are some beers that use just plain milk, which makes it much thicker.

Protein:

Some proteins as adjuncts are more traditional, such as in Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout. Oysters have a history of being associated with stouts because they were a popular food when stouts were emerging in the 18th century. Nuts are another more conventional protein added to beer. Chestnuts, as in Urban Chestnut’s Winged Nut, are a common choice, and pecans and walnuts can also be used. Other proteins are less standard, like in Right Brain’s Mangalitsa Pig Porter, which contains pork. There are also steak and bacon-flavored beers out there for meat-lover/beer-lover crossover.

Non-Food:

There are a few beers out there that have even gone through the trouble to add non-edible ingredients to their beverages. Want to drink a book? Rogue uses pages of Moby Dick in their aptly named White Whale Ale. Other beers include microbes from a tomb and yeast from a hornet’s stomach in their lists of ingredients.

Ingredient Series: Yeast

Thursday, February 14, 2013 | Ingredients

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Let’s get down to the science. Sure, water is essential to brewing. Malts give your beer color, body, and character. And hops are the American favorite for flavoring your brew and giving it aroma. But it’s the yeast that makes the beer come alive and creates the bubbly and alcohol-infused goodness that we’ve come to love.

Overall, yeast plays a very important part in humanity’s history. Without yeast, the creation of bread, beer, and wine would not have been realized, which were all fundamental parts to building modern society. And although yeast has always been around and a component of ancient brewing, it wasn’t until 1841 when the role of yeast was formally recognized. Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of unique strains of yeast used for fermentation. The choice of yeast is based on the unique characteristics that helps support the specific type of beer.

So what is fermentation? Well, fermentation is the transformation of sugars into ethyl alcohol. In brewing, once the wort is cooled (unfermented beer), yeast is pitched into the beer to allow for the fermentation to begin.  Over the course of several days or even weeks, the sugars in the wort as well as other compounds and nutrients are converted to alcohol, Carbon Dioxide (carbonation), and other flavors and aromas.

The way alcohol content is calculated is by measuring the gravity (using a tool called a hydrometer) of the wort before the yeast is pitched and then again when the beer has completed fermentation. The gravity is basically the density of the fluid. Since fermentation is the process of converting sugar into alcohol and gas, gravity of the fluid will decrease over the course of fermentation. So determining the alcohol level is essentially comparing the Original Gravity (OG) and Final Gravity (FG). These gravities are then used in a standard calculation that will give an exact percentage or “ABV” – alcohol by volume.

There are fundamentally two “types” of yeasts in brewing. There are ale yeasts and lager yeasts. Both of these yeasts are the same genus (Saccharomyces) but different species. Ales are Saccharomyces cerevisiae while lagers are Saccharomyces uvarum or Saccharomyces pastorianus. In relative terms, ale yeasts are the most common and oldest forms of yeasts used in brewing while lager yeasts are newer. In a nutshell, the layman’s difference is that ale yeasts are top fermenting yeasts that ferment in warmer temperatures while lager yeasts require climate controlled cold temperatures and are bottom fermenting. The outcome is a flavor profile in ales that tend to be a bit stronger and more robust in taste, while lagers tend to be smooth and crisp with more subtle flavors.

From there, it’s all about the style. The type of yeast used is greatly dictated by the style of beer being brewed. For example, WYEAST, one of the premier producers of brewing yeast has a #1028 London Ale Yeast which is specifically cultured to produce bold and woody characteristics that you’d find in most British Style Ales. They also produce a Trappist High Gravity yeast which creates fruity notes and is cultured to create higher alcohol beers which is signature to many Belgian ales.

The best way to start appreciating the yeast is by taking a few extremely common styles of beer and begin to observe the characteristics that are almost universal to the style. This is usually the yeast’s signature to the beer. Sure a brewer can change the malts and the hops but generally, yeast creates a certain common-ground.

Here’s a selection of styles that have some of those clear, definable characteristics and a suggestion to try to fully embrace the yeast.

Hefeweizen – A yeast designed for hefeweizens will produce spicy clove-like characteristics and can even create notes of banana. Additionally, this yeast tends to leave a beer a bit cloudy which is traditional to German style wheat beers. A great craft example that exemplifies all of these characteristics is Starr Hill’s The Love.

