Our May issue focused on the ingredients that make up beer.
Garden in the Glass:
Hops- The Spice. Ironically, hops were used to help preserve beers while they made the trek from the motherland to troops in India.. Ehem IPA’s. We now know that hops have very little long term preserving power, but they do stabilize beer in the short term and ward off unwanted bacteria that would love to find itself eating away at the sugary beverage. In today’s hop-obsessed world, they are used to balance out malt characteristics, enhance aroma, add bitterness, and contribute tropical, citrus, floral, and piney flavors to your beer…to name a few. Hops are the female cone of the plant Humulus Lupulus – a vine that grows in similar environments as grapes. There are thousands of varieties of hops and each one houses varying degrees of Alpha and Beta acids. Alpha acid is the juice that fuels hop-heads with their citrus and bittering qualities. Cascade, Tomahawk, and Amarillo are all hop varieties that boast high levels of Alpha acid and are often used in American and West Coast IPA’s.
Malt- The bread. Brewing is essentially the process of converting grain sugar into alcohol. Barley is the most typical grain used in brewing; however, the raw the grain does not contain the sugar the yeast will need to make produce ethanol, therefore it must be modified. Enter malts. Simply, malts are germinated barley. Malting is the process of tricking the seed into thinking it’s sprouting, then stopping the process to capture the sugars that are produced in the seed, creating enough sugars to kickstart the brewing process. Malt roasts, like coffee roasts, play a huge role in the mouthfeel, sweetness, and color of your beer. A lightly roasted malt will render a pale ale, a caramelized malt, and darker roasted malts will create a dark red or black colored beer with significant sweetness with flavors often described as “burnt coffee.” Troubadour Malting, in Fort Collins is dedicated to putting malts back on the map next to their star counterpart – hops.
Yeast- The oven. Yeast is what takes the raw grain bill of wet soppy wort (malt, hops, and boiling water) and turns it into the world’s finest elixir. Yeast devours the sugars from the malts and creates C02 and alcohol as a byproduct. There are four major strains of yeast, and thousands of varieties of each of those. Two common yeast strains are Saccharomyces (Top Fermenting: Ale and Bottom Fermenting: Lager.) and Brettanomyces (unacceptable in many styles of beers but crucial in styles like Saisons, wild ales, and sours).
Water- Ever wonder why there so many breweries in Colorado? The water here is almost gold. Brewers take into account three things: Ph balance, hardness or softness, and alkalinity. The minerals and organic compounds found in water can take your beer from a pretty-good beer to a world class beer, so altering your water to the style of beer you’re brewing can have a huge impact. Brewers in America will try to emulate beers that were developed in Germany, like pilsners, hefeweizens and helles by softening their water to achieve similar results. If you are a home-brewer, consider getting a water record from your city to find out what beers will already lend well to your circumstances!
Fruits, Veggies and Honey, Oh My!- So far, 2016 has been saturated with additives! Be it blueberry wheats, raspberry saisons, pineapple IPA’s, or Braggots! Braggots are the love child of mead and beer, 50% Barley and 50% Honey, are used to make a sweet and slightly hoppy concoction dating back to old-world England.
Brewers are constantly trying to find ways to experiment with their recipes, and fruit is an easy addition that (almost) always turns out pretty tasty. Fruit lends extra sugar and can be perceived as more drinkable to those who do not like beer to taste too “beery.” Fruit can also take beer from a winter state of mind to summer. Example: Grapefruit IPA’s. Vegetable beers are less popular, but still occur from time to time. The best local examples are Left Hand’s Good Juju ginger beer (veggie), High Hops Blueberry wheat (fruit), and Crabtree’s Menage a Trois, a barrel aged blended Braggot which will be released later this year.