Beer Aroma, Just How Important is it?



Take a second and think hard about your favorite brand and line of craft beer. Think about the taste when you take your first sip out of the cold glass. I bet you can practically taste it now (shoot for all I know you just might be drinking one as you read this). Now think about the smell you get right before you drink it and as you consume the delicious craft brew. Although you may not know it, the smell you get from the beer you are drinking directly affects the taste. It is widely thought that between 1/4 and 1/3 of the taste of food and beverage is dependent on its smell.

Smell is the dominant sense affecting flavor perception. Without it, what we taste would be very simplistic and much more one-dimensional. Thus smell is a synthetic experience, in that the brain has a hard time picking apart the individual pieces, compared to taste which is an analytic experience where our brain can dissect the parts more easily. –

Truth be told it’s actually important to let beer breathe briefly similar to wine in order to let the head settle and flavors develop. It doesn’t have to be long, but there is a difference between the brewer intended smell and taste and the first taste right after opening a bottle. There are two primary elements of beer that affect the smell of most beer.


The malt in beer is where the beer will derive its semi-sweet nature, and internationally it is the most recognizable element to craft beer’s smell. The malts can vary greatly in what has been done to them such as roasting, toasting, and mixed dark and deep flavored malts. Generally, malts are known evoke flavors and smells such as caramel, coffee, chocolate, and the general sweet smell in craft beer.


A regional favorite smell and taste of craft beer drinkers on the west coast, hops are known for creating herbal, earthy, bitter, piney, floral, citrus, and a variety of smells. IPA’s and some pale ales are well known for their high hop concentrations resulting in a strong showing of these flavors that we on the western coast of the United States have learned to love and appreciate. Depending on when the hops are added to the brew it will differently affect taste and smell, for more information on why and how; check out my hops blog post.

Outside of the traditional components to smell and taste, the large variety of beers on the market today have a wide variety of smell components. Sour beers, experimental beers, and variations to the brew process create new and exciting smells and tastes although some are better than others.


I challenge you to get a flight of beers at the local brewery in your town, order the most different sounding beers you can and try to pick them apart by smell. Let me know how you did!



Sediment in Your Bottle? Natural VS Artificial Carbonation!

Have you ever looked into a bottle of craft beer/cider and seen a layer of fine looking powder-like sediment in the bottom? Don’t throw it out just yet, it’s probably just natural and perfectly safe to consume brewing yeast. This yeast is no worse for you than the yeast found in bread for example, and it can be consumed or carefully avoided for appearance sake by pouring the beer into a glass just short of the small yeast cake. The presence of yeast at the bottom of the bottle simply means the beer was carbonated naturally as opposed to forced artificial carbonation.

Natural Carbonation

Homebrewers will be familiar with the concept of natural carbonation already  as for the beginning brewer it is the most accessible method of carbonating brews. Natural carbonation uses yeast in the uncarbonated beer for carbonation. The brewers add a measured amount of priming sugar to the uncarbonated beer just before bottling. Once bottled the yeast will wake up and consume the newly added sugar, producing the desired carbonation as they do so. In the process, they will multiply and then drop to the bottom of the bottle when they have consumed all of the sugar. Although this process is the standard for homebrewers there are some major breweries that also carbonate their beer in bottles. The most popular beer on the top of my head that utilizes bottle priming is the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

The most popular beer on the top of my head that utilizes bottle priming is the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The reason you may not have noticed yeast at the bottom of these popular craft beers is that these breweries have often perfected the art of bottle conditioning and have found ways to minimize the yeast in bottles while at the same time providing what they feel is a unique taste only achieved by bottle priming. Alternatively, some breweries and home brewers have begun filtering out the brewing yeast, and then adding a special bottling yeast that produces very minimal sediment in the bottom of bottles.

Artificial Carbonation

“Force carbonating will allow you to hit your desired level every time, without exception” –

Artificial carbonation can be done in a variety of ways at different levels of brewing. For all of the methods of force carbonating the goal is the same; to get the desired level of carbonation into the brews without the sediment normally added from naturally carbonating brews. By artificially carbonating the brew it also ensures that the yeast won’t be stirred up and cause the beer to appear cloudy. Most of the craft beer industry utilizes artificial carbonation for consistency and the ability to carbonate beer faster than via natural yeast carbonation.

“What many Reinheitsgebot purists fail to realize is that they cannot add priming sugar or extraneous CO2 to carbonate their beers. Large commercial brewers solve this problem by harvesting the CO2 from fermentation and reinjecting it into the beer. The small brewer, however, must carbonate beer naturally by kraeusening.” –

Next time you are looking for craft brew in the store, check out the bottom of some of the bottles. You might just find a layer of yeast from natural carbonation!

