Tag Archives: science

That was embarrassing (but not really)

On November 10th, members of the Oregon Brew Crew in conjunction with Breakside brewing, got together to review the results of a yeast experiment! With 50 gallons of a Belgian Pale as the base brewed at Breakside, the beer was then divvied up between ten lucky OBC members, who were given an anonymous yeast to pitch (I hear some were also part of witness protection) and store. The yeasts were generously donated by Wyeast but I don’t recall if anyone from that company was there or not.

Once the brews were ready, members set up shop at the Hollywood Senior Center which, because of our presence, clearly became much more hip than it had been in decades and members of the OBC and Breakside gathered to try the beers and guess which beer had which yeast in it. It was the best kind of test: a multiple choice test. With beer.

If only college had been so good to me.

Picking out yeasts is very, very difficult and I think there are a few reasons for this. First, there are just so many different kinds of yeast. Becoming familiar with each and every one is a task for scientists for a reason: they have equipment and experiments to help them make distinctions to do so.

Second, I don’t think we focus much on yeasts in the Northwest. Hops, water and grain all get attention because we have them in abundance and at a certain quality (usually high) so naturally we celebrate those ingredients.

But after this experiment, I think I may have to get some education on yeasts.

The stunning thing for me was that each beer tasted different. Not just kinda-sorta different but distinctly so. Yes, there were similarities but to any discriminating drinker, it was quite easy to distinguish from one pale to another. Which means yeast has a far greater impact on the flavor of my beverages than I ever realized! I had just been under the impression for so long that yeasts were there to make alcohol and drop out, unless making a Belgian or sour ale, that we had bred yeasts to be as flavorless as we could get them.

This experiment disabused me of that notion very quickly but in such a tasty way, I didn’t feel too bad about that.

What was a little awkward was that out of the ten ales, I didn’t get a single guess right. Completely unable to match a yeast to its appropriate beer.

My girlfriend got four. I later found out that four is the most anyone got. So amongst professionals and serious aficionados, she did as well as anyone!

Which was a little embarrassing. But not really, because that’s awesome.

They’ll make beer from anything

Or at least they used to. Check out this post at Martyn Cornell’s blog. Cornell, of course, is the author of the excellent Amber Gold and Black, a history of British ales. What that means is: you’re reading someone (Cornell, not me) who actually knows what he’s talking about.

I think it’s pretty amazing that people used peas–and are still doing so, apparently, in those crazy craft brewing circles. Once again, there’s something to be learned from ‘how they used to do things’. If you will.

Nothing against the advances of science, though (careful, some unrelated but graphic photos). Better ingredients equals better beer: it’s pretty much that simple.

Water saver / hop news

Found this story about water saving grains for brewing via the New School‘s Twitter feed.

As a homebrewer, I’m very aware of how much water I have to use in order to create a decent beer. The processes of cleaning and cooling alone probably double the water used just to brew. I do my best to conserve/reuse the water I can but there’s still a great deal of water used in brewing: it’s just the nature of the beast, so I think it is awesome that there are minds bent towards saving water wherever possible.

Next, from the OBC feed I find a report on a new business marketing hops specifically to craft brewers. The money quote for me is this:

However, Solberg said the industry has primarily overproduced alpha varieties used for bittering — Indie Hops doesn’t see the same problem with aroma hops that are used to convey flavors and smells.

Good to remember that there’s more to hops than just making really bitter IPAs.

Going to Seattle for the holiday so I won’t have a Friday post but hope to have some cool Seattle stories upon my return.

Made from the oldest ingredients

My friend Ed sent me this story about an amber ale brewed from a yeast that had been suspended in amber. For 45 million years.

Just sayin’ it’s pretty neat and you ought to check it out.

Also, I have stumbled upon the Arkeg. I found this via Kotaku (I do have other hobbies aside from beer) and feel like this is as good a time and place to share it with you.

Finally, there’s a website to petition bars to carry beers you want.  I’m not sure how effective this is; good bars pay attention to their clients and bring in beers those patrons want to drink. Bad bars don’t. But what the heck; maybe it’ll do someone some good.