Monday, August 30, 2010

Fermentation Attenuation Ranges By Yeast Strain (Wyeast)

Similar to White Lab Yeast Charts that have been featured in past posts, I wanted to replicate the same type of charts with the Wyeast catalog.  The goal of the entire project is to to see how the different strains compared against one another.  Which yeast strains can take a cold ferment?  Which yeast flocculates out like a ton of bricks?

The first comparative yeast chart in this series is the Attenuation Ranges by Yeast Strain, which is presented below.  Click on the thumbnail to get a higher resolution image of the chart.  The other yeast charts in the series will be added in subsequent posts.

In addition to the above, check out the other Wyeast yeast strain charts (all the links will be updated when the charts are posted):
If you would like a high resolution PDF of this or any of the charts, just shoot me an email.  I'm more than happy to share them.



"If God had intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs."
-David Daye

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Importance of Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback from sensory analysis of beer is crucial to improving the quality of that beer.  While a brewer may improve their process, research improved brewing techniques, and fine-tune recipes, the only thing that matters in the end is the quality of the beer in the glass.  As such, effectively evaluating perceived flavors against expectations, such as beer style, is extremely important.

Sensory feedback of beer can come from several sources.  Large breweries use sensory panels to perform analysis of batches of beer against controls.  The sensory panels comprise of several individuals with refined palates, such as super-tasters, who compare a given batch of beer against a standard for that beer.  Feedback from these sensory panels are then used to help blend batches of beer prior to bottling, to achieve a constant flavor for the brand.  In a similar manner, smaller commercial breweries utilize the palates of their brewers and customers to provide feedback on their beers.  Brewers who have worked with a given recipe for a long time can taste both the raw ingredients and the finished beer to make adjustments to keep the beer in a flavor range.  While this method is not as impartial as the sensory panel approach, it can be effective and it does not have as high an overhead cost.

For homebrewers, the most common sensory analysis feedback comes from homebrewing competitions or from friends.  Homebrewing competitions provide the entrant with somewhat impartial feedback, in so far as the entries are anonymous and the judges compare entries of similar categories together.  Judges can also be ranked by the national Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), though a competition's ability to attract ranked judges varies widely.  Friends can provide feedback on homebrewed beer, though in my experience, it usually results in comments like "it tastes good."

That simple phrase points out the importance of constructive sensory feedback.  As a brewer, I cannot improve on my craft with such a statement.  While I appreciate someone enjoying my labors, I prefer to hear more about what the taster did not like about the beer, or how it did not meet their expectations.  This lack of constructive criticism is not limited to a brewer's friends either.  I received the following written comment on the flavor evaluation of an oatmeal stout I recently submitted for competition:

"A wonderful balance of roast, coffee and some subtle chocolate-like flavors.  A great balanced finish.  No apparent fermentation flaws.  No  hops detected."

I received 10 out of 20 points on flavor for that beer.  I wish I had some constructive advice from the judge to both warrant the score and, more importantly, on how to improve my beer.

We can all strive to be better sensory analysts of beer flavor by thinking more about what we are tasting and then verbalizing both our perceptions and our constructive criticisms, in an appropriate environment.  The end result will lead to nothing but better beer for all.



Monday, August 23, 2010

Historic Brewing Water Profiles

As I mentioned in the post introducing water chemistry in brewing, changes in water ion concentration can have a significant impact on the beer's final flavor.  Given that people historically did not alter water composition, it stands to reason that a region's water chemistry had a large impact on developing its beer styles.  This factor influenced the region's beer flavors, as related to the ratio between chloride and sulfate.  As a brief reminder, beers with higher sulfate concentrations accentuate hop bitterness and beers with higher chloride concentrations bring out malt character.  Cities with balanced ratios, such as Pilsen and London, tended to produce balanced, even maltier, beer styles.  They could even produce a larger variety of beer styles, such as the porters, milds and other British ales common in London.  Cities with ratios that trended towards sulfate, such as Burton and Dublin, produced sharper more bitter beer styles.  These locales were almost forced to produce a more limited range of styles, such as Burton's famous pale ales and IPAs.

Source:  How to Brew by John Palmer

For different look at "apparent bitterness" by beer style (relation of bitterness to potential alcohol), please see Jeff's chart on the subject.

