Category Archives: Beer

Does Craft Beer Expire?

 

The one Question that I get asked more than any other about brewing beer and the delicious concoctions that follow is does the craft beer expire? The answer to this question is a bit less clear than the question itself. Yes, craft beer can go bad after a period of time, but there isn’t exactly an “expiration date”. If you highly value fresh hop flavor this is of maximum importance for you! High alcohol beers tend to age better in general, but the rule of thumb remains that the beer will be constantly changing. Some flavors will become more apparent and some will fade away.

 

Always Changing

As soon as a craft beer leaves the brewery the beer begins a slow gradual change process even in optimal storage. A typical craft beer will last about a year before the taste starts to go bad under optimal storage conditions similar to wine storage. Of course, this assumes the beer was stored properly, in harsh conditions relative to the beer it won’t last nearly as long. Don’t leave a 6 pack in your truck for a year and hope that it will still be exactly the same. Some craft brews are brewed for maximum fresh in-your-face flavor and as such should be enjoyed in a very short timeframe.

Short Expiration Window Brews

Puréed tangerines were added to the batch to create a devastatingly fresh IPA with a tang of tangerine. The flavors yielded by this addition to the recipe meld beautifully with the bitterness of the hops. True to this series, Stone Enjoy By Tangerine IPA is brewed specifically NOT to last, and should be enjoyed within 37 days. via STONE

Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By series is a great example of a short expiration date craft brew. I can’t tell you how excited I am for the release of the Tangerine IPA next week! The only downside is in order to get the taste intended by the brewer, it must be consumed in 37 days or less. In this case, 5.30.16 is part of the name of the brew and as such it is very clear when to drink the last of them by.

Follow me on twitter @Tanner_Brews for more on Craft Beer!

APA – An American Pale Ale Story

America home of the brave, and home of the American Pale Ale. The American craft beer iconic style APA surfaced in the 1970’s in San Francisco. APA brewing was about to get its start thanks to Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA. Little did they know that their Liberty Ale was about to change American craft brewing forever…

 

It was first brewed on April 18th, 1975 for the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s historic ride. It is believed by most in the industry that Anchor is the brewery that kicked off the Craft Beer revolution in America, and also that Liberty Ale is the quintessential American Pale Ale. via Craft Beer Academy

Most Common Variety in America Today: Sierra Nevada

Growing up and coming into adulthood in Sacramento, CA had one really great craft beer perk… I got to live less than two hours from what is still my favorite brewing company; Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. I grew up in a family that liked American Lagers, and as such I just couldn’t understand why everyone drank beer so much because I wasn’t a big fan of anything in the fridge at family parties. One cool day at the river that all changed when I tried my first Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… Refreshing with a crisp finish, plenty of hops but not overwhelming….. I was sold.

Common Defining Charicteristics of an APA

The Hops

By far the biggest difference between the American Pale Ale and an English Pale Ale is the frequent use of American style hops in APA’s. Hop varieties known for their strong bittering and citrus flavors/smells such as the American Cascade hop variety are used to achieve the APA taste. The APA often can be very similar to the American India Pale Ale, the differences can be very small as many of the same ingredients are used in both.

 

Beer: To Filter or Not to Filter

Is beer better filtered or unfiltered?

For beer brewers and connoisseurs alike, this question is likely to come up sooner rather than later. I would first tell you that this isn’t the full question as not all methods of filtering beer are the same. What it all comes down to is clarity and the prevention of sediment in bottling. Most homebrew and unfiltered beers lack the clarity of brewery filtered beers, and often will have a small yeast accumulation at the bottom of bottles from naturally carbonating in the bottles.

Now how do these big filtering breweries do it? In reality, a brewery that filters beer will likely have a few stages of filtration to separate the different size impurities that remain within the beer.