Ales VS Lagers, Whats the Difference Anyways?



If you are an avid beer drinker there is a good chance you formed some opinions and prejudices when you read the title of this post. Chances are you tend to drink either mostly Ales or mostly Lagers, and you may even avoid the other when at all possible. Almost all modern beer can be classified as either an Ale or a Lager, but do you know the technical differences between the two?


Lagers are relatively new to the brewing scene. They first arose in Bavarian breweries in the late 15th or early 16th century, then eventually spread to the rest of Europe (most famously to Plzeň, the birthplace of pilsner) and eventually to the rest of the world. All of those beers you think of as “national” brands — Heineken, Tsing Tao, Sapporo, Kingfisher, Budweiser to name just a few — those are all lagers. VIA Popular Science

“Bottom Fermenting Beers”?

Lagers are often known and referred to as “bottom fermenting” beers, but that statement isn’t entirely accurate. With both Ales and Lagers, the yeast is distributed throughout the beer and fermentation is happening universally wherever there are convertible sugars. The illusion that Ales ferment on top of fermenters and Lagers ferment on bottom of fermenters is caused by the large cake of foam given off by a fermenting ale. This large foam cake makes the beer appear to be fermenting directly on top when it is actually distributed. Lagers also have a foam layer on top, it is just much smaller than that of Ales.

It’s all in the Yeast

The largest differences can all be attributed to the discovery of Lager yeast in the 15th or 16th century but that part is up for debate. What we do know is that around the time Lagers started their rise to the top of the commercial brewing world, international trade routes were developing to Europe. It is therefore speculated that Lagers spawned out of yeast that arrived in Europe on a ship from overseas. Ales have been in production by humans for thousands of years longer than Lagers, Ale yeast was sourced locally beginning in Europe. Over time, Ale and Lager yeast have been moved from brewery to brewery, quickly adapting to their environment and forming the many variations of Ale and Lager yeast on the market today.

Lager yeast thrives in cold temperatures such as 40 degrees Fahrenheit and runs at a much slower and methodical rate. The yeast is sulfite-metabolizing and produces the much sought after “crisp clean” taste thought to be found in Lagers. The sulfite-metabolization means that Lagers will often smell of rotten eggs while fermenting, but do not be concerned as this is normal. Higher temperatures such as those enjoyed by Ale yeast tend to give off more fruity and robust flavors than that of the lean and crisp Lagers.


Whilst Lagers are appreciated for being crisp and clean, they generally feature only the basic pure malts. Ales are generally appreciated for being robust and for featuring flavor additions like those infused by the additions of hops throughout the brewing process. Roasted and specialty malts are also common additions to make Ales more robust and significantly more intense than Lagers.


Yeast, temperature, and extra additions are the main differences between Ales and Lagers. If you had to choose between Ales or Lagers for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why? Leave your choice below!

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

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


Brewery Acquisitions and the Future

<> on September 16, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

Photo by Joe Raedle at gettyimages

Acquisitions are increasingly becoming a trend in the brewing industry at large, but also in the craft brewing industry. In September 2015, the craft brewing industry was rocked when one of the largest craft breweries, Lagunitas Brewing Company, was acquired by Amsterdam-based Heineken. Heineken is the 2nd largest international brewery by volume. The 50% purchase by Heineken could have serious implications for the international beer industry at large.

Heineken’s acquisition is about more than just part ownership. As an American who travels internationally, I can tell you that one of the only beers that I can get in just about any part of the world is a Heineken. That’s where this becomes big news, Heineken now has the capability and intentions to spread the delicious taste of craft brewing that Lagunitas represents to the world! Many markets that have Heineken haven’t even been exposed to the type of beer that Lagunitas brews, and by doing so they have an amazing opportunity to take the lion’s share of the market.

As you may have heard today, the Anheuser-Busch deal to acquire MABMILLER Plc has officially been sealed. With the completion of this deal, Anheuser-Busch will represent approximately half of the overall beer market globally! This beer mega giant certainly means business and will no doubt shape the world of beer like no other company can.

This isn’t Anheuser-Busch’s first acquisition, this is part of a bigger industry trend. The big established breweries are trying to meet the growing demand for craft beer and it’s spurring the shift toward acquisitions.

With brewery giants like Anheuser-Busch and Heineken buying out craft breweries like Goose Island and Lagunitas, where is the craft brewing industry heading?

Follow me on Twitter for your brewing information and news @Tanner_Brews

Grain, and how it becomes beer


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.