Historic water chemistry also had an impact on the raw materials favored in that region.  As discussed in the previous post, brewing water's residual alkalinity (RA) determines how dark wort can be effectively mashed.  In general, the higher the RA of the water, which is largely determined by water hardness, the more the water can buffer against the acidic nature of darker malts.  If the water's RA value is not high enough to handle the darker malts used in a recipe, then the mash pH plummets, which both reduces the grain's sugar yield and produces a thin and acidic wort.  Cities like Dublin could handle darker malts, which required less malting control and skill, and they developed styles like stout.  Conversely, cities like Pilsen have soft water that is free of most minerals and low in hardness.  As such, Pilsen could not effectively work with such dark malts.  They, in turn, preferred lighter malts and developed styles like pilsner.

Source:  How to Brew by John Palmer

In conclusion, water chemistry had a good deal to do with developing the beer styles we know today.  It, along with available raw ingredients, shaped regional expectations of brewers and helped increase beer variety.  Understanding these historical water profiles can help brewers make beer that is more authentic.



Monday, August 16, 2010

You Want To Mix Guinness With What?!?

First off, I am a fan of Guinness - always have been.  It is a beer that defines a style and and deserves the respect it has earned.  However, what I don't like about Guinness is that in its quest to be a major global brand, its advertising has taken the path of stupifying and shock-type marketing (think Budweiser and other macro-American lagers).

An exemplary account of this was a public relations campaign undertaken in England earlier this year.  Teaming up with Ugo Monye, a star player on the English rugby team, Guinness planned to launch an aftershave/fragrance that combines Guinness with the "essence" of the rugby game.  "I wanted to create an aftershave that truly captures the unique smells of rugby" is how Monye described the project.  "Not only will wearing the fragrance remind you of playing rugby it will also give you that rough and ready odour for a manly edge."  The product, said to be offered in a glass bottle in the shape of Monye's body, combines scents such as sweat, deep heat, mud, and of course, Guinness Stout.

To make it worse, Guinness made plans to distribute free samples of the "project" to rubgy fans at the Guinness Premiership Finals.  "Fans...will be able to watch top class rugby while feeling like they are in the thick of the action with Uyo's unique fragrance" said Guinness's sponsorship manager.


To the relief of all beer fans and those of common sense, the whole campaign turned out to be a big April Fool's joke put on by a public firm for Diageo (Guinness's owner).  Just another gonzo marketing scheme to grab attention.  But the best part of many of these "they're dumb enough to believe this"-type capmpaign are that they sometimes spread just as much confusion as they do product branding.  For instance, even now, four to five months after the hoax was initially announced, beer news sources are reporting on Guinness's launch of their Eau d'Rugby, such as the small piece in this month's (September) All About Beer magazine.

While I'll continue to be a fan of Guinness beer, its this type of branding and advertising that draws out an internal conflict in me.  Should we judge or hold prejudice against a product itself just because of bad, grind-your-teeth marketing used to promote it?  Should Arthur Guinness's recipe be faulted because of some hot-shot public relations executive has a cutzie idea?

Let us know your thoughts.



"Give an Irishman lager for a month and he's a dead man. An Irishman's stomach is lined with copper, and the beer corrodes it. But whiskey polishes the copper and is the saving of him."
-Mark Twain

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tracking Cask Ales with Google Maps

While I first saw this over at Yours for Good Fermentables, the real credit needs to go to Alex Hall.  Alex has been keeping a Running Database of all the places in North America where a thirsty traveler can get their hands on a pint of real Cask-Conditioned Ale.  Recently, that database has been outfitted on Google Maps as a format that can be easily shared.  Very cool.

I took the liberty of embedding Alex's map below as a way to spread the useful resource to all those who happen to read this blog.  Take a moment and check out your local scene - are there establishments serving Real Ale in your neighborhood?  Even better, if you know of a bar/pub serving cask ale that is not on the map, please contact Alex and share the information.

Support Real Ale - thank thank the establishments serving cask-conditioned beer for by ordering a few pints and keeping the tradition alive.



