Brew Biz: Werts and All

Written by Ken Carman for professorgoodales.net

The Topic: The Hop Experience: an Update, and Of Big Brews


  This is one of the ways we learn as homebrewers. We do, learn from the experience, then venture out to do, and brew, again.
  As you may have already read, a few weeks ago we did The Hop Experience in Clarksville, Tennessee. Hop pellets of different types were placed in bottles, “single hopped,” then resealed. Much later they were reopened and we assessed the differences in each hop.
 Miller was chosen for the last Experience and we all agreed that the corn sense, plus grassy-sense from bits and pieces of hop, made it less than satisfactory. Over carbonation got in the way too. That’s the short list.
 I knew, as a member of Music City Brewers, I would be getting some wort from Boscos on Big Brew Day, so I siphoned off two gallons and brought it to James Visger who boiled it for 30 minutes.
 The reason why this became a Brew Biz column, rather than A Beer Judge’s Diary, is simple. I felt there was more than just The Hop Experience here to talk about. As simplistic as Miller, or Bud, may seem: they are distinct products… each with complexities that can skew a Hop Experience. While, yes, they are very hard to brew because there’s “not a lot to hide behind,” the big brewers also offer a flagship products that go beyond the “there’s nothing there” perception of some craft beer lovers and homebrewers.
 I found the sharp, carbonic bite, the intense carbonation, of Miller hid the hops: even changed the hop experience in a way that made hop assessment harder.
 I suppose the best way one might do this would be to start with what we did for this, second, Experience: slightly fermented second runnings, then go on to a plain ale, then again with a plain lager, and work our way up the complexity beer chain. But that’s not all that rational for folks who have lives beyond beer.
 Yup, I admit it: I do have a life beyond beer. You do too. Admit it. Common. Let it out. There, there, there, feel better now? No? OK, go get another beer. I’ll wait…
 What took you so long? Having trouble deciding between a Dogfish 120, Duchesse de Bourgogne or Arrogant Bastard? Hope you made the “right” choice. You are being graded… not.
 While the DMS/corn sense from using corn in brewing Miller may distract some from the best “Experience,” I do wonder if other brews of the same style might be problematic. Rice, which is more a Bud thing, is more neutral: true, but I have a feeling it may also distract. I have sensed an ever so slight slight sake palate to Bud, and as “clean” as German brewers claim lager to be, sometimes I get a slight sulfur sense too to lagers. Then we have that pumped up, bash the mouth with carbonation, sense to consider.
 And, of course, as Wiki points out, sake is more akin to beer than wine, maybe making beer lovers more fond of the phrase, “Sake… to me?”
 Meanwhile I also find the fruitiness and such some bitch about in ales also slight to none in many ales. Perhaps “clean” is the wrong descriptive when it comes to either, because as soon as you start to ferment you’re going to add character. To me both yeasts have their own, innate, characteristics: just like various types of Brett. Any of these can distract from The Hop Experience. Malts can distract too. That’s why a slightly fermented pale malt second runnings seemed perfect.
 What I brought James was a very basic wort, from 100% Breiss pale malt. This wort was what’s referred to as “second runnings.” That made it even less distinctive: ready to be dressed up as we wished.
 Here is how James Visger said he prepared the wort…

On May 8, 2013 I boiled two gallons of wort provided by Ken Carman for 30 minutes with a ½ ounce of Willamette as a “bitter” addition and fermented with US-05 making a “plain jane pale ale”. On 20 May, I divided it into four ½ gallon containers and dry hopped each with 5 grams each of US Goldings, Willamette, Cascade, and Centennial. On 23 May they crash cooled for the tasting. This “beer” was tasted flat (served with a baster as not to disturb the dry hops). After slight fermentation with a basic, neutral, yeast, the pellets were dropped into growlers and then wort added. A turkey baster was used to extract wort from the growlers so there was no movement to the growlers.

 If you are going to do this, and you make your own wort, I would recommend a weaker wort: something to mimic second runnings. When mashing adjust any malt used accordingly. In fact the best bet may be to find a homebrew club member who is brewing a very mild Pale and ask if you can get second runnings, or brew a pale yourself and then do second runnings.
 Not sure how important the very mild add of Willamette might be.
 Thanks again to The Clarksville Carboys and Jami and James Visger for another great Experience.
 As for the other topic here: all these brewers, after Prohibition, took years developing basic recipes that were very much alike, yes: but don’t be fooled into thinking “not enough of a difference” making the all the same. They came up with distinctive products: and, yes, the distinctions were subtle, sometimes so subtle I’m not sure most quaff-ers could have detected the differences in a blind taste comparison. Brand loyalty back when this style ruled American brew was very fanatical sometimes, and regional. For example, years ago West End/Matt Brewing (Utica Club and now Saranac) gave firefighters in New Hartford, NY, kegs of beer. They didn’t even give the free UC a chance: instead they gave them away then went out and bought more Genny.
 Good grief.
 But it’s still true that it’s too easy to look for that next big whack to your palate, like I tend to do, and miss the nuances within any style: even, and maybe especially, Standard American Lager. Indeed, I find even NAs can be quite distinct.
 Of course sensing these “nuances” as brewers, beer judges, or even just those who appreciate and love to learn about beer, is very important.
 From the mildest lagers, or ales, to Russian Imperials, Sours, Brett, Barrel Aged, The Hop Experience helps us learn about the craft of actually crafting beer: whether you want to brew the next new style, or even more important: make your homebrew distinct in a style already flooded with many examples, like Standard American Lager, or Pale Ale.
 Sometimes I imagine myself like a mad scientist, taking different single hop extracts, adding a drop of one, then two of another, finding that perfect combination for my next brew.
 No matter how “mad” about beer, or brewing beer, you want to get, or what style you prefer, The Hop Experience can only help you appreciate beer even more.

                                                     -30-

Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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