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.

 

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“Fruit Beers” How They Came To Be

 

You’re sitting on the beach on an unusually hot spring day near the beach and all you want in the world right now us a nice ice cold beer. Your friend comes up to you with an ice cold bottle and right as you pop the top an unfamiliar smell greets your nose. A quick glance at the bottle reveals that some crazy soul put fruit in your beverage of choice!

 

To some folks and in the eyes of the 1516 Bavarian beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot), fruit in beer is never acceptable! Little do those folks know that fruit infused beers are coming into style fast. Historically people have wanted to know they are drinking a beer by its well-defined historical tastes. This is no longer the case with those attempting to buy fruit infused beers. These drinkers want the sweet and sour tastes given by fruit infusion and care little about the malt or hop profiles.

 

fruit

Rough Fruit Guide via Midwest Supplies

 

How Its Added

For those who haven’t added fruit to their brews before the process can vary greatly in difficulty. One easy way to add fruit to the brew is to buy pasteurized fruit puree from the store and open it right as you add it to the fermenter. Adding it fast will prevent contamination from the outside. Adding it after the wort is at least mostly cooled is important because fruit normally releases pectins at higher temps that will make your fermenter a mess and end with a cloudy beer.

If you decide that you want to go the hard but authentic way and use your own fruit then you have an extra step, pasteurization. Now this process isn’t intrinsically hard but you will need to make your own fruit puree then heat it on the stove or otherwise to hit the pasteurization temp and hold it there for the required timeframe. Once it is pasteurized and at temp it can be added to the wort.

1st Batch Ready? Should it be All-Grain or Extract brewed? Find out!

So you’ve read up enough online and consumed enough craft brews and friend’s homebrews and you think you are actually ready to take this passion to the next level….the big step…. the first batch! Now that you are ready to take the plunge its time to decide if you will start with all-grain or extract based brewing. The end product will be very similar to the average craft beer consumer, but the means of getting there and the fine details are very different.

 

Extract Brewing

 

In extract based brewing all or most of the needed grain sugars have already been extracted into a readily available syrup like substance at your local homebrew shop. Usually, these extracts come in a narrow range of choices but can be mixed and adapted with partial grain additions to create different malt profiles in the finished product.

 

The main benefit of extract brewing is the large cost reduction up front because less equipment is needed. Secondly, extract brewing is much simpler and there are far fewer areas for things to go wrong, and the process takes significantly less time.

All-Grain Brewing

The main difference between all-grain and Extract Brewing or Partial Mash brewing is that in an all-grain brew, the entire volume of unfermented beer (called wort) is created by mashing crushed Malt and running hot water through the grain bed in a process called lautering. via brewwiki

 

Arguably the biggest advantage of all-grain brewing is the complete and total control over the content of the final product. Any number of grains of all varieties can be mixed to attain a specific taste profile unlike extract brewing. Aside from control, all grain brewing is actually considerably cheaper than extract brewing. For example, when I first switched from extract brewing to all grain brewing my costs per beer dropped about 40%(but my labor and equipment expenses went up).

 

You can make great brews via either method of homebrewing, and more complexity can be added to either method through use of hops. Stay tuned for my in-depth all-grain and extract brewing writeups coming soon. Follow me on twitter @Tanner_Brews for more.

 

Getting Thrifty for Brew Equipment

 

At this point you likely feel like a craft beer expert with years of experience. You’re beyond ready to brew your first batch on your own and yu can’t wait to amaze all of your friends with incredible brew. Nothing is going to stop you from designing and brewing the best damn beer the friend group has ever had the pleasure to enjoy! Only thing standing in your way is the critical lack of equipment in your garage. Online and in the brew store equipment for brewing that first batch can cost thousands of dollars! What if there was a more reasonable solution at a much lower cost with a little effort?

 

The answer to your brew problems just might be that old empty keg shell from the side of your house or potentially on craigslist. That’s right, that old stainless steel keg might just be your next brew kettle or mash tun depending on what you need. Now as far as conversions go there are some affordable kits out with grates used as filters at the bottom, but if you are going for a simple boiler it will be quite a bit easier.

To make the boiler you will most likely want to cut out the whole top circle using a setup like the picture above. This will safely allow you to cut an even circle for the opening. After that simply instal your preferential drain valve with necessary attachments for draining at the bottom of the keg in the side. Double check all connections and add spacers to assist with sealing where necessary.

From this simple boiler or mash tun you can infinitely expand and improve the system as money allows for it. Pumps for easy beer transfer and other non-essentials can be added later to the system by either attaching to the drain or adding a sparge attachment.

Go outside and brew a fresh batch this weekend, and follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more.

 

 

 

PUCKER UP! The Return to Popularity of Sour Beers

 

Brief History:

 

Imagine a place where all beers available for purchase are at least a little bit sour. Now take a step back and think because that place was the entire world of beer until the last 100 years or so. This sourness was largely due to lack of understanding of bacterias as well as the absence of proper cleaning and sanitization practices. The critical gaps in understanding and practices would leave naturally occurring unpredictable yeasts in the batches of brew. Wild yeast then causes unintentional fermentation and flavoring, as well as a citric acid buildup causing the sour taste.

