Thursday, March 17, 2011

Making a Small Beer with Big Flavor

The craft beer movement in America is currently dominated by big beers.  It is not hard to understand why, as Imperial-style beer tends to have larger flavor profiles, more alcohol, and can be harder to get, which can create a greater demand (i.e. cult beers).  However, it is often unwise to consume more than one 10 percent or greater beer in a sitting.  Is it possible to take the flavors that someone loves in an Imperial-style beer and inject them into a beer of more sessionable alcohol strength?.

Brew Strong, on the Brewing Network, featured a show on making session beers on October 18, 2010.  One segment of this show discussed how to make full-flavored session beers from larger recipes, ones that have plenty of character and are enjoyable to drink.  The main points the Brew Strong hosts presented included:

  • It only takes about 2 percent alcohol for a beer to taste like a beer
  • Increase the flavor and aroma hops to provide larger hop character, though keeping with the style or recipe concept
  • Raise the percentage of specialty malts, which gives the impression of a bigger and richer beer
  • Adjust the base grains so that they provide greater flavor complexity; for example substitute a portion of 2-row to pilsner or British pale malt
  • Reduce the base grains to lower the alcohol content, but leave the specialty grains the same
  • Use a yeast that does not attenuate as much, which will leave more flavor behind
  • Eliminate or minimize simple sugars, which provides a larger malt character in the finished beer
  • Build the body of the beer by increasing the mash temperature to provide a larger mouthfeel

Last Thanksgiving, Jeff and I made a wheat wine braggot that we called Midnight Wheat.  This beer has quickly developed into one of my favorite recipes that Jeff and I have done together, one that has even won a recent award.  One of the main drawbacks of the beer, when it comes to making it a regular drinker, is its strong alcohol content (10% ABV).  Its alcohol strength makes it great for aging, which is one of the goals of the recipes that Jeff and I develop together, but it is not a beer I would want to drink often.  I wanted to use the Brew Strong advice to see if I could create a smaller beer that I could keep on draft and enjoy more regularly.

Taking the Brew Strong information, I made the following adjustments to the original Midnight Wheat recipe:

  • Reduce the base grain quantity by approximately 60% to lower the overall alcohol
  • Leave the specialty grain quantity the same as the original recipe, in order to provide a richer character
  • Reduce the amount of honey drastically, but do not eliminate it completely, as it adds some flavor
  • Add a small amount of black malt to mimic the original recipe's color
  • Increase the mash temperature to have more mouthfeel
  • Reduce the quantity of bittering hops, to keep the approximately the same specific gravity to bitterness ratio
  • Increase the late hops to have more hop flavor and aroma

The altered recipe, along with side-by-side tasting notes, will be presented in a future post, so be sure to check back.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...