Belgian – Belgian yeasts can come in many different forms depending on the style of Belgian Ale being produced. Taking a very common example like St. Martin’s Blonde Ale, the yeast used creates a great deal of layered aromatics with aromas of fruit and delicate spice. And the alcohol remains relatively mild by Belgian beer standards.

Saison – Saison yeast produces very earthy and spicy notes in a beer. Depending on the beer you can almost detect notes of pepper. The beer will remain a slightly sweet characteristic to offset the spiciness but will likely always finish relatively dry. Local brewery, Victory, produces an exemplary Saison called Helios, which can be found commonly throughout the region.

Wild – Wild yeasts are yeasts that usually are the cause of “spontaneous fermentation.” This is when a brewer doesn’t add yeast but rather allows natural characteristics of the fermentation vessel or air/environment to create the bacteria necessary for fermentation. In recent years, many yeast producers have been creating strains of yeast to create wild-like characteristics for a more controlled brewing environment. Goose Island Madame Rose uses such yeast. After its name, the yeast used is a Roeselare culture which creates a complex earthy profile with a cherry-like sourness. For this beer, it’s the perfect complement to the sour ale which is made with Michigan sour cherries and aged in oak barrels.

Lager – Lager yeasts produce very malty and clean flavors. Most commonly you’ll find the usage of lager yeasts in German style beers since they pioneered the style. German lagers, pilsners, Oktoberfests, and märzens all give you that signature crisp and clean finish that you’d come to expect from the yeast. One great example though that goes a bit beyond is Urban Chestnut Zwickel. A Zwickelbier is an old and classic style lager which allows you to appreciate the yeast to a greater level because it isn’t filtered out of the beer prior to consumption. This leaves you with a very vitamin-rich, cloudy, and yeasty beer.

English Ale – English Ale yeasts tend to create very mild flavors with a clear finish. Often a residual amount of sweetness is left following fermentation. This has become signature to English style ales regardless of if it’s a mild, bitter, porter, or a stout. Fuller’s ESB from the UK demonstrates a classic bitter style with soft sweetness and a 5.9% ABV.

House Yeast – Some brewers go as far to create a signature yeast unique to themselves. It helps differentiate their beers from every other beer on the market. Rogue in Oregon is one of the pioneers of this practice when they created their “Pacman” yeast. This strain is used throughout a wide variety of their beers including their common, Rogue Dead Guy Ale. This specific strain has mild fruit notes but for the most part is pretty neutral, allowing it to be very dynamic to many different styles of beer.

Make sure to check out next week’s Ingredient Series for examples of some additives and adjuncts used in the brewing process to create more dynamic beers exceeding the flavor profiles of the “big 4” we’ve examined in previous weeks.

Ingredient Series: Hops

Thursday, February 7, 2013 | Ingredients

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Over the last couple weeks, we’ve taken a brief look at two essential ingredients in beer, water and malt. This week, we take a look at an ingredient that plays a defining role in the flavor of beer: hops.

History

The first documented use of hops in brewing was in the 11th century. Before then, brewers used a wide variety of other flavoring agents in their beers, including herbs and flowers such as dandelion, burdock root, marigold, horehound, ground ivy, heather and more. Originally, the hops were used in brewing as a preservative. Early brewers came to realize that beers brewed with hops were less prone to spoilage than the herbal/floral combinations that they used. It was later determined that beer made with hops was less prone to spoilage because of the mild antibacterial effects that favors brewing yeasts over less desirable bacteria and microorganisms.

The Plant

Throughout the world Hops are grown in areas with exceptionally moist climates. The plant enjoys the same soils as what would be used to grow potatoes, in the U.S. hops farms can be found in the same regions as potato farms. Interestingly, they are not grown Canada or Ireland due to a lack of boron in the soil, which is essential for hops to flourish. The three largest growing regions in the world are Germany, United States, and China.

Hops are a vine-like plant. When they are planted, they are trained to grow up strings which allow them to get more growth with the same sunlight profile. When they are ready to be harvested, they are usually dried in an oast house before being used in the brewing process. However, a new trend among brewers is to create a wet-hop beer, which is when the beer is brewed utilizing freshly picked hops without drying.

The flavors that hops create in beer come from its resins, which is made up of two main acids; alpha and beta acids. Alpha acids have mild antibacterial effects that favor brewing yeasts and also impart the bitter flavors commonly associated with hops. Beta acids don’t isomerize during the boil of wort and have a negligible effect on beers flavor profile. They do however contribute to the beers aroma.