Modern Practice:

Brewers these days have access to cheap and plentiful means of sanitization and all wild yeasts and unpredictability are generally taken out of the process. With this resurgence we are seeing in the popularity of sour beers, brewers are taking their properly sanitized equipment and adding unusual or wild yeast or one or more varieties to create the sour effect. Often specific acid producing microbes are added to the batches such as the varieties discussed below.

Some modern brewers are using the classical method of simply leaving parts of the brewing process exposed to wild yeast. A gentle breeze or perhaps the wood of the building can be home to wild yeast and will provide the microbes needed for souring to occur. This approach is generally too unpredictable for the standard brewery but is being implemented by those going for a classic approach.

The Microbes:

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts—Lactobacillus, Acetobacter, Brettanomyces, and other critters—that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma: Lactobacillus has a yogurt tang, Acetobacter has the sourness of vinegar, and Brettanomyces has a barnyard, earthy, or farmhouse aroma. via Paste Magazine

One of the biggest sources of joy for a drinker of sour beer is the complexity endowed to each sour. The variety of wild yeast from batch to batch creates unique and distinct tastes based on the mix of yeasts and can be hard to replicate. Some breweries such as Brasserie Cantillon in Belgium believes it is so important to replicate the yeasts naturally occurring in the brewery that they are spraying down new locations with their beer to pass on the yeast! “The brewery allows the specific yeasts found in their building to ferment their beers in similar ways through the ages (Cantillon was founded in 1900), resulting in the consistent, aforementioned world-renowned product.” via Food and Wine

Now go try a “contaminated” beer!

Perfect Head – Guide to Proper Beer Pouring

 

If you spend much time in the brewing industry it will be important to understand what defines a properly poured beer. Before I begin, understand that pouring beer properly is an art. Just like any art, the art of pouring beer is somewhat subjective and opinions on how to do the perfect pour vary from person to person. This is my take on how to consistently pour like a pro.

 

 

 

The Glass:

Before I get into specifics about the pour…. probably the most important thing about a perfect pour is that it is being poured into a clean glass free of contaminents and leftovers from a previous beer. “A dirty glass, containing oils, dirt or residuals from a previous beer, may inhibit head creation and flavours.” – (Beer Advocate).

Temperature:

Optimal beer temperature is vital to enjoying a beer as it was meant to be enjoyed. For most craft beers I recommend 45 degrees fahrenheit. Some brews such as lagers should be served colder and some brews like porters should be served higher. Temperature of beer is largely subjective but 45 degrees is generally a safe rule when serving people that you are unfamiliar with preference-wise. A word of caution, frozen glasses may cause the beer to pour improperly or to cool below desired temperature upon pour.

The Pour:

Believe it or not, the way a beer is pouring into a glass can have a profound impact on the smell and taste of the beer and your overall experience. When pouring a beer into a glass you want to hold the glass at a 45 degree angle. Tilt the bottle or open the tap and aim for the middle of the glass. Allow the beer to cascade for about 2 inches or so of gap before hitting the glass. Roughly halfway through the pour shift the glass upright to a 90 degree position and finish the pour this way to create the perfect head. In size the head should be .5 – 1.5 inches or about 2 finger widths in size.

There are endless subtleties to the perfect pour, but experiment with each beer you pour to find the perfect pour for you. Follow me on Twitter @Tanner_Brews for more beer information.

 

Chilling the Wort – Brewer Tips

If you have ever brewed your own beer at home you will have become at least somewhat familiar with the concept of cooling down your “wort”. Chilling down the wort is vital to the clarity of beer, and provides several other benefits to the finished product and the brewer.

For those that aren’t familiar, Wort is “beer starter” — comprised of malt extract (from grain mash) and water. That’s it. Generally, brewers will take it to the next level with their preferred flavorings and different kinds of hops. via FoodRepublic

 

Chilling down the wort is basically the last major step on brew day before adding the yeast and waiting until primary fermentation is complete. Anyone who has done the process of brewing beer without having a proper way to cool down the wort can attest to the lack of clarity and the amount of extra time they were forced to spend brewing. Faster chilling of the wort increases protein coagulation in the sweet mixture, and generally is what lead to clearer beer. Another crucial benefit of getting this whole process including pitching the yeast done faster is that it will leave far less room for contamination assuming that you have proper practices and procedures down.

 

If you have a relatively small container of hot wort, or a relatively big outer bucket available then you can easily cool the wort bu placing it inside another container full of ice and water. This is not optimal as it may take an hour to get down to the desired temperature, but its cheap and easy to do in a pinch.

A better way is to use an in-wort chiller referred to as an immersion chiller. This method works best for many homebrewers. It’s basically a long copper tube with hose attachments on the ends wound in a way to be submerged in the hot wort. Then simply run cold water through the copper tube until the wort is at the desired temperature for pitching yeast.

Another method that is used by homebrewers is to buy a long copper tube rig it into a giant coil inside a large bucket. Attach hoses to the ends and make sure the bucket plugs at the bottom. Fill the bucket with ice and some salt to drop temps, all around the coils to the top and add some water to distribute the cold from the ice. Simply run the wort through the coil and out into the fermenter and the wort shouldn’t be too far from optimal temperature.

Follow me on Twitter for more Beer, Cider, and Brewing information @Tanner_Brews