"In the US and Canada, cask-conditioned beer does survive - but only in certain bars renowned for serving top quality and unusual beers from domestic and foreign 'micro' breweries."
-Alex Hall

Monday, August 9, 2010

Developing Beer Marketing Branding is Hard

Let’s face it, marketing craft beer is big business.  Breweries of all sizes spend considerable effort to market their beer, as their brand determines their success.  These efforts focus on a variety of different sources, from labels to print media to television commercials to social media campaigns.  These efforts take considerable effort, in my limited experience, but more on that later.  Yet for all the time and money spent on these efforts, many craft beer aficionados and homebrewers disdain the resulting “marketing speak.” 

While the branding and imagery can be interesting when looked at from a pure visual art or graphic design standpoint (as is the case over at the Pour Curator, a blog Jeff I and both follow and appreciate), many people I have spoken to view these efforts as a distraction and provided little if any value to the beer itself. Take, for example, the back label for Stone’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, which I happen to be drinking right now. The label manages to fit 348 words (by my count) that tell me nothing about the contents of the bottle, other than it was made with barley, it is aggressively hopped, and it was aged on oak. While I learned about Stone’s aggressive-minded philosophy and their need to pursue new things, the marketing language contains little to no content about the beer itself.

While I generally dislike to being marketed to and the typical marketing language that is thrown at me as a result, I myself am guilty of developing my own “marketing speak.” In a strange “devil’s advocate” attitude, once a year I force myself to write marketing materials about beers I brew for a friend’s party. Every summer, my good friend throws a seafood party and I brew several batches of beer to be served at the gathering. Usually a story is formulated about each of the beers and we post brewmaster notes near the taps for the enjoyment of the attendees. While I dislike subliminal sales pitches, I must admit that creating these messages is very difficult. This could be caused by my lack of talent in marketing or that it really is hard to come up with such language. At least once a year, I consider that perhaps I should grant the marketing departments more respect for their work. But then again, perhaps not.

Regardless, if nothing more than for the reader’s enjoyment, I’ve listed a copy of the marketing language generated for this year’s beers at the party. Hopefully, it provides some useful information, along with the floral language.



Hippy Hawk Bohemian Pilsner – Bohemian pilsners are more malty and rounded than their dry German cousins, while still retaining the crisp and sharp hop edge that defines the pilsner style. This characteristic roundness is emphasized by lower mineral content water that provides a softer body, which helps bring the malt body in balance with the Czech Saaz hops. The Hippy Hawk Bohemian Pilsner features the same name as last year, given that it is a repeat recipe. The name originally came from a hawk that was circling over the deck on brew day, as well as the Bohemian quality of the beer that will leave you wanting more and more of this beer. Groovy, man . . .
ABV: 5.1% IBU: 39 OG: 1.060 FG: 1.020

Tornado Warning India Pale Ale – The India Pale Ale, or IPA, has garnered a lot of attention during the recent American Craft Beer movement’s focus on hop-forward flavors. The IPA was originally developed for practical reasons. Its higher alcohol strength and increased hopping rate and bitterness helped the beer survive the long voyage from England to its colony in India. The style had all but died out in Britain when American brewers adapted it to our country’s citrus hops. Our example is definitely American, with a full citrus flavor and aroma from Centennial hops, along with a complex malt character for added depth of flavor. The beer’s name came from the uncharacteristic high-wind storms that Charlottesville has recently experienced. The IPA’s tornado of hop flavor should help it pair excellently with John’s meal of shellfish and grilled meats.
ABV: 5.1% IBU: 48 OG: 1.050 FG: 1.010

Double Down Scottish 80/~ – Scottish ales are characterized by a massive, complex malty body that finishes slightly dry to make them drinkable in quantity. The ales are meant to be session beers, where their relatively low alcohol concentration enables someone to have several pints in a “session” at the pub. Our version is a bit stronger than most, but the slightly increased alcohol concentration should help the beer go well with John’s full-flavored menu. Scottish ales are named for the number of shillings of tax the brewer had to pay on each barrel at some point in long forgotten history. This beer is an 80 shilling, designated by use of the symbol “80/~”. This recipe is our other repeat beer from last year. It was originally named for the two kettle boil overs I had when I first made this recipe, which created quite a mess.
ABV: 5.1% IBU: 15 OG: 1.059 FG: 1.019