Flavor & Aroma

Hops can add bitter, tangy, and sometimes floral flavors to a beer depending on the variety, region of growth, and how it’s used in the brewing process. These characteristics can also be found in the “nose” or aroma of the beer as well. For this reason, hops are divided into two major categories, bittering & aroma hops.

Bittering hops have a higher concentration of alpha acids and therefore are largely responsible for the bitter flavor of a beer. They tend to be boiled for a longer period of time, around 60-90 minutes, to maximize the infusion of alpha acids. And this leads to aromas being boiled off.

Aroma hops tend to be added to the wort in the final 30 minutes of brewing to not lose the aroma. Sometimes they are even added during fermentation, after the wort has been cooled. This is known as dry-hopping.

Finally, there are “dual-use” hops which have a high concentration of alpha acids as well aromatic properties. These can be used during the boil or for dry-hopping, both have good results.

There are about 80 different varieties of hops available throughout the world, each of which has unique flavor and aroma profiles. Although the following are just a selection, they are some of the most distinguished and commonly found varieties.

  • Saaz – One of the “Noble” varieties of hops, this variety was named after the Czech city of Zatec and therefore is most commonly used in Czech style pilsners. This hop accounts for the majority of hop production in the Czech Republic. The Saaz flavor profile is very mild with earthy characteristics and has low alpha acid levels which means it is not a bitter hop. Some great examples of beers that highlight the use of Saaz hops are Dominion’s Beach House Golden Pilsner and Stella Artois.
  • Citra – Released in 2007 by the Hop Breeding Company, this dual-purpose hop has a citrus like aroma and flavor with notes of tropical fruits. It is most typically used as an aroma hop but makes an excellent bittering hop as well. Victory’s Headwaters Pale Ale almost exclusively is flavored with Citra.
  • Centennial – Centennial is an aroma type of hop. Sometimes referred to as the “Super Cascade” hop, this hop tends to have a clean bitterness characteristic and can have nice floral notes depending on boil time. Long Trail’s Centennial Red, as the name suggests, utilizes this hop variety amply throughout the brewing process.
  • Fuggle – Fuggles are aroma-type hops very common to English-style ales. Fuggles were originally cultivated in England in the late 1800s, nowadays they are also grown in parts of Oregon and Washington. Fuggles impart woody and earthy characteristics, making them excellent in Porters, Milds, and Bitters. Frankenmuth’s American Blonde uses a good amount of Fuggles, which are noticeable in the beer.
  • Cascade – Cascade hops were originally developed by the USDA for a breeding program in Oregon. Cascades have a nigh amount of alpha acids compared to most other hops, this makes it an excellent bittering hop. It has floral, spicy, and citrus like characteristics and is used greatly in the production of American Pale Ales. One such example is Anchor’s Liberty Ale which exemplifies the citrusy and floral characteristics found in Cascade hops.
  • Hallertau – The original German lager hops, has a mild aroma is slightly spicy and has light characteristics.  It’s additionally used in many Belgian ales and American lagers. Goldencold Lager by Susquehanna is a German-inspired lager which solely uses Bavarian Hallertau Tradition and Hallertau Perle hops to create a crisp and classic flavor and aroma.
  • Nelson Sauvin – A New Zealand dual-use hop, has an aroma that gives impressions of Sauvignon Blanc grapes or “crushed gooseberry.” These hops have underlining notes of black pepper, all spice, and mace. They can be used in a variety of styles ranging from lagers to pale ales. MOA Methode, a German style pilsener from New Zealand uses Nelson Sauvin to round out the flavor giving it a dry yet bitter finish.
  • Strisselspalt – One of very few varieties from France, Strisselspalt is most commonly sought out for it aromatic qualities. This unique hop has been used in a variety of styles to give definition to French breweries. It is greatly used in wheat styles, Belgian-styles, saisons, and biere de gardes. Kronenbourg 1664 a pale lager from Brasseries Kronenbourg in France uses these hops to give their beer its clean profile.

Be sure to check out some of these beers and see how the aroma and flavor of the beers demonstrate how the hops are being used. If you’re struggling, it’s always a great exercise to google the beer. You’ll often find that brewer websites list the hops being used to give you a better idea of what you’re tasting and enjoying in the brew.

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