For our purposes, we can break it down to three main classes of beer, unfiltered, standard membrane filtered as above, and centrifugal filtered. Centrifugal filtering doesn’t involve passing the beer through any filters, and

Membrane filtering – Generally there are four main clarification stages including primary filtration, trap filtration, fine filtration and final membrane filtration. Filtration at each stage is for a particular purpose: 1. Primary filtration removes solids and bulk yeast from the beer. 2. Trap filtration removes DE or other process additives 3. Fine filtration may reduce yeast level and removes fine particulates that could foul a final membrane filter. 4. Final membrane filtration removes organisms (bacteria and yeast) that could spoil the packaged beer. Via Probrewer.com

Centrifugal filtering – Doesn’t involve passing the beer through any filters, as a result it seems to achieve good to great levels of clarity without affecting the other properties of the beer. This is a huge benefit over the traditional membrane filters as some theorize that they affect the final beer product taste among other characteristics. This method is very uncommon and to my knowledge is only in place at a couple breweries such as Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR.

Unfiltered – Some purists out there believe this is the only way to enjoy beer the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Unfiltered beer will likely have murky clarity, some hop and yeast “contaminants”, and a pure unfiltered taste. Although it is technically unfiltered, many brewers using this method will use brewing strategies that reduce the amount of yeast and hops remaining in the beer. Basic chemical tablets can be used during the brew process to increase clarity of unfiltered beers as well.

Based on my studies, centrifugal filtering is the best bet for delivering a pure unadulterated beer taste without sacrificing clarity or having contaminates in the final product.

Follow me on Twitter for all your beer and cider information @Tanner_Brews

 

Grain, and how it becomes beer

2295213156_aa20f7abb8_z

Image by: Jinx!

How does a cold glass of murky bitter hops water with no alcohol content sound? Refreshing? Without any grains this is what the process of brewing would likely produce and according to The Reinheitsgebot, the product isn’t legally beer.Grain is the main source of fermentable sugars in beer and is the most important aspect of brewing. Fermentable sugars in the grain are broken down in a two-part process which starts with the farmer.

Grain farmers will “malt” the grain by first soaking it in water and then slow drying it in a special kiln designed to make the grain start sprouting and in turn breaks down some of the complex sugars in the grain. This is where the brewing process really starts. Brewers and Homebrewers take the malted grain, crack the grain open to expose the sugars, and then soak the grain in generally 145-155 degrees F. This process activates enzymes that will break down the complex sugars into simple sugars ready for the yeast to make alcohol.

There are four main categories of grain for the all-grain brewer to produce the desired type of beer.

  1. Base Malt: Generally makes up at least 60% of the grains, is light in color and high in enzymes.
  2. Crystal Malts: These grains are roasted wet to varying degrees of darkness to provide light to dark caramel color and flavoring in the beer.
  3. Flaked additions(oaks, barley, wheat): These grains are unmalted and instead are pressed under hot rollers to preserve proteins that affect mouth feel and beer head. These additions are responsible for unique mouth feel such as the creamy and silky mouthfeel common in stouts.
  4. Roasted Grains: These grains are cooked at a much higher temperature than the Crystal Malts and for a much longer time period. These give the dark coffee, cocoa nad other dark flavors common in stouts to the beer.

Proof of concept: Go out and try an Oatmeal Stout, and analyze the mouth feel you get from it. Is it different than a normal beer? If so what are your impressions?

Hops, hops, and more hops!

Hops are the flowers most commonly used as flavoring agent in beer. Renown for the bitter, citrus, herbal, and zesty flavors they display in beer; hops have become inseparable from beer for many consumers and critics alike. The technical name of the hop plant is Humulus Iupulus, and many different varieties of hops are grown around the world. Historically many different combinations of herbs and spices were used for brewing beer before the widespread use of hops emerged. Hops are well known to have anti-bacterial properties and in high concentrations such as an IPA(India Pale Ale), they can even prevent beer from spoiling in warm conditions such as on a sea voyage. The benefits of hops were quickly realized in old times, likely leading to their dominance.

Historically many different combinations of herbs and spices were used for brewing beer before the widespread use of hops emerged. Hops are well known to have anti-bacterial properties and in high concentrations such as an IPA(India Pale Ale), they can even prevent beer from spoiling in warm conditions such as on a sea voyage. The benefits of hops were quickly realized in old times, likely leading to their dominance. Although there are many technical variations of hops, there are two main types we can simplify to; bittering and aroma hops. Bittering hops generally have a higher concentration of alpha acids which infuse a bitter flavor when boiled into the beverage.