Three Course Breakfast – Three Course Breakfast is an oatmeal stout with an interesting treatment – aging with dark chocolate. Oatmeal stouts are derived from dry Irish stouts, and the addition of oatmeal in the grist provides a rounder and less edgy finish. Many people describe this flavor as a “slick” feeling on the palate. Oatmeal stouts have long been a favorite beer style of mine and we have had a version on tap ever since I started brewing for John’s party several years ago. This year, we decided to deepen the recipe’s flavor profile by aging the beer on cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are cocoa beans that have been roasted, cracked and de-shelled, but have yet to be finished into chocolate. They have a rougher, complex flavor than brewing with chocolate or cocoa powder. As in previous years, the beer will be served on John’s stout tap, which uses a nitrogen/CO2 gas mix for carbonation. This provides a rich and velvety finish to the stout and gives it a dense foamy head. The stout’s oatmeal and inherent coffee characteristics, along with the chocolate overtones, make this a perfect Three Course Breakfast.
ABC: 5.9% IBU: 36 OG: 1.059 FG: 1.013

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Old Beer As The Next ‘Green’ Cleaning Agent?

Sometime I really wonder how I come across these things, but this one was a bit crazy enough to bookmark and share. For all you ‘Go Green’-types out there who have some stale old beer at the bottom of your keg or bottles, don’t throw it out – apparently, you can use it in place of some household cleaners.

A week or two ago over on, the blog offered ten cleaning uses for your ‘to-be-tossed’ beer that would make the organic/green/environmental folks proud. I’ve summarized the list below, but check out the post for the full description.
  1. Coffee or tea stain remover.
  2. Jewelry polish.
  3. Wood furniture cleaner.
  4. Slug and snail trap in the garden.
  5. Carpet stain remover.
  6. Hair conditioner.
  7. Fruit fly repellent.
  8. Bee repellent.
  9. Copper cleaner.
  10. Plant food.
“In a time where we’re leaning to make the most of our resources, there’s no reason to let a little flat beer go to waste.”

Who knew?!?



“Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.”
-Henry Lawson

Monday, August 2, 2010

Poll: How Does Homebrewing Affect Your Commercial Beer Purchasing

Similar to what has been done for all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll. The reader’s response to the question “How would the knowledge that a commercial beer came from homebrewing roots influence the likelihood you would purchase that beer?” are presented below.

When we setup this poll, I had the impression that the response would not have been so skewed to one side as it did. I had assumed there would be more people swayed by the homebrewing roots, but not to the extreme as shown above. Three out of four people stated it would increase the likelihood of their purchase. That’s great!

Perhaps this response is part of the Local Food movement experienced these past several years. People want to know where their food is coming from, want it to be local, and want to feel some form on connection to it. Homebrewing, at its basic level, exemplifies all these. It’s the average Joe brewing beer the way he or she wants to for no other reason than because he or she like it that way. There’s no corner-cutting. Maximal profit margins doesn’t drive the recipe. It gives the impression that it wouldn’t be made if it wasn’t good.

Furthermore, from a pure marketing standpoint, emphasizing a product’s homebrewing roots adds some uniqueness to the beer helps differentiate it from the others on the shelf or in the other faucets. It helps it stand out from the normal pale ale/stout/porter background noise of all the other offerings. Personally, while I’ve only been in one bar that had a homebrewer / pro-brewer collaboration beer on tap, you better believe I ordered a couple pints of it – not necessarily because it was good (which it was), but because it was different. It jumped out at me when it came time to order

Of course this poll is inherently biased and that bias has to be understood in order to pull out value from the results. For one, the sample size is small - a fact that can't be disputed. Second, this is a beer blog, which is predominately read by craft beer fans and homebrewers. These are the folks that are willing to try new things. These are the people that are much more understanding about features that may make one beer unique to other beers. It’s that understanding that sets this group apart from the rest of the ‘Yellow Fizzy Beer’ general public that drives the overall beer market. The poll gives the viewpoint of a very specific population.  That bias does not invalidate the results, but allows a window into the thoughts of a particular customer base.  If this population happens to be the target population for a business (i.e. craft beer-specific bars or brewpubs), the results may indeed provide a whole lot of meaning.

We’d love to know what you think of the results and how the information may (or may not) be used.

Thanks to all those that participated. Please take a moment and participate in our next poll, which should already be up.



"I always find it strange that someone would turn their nose up at a homemade beer ... while regarding anything else homemade to be of superior quality to the pre-packaged factory-made alternative".
-The Beer Nut
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...