Bittering hops generally have a higher concentration of alpha acids which infuse a bitter flavor when boiled into the beverage. Bittering hops are generally boiled at least 15 minutes, but more likely the full 60 minutes of boiling time allotted to the wort to maximize utilization of alpha acids in the hops.

Aroma hops generally have lower alpha acid levels and are chosen because of their high concentration of fragile essential oils instead. These hops are generally added in the last 30 minutes and again in the last 5 minutes to give the beer hop flavor without as much bittering and the hop aroma sought out my many beer drinkers.

Lastly, almost entirely for aroma hops can be added after the boiling process when the “wort” is cool and generally has mostly finished fermentation. This process is called a “dry hop” and is used to transfer the smelly essential oils into the beer without any heat to destroy them.

The next pale ale or IPA you enjoy, take a second to think about when they might have added the hops.

Tradition or Variety first… Reinheitsgebot?

What makes a beer a beer? Is it defined by strict rules and codes set in place when beer was a new trend, or can the definition of beer change with the times to allow for creativity and variety?

Beer has been around for literally thousands of years. Some cultures that still exist today such as Germany and Ireland have beer roots that go back over 5000 years! Stories of Germanic and Irish tribes spreading beer as they traveled throughout Europe have long persisted. Along with this great beer heritage comes the burden of carrying on the traditions set for a culture by its ancestors.

Germany has even gone so far as to implement the Reinheitsgebot around the 16th century! The Reinheitsgebot is referred to in Eglish as the “German beer purity law”. Everyone in the brewing industry will instantly know what you are talking about when you mention the Reinheitsgebot. According to the Bavarian founded law, the only ingredients allowed for the finished product to still be called beer are; water, barley, hops.

On contrast in countries like The United States America where the brewing history is extremely small, complacency with traditional beer styles is nearly impossible to find in a micro brewery. Alternative grains such as Rye and millet, as well as techniques for producing gluten-free beer are being experimented with across the nation. For Americans there is no traditon to break, beer brewing is increasingly being seen as an art. As with any form of art the styles are expected to evolve over time and push boundaries.

A large portion of American craft beer could not legally be sold as beer under the Reinheitsgebot.

I challenge you to go enjoy a beer that contains ingredients other than water, barely, and hops. While you do that, decide if you think it should be considered beer or something else and let me know what you think.

The Differences Between Pale Ales and IPA’s

Firstly, a “Pale Ale” is generally a beer brewed with mostly pale malts*, and a balanced hop to malt ratio. Due to the malt used the beer should be lighter in color and light to medium in flavor. Worldwide there is variation in the Pale Ale from country to country.

American Pale Ales and British Pale Ales are generally the most popular variations of the style. British variations are often maltier, smooth, and have a buttery mouth feel due to Nitrogen being used to produce the bubbles in the beer as opposed to the standard method of carbonation. American Pale Ales are known for haveing very well defined tastes, higher bitterness levels, and a more aggressive bubbling drink due to the carbonation. Historically the two variations differed further in that some hops were unavailable in one region or the other, however, modern systems of trade and transport have reduced this difference.

An India Pale Ale falls under the same blanket category of “Pale Ale”, but almost any discerning beer drinker and critic alike will tell you that they are not the same beer. India Pale ales were advertised as early as the early 1800’s, and gained in popularity amongst sailors first due to its staying ability over the high seas. This original staying power was due to the high alcohol content of the IPA’s of the time. In modern times we would call those particular strength IPA’s “Barley Wines”

The Primary defining characteristic that separates IPA’s from the traditional Pale Ale is the increased bitterness from hops. Essentially the IPA has a taste based around the bitterness of hops instead of a balanced profile that combines malt and hop bitterness tastes. IPA’s will be dominated by the hop bitterness and the malt will fall to a secondary flavor.

Any thoughts on the differences between the two? What is your favorite, Pale Ale, or IPA?

*Malt: a partially germinated grain that was intentionally halted from germinating