Nerdnite 6 - Alchemy In Your Glass (Allyn York)Document Transcript
Introthe tag line for nerdnite is “its like thediscovery channel. with beer”the discovery channel is great, but really,im a fan of the second half of thataforementioned statement.Beer.And that is what i’d like to talk to youabout tonight.I’d considered turning this into a bit of agame and was going to suggest that eachtime I say the word ‘beer’ all of you take adrink, but i’d like you to remain at leastsomewhat lucid for the rest of thespeakers tonight because they have somereally interesting things to talk to youabout.Okay, now, on to the matter at hand...
HistoryDepending on who you talk to, in broadestdefinition, the history of beer goes back tosomewhere between 9500BCE to 3500BCEThere are those who would say that it is thevery basis of civilization, and those who havemade a case that if even if it’s not actuallyresponsible for civilization it is very likely tohave saved it (in the global “West” at least) byvirtue of the fact that during the plagues mostwater contained any number of pathogens,but the process of making beer made it,relatively speaking, safe to drink.
9500BCE = neolithic farming / “accidental”beer3500 = we start to have actual records interms of writings and chemical remains ofearly beerBeer as it is would be generally recognizableto us is about 1000 years old, but more onthat later
What is beer? (Bread in a bottle)so, what is beer?my dictionary says: an alcoholic drinkmade from yeast-fermented malt, flavoredwith hopsand then goes on to say: any of severalother fermented drinkswhich gives us pretty darn broad range.that breaks out tomalthopsyeastIn talking about each of these elements,i’m going to go over the basic process of
making beer. I’m going to be speaking insomewhat general terms because thevariations in each stage are what gives usour different types of beers.
Malt & Mashing == Wort (alchemy #1)starting at the top we have malt.what is malt?malt starts out as a grain. a brewer canuse all manner of different grains...wheat, rye, etc but the most common isbarleyso you take your barley (or whatever) andyou malt it.which begs the question. what the heck ismalting?malting is the process by which we
1. make some of the yummy starchesmore available to the yeast in the form ofsugar. more on that later2. and its also a big determiner of theflavour and colour of the beerto do that, the barley is (partially?)germinated... do i need to explaingermination?and then it’s kiln dried.how much it is dried, at whattemperature? and for how long is what isgoing to give us our different kind of maltsthe longer it is dried, and then potentiallyroasted, the darker it gets and the darkerthe resultant beerfrom the so-called crystal malt, the lightestwhich is used for pilsners and similarlycolored beers to amber that’s used, appropriatelyenough, for amber alesto chocolate and black malts that areused for porters and stouts.
most beers use a combination of maltedgrains to achieve whatever colour andflavor balance the brewer is looking toachievenext the grains are cracked (also knownas milling). and as with all stages of themaking of beer there is a range to thisactivity.how much the grains are crushed willdetermine how much and how fast wereable to extract the sugars from the maltmashingnext step is to translate those oh so solidgrains into liquid refreshment.
this is known as mashing. and it takes thestarches in our cracked grain andconverts them into sugars.to do this we add x amount of (hot) water(which for reasons that escape me, isreferred to as ‘liquor’) at y temperature(generally about 75C) to the grain for zamount of time (1 – 2 hours).yes, im using variables because, this is,well variable depending on the beer that isbeing made, but it’s important to note thatthis is not haphazard. The temperature iscarefully monitored because it isThe practical upshot is something thatlooks, and smells like a sweet porridge.Next we drain the liquid off and then rinsethe malted barley (a process known as‘sparging’. The brewing of beer, like mostspecialized activities has its ownvocabulary)The liquid at this stage is known as sweetwort, which brings us to the next stage...
Hops (and other flavourings)Earlier i said that beer as we recognize itdidn’t really come into being until about a1000 years ago. That’s because it wasn’t untilaround 800 or 900BCE that brewers startedusing hops to flavour their beers, and hopsdidn’t really become fully entrenched in beerbrewing culture for a couple hunderd yearsafter that. Although as anyone who was atthe Malthouse on Thursday will tell you, hopsare now most certainly part of the verydefinition of beer.And unlike the grains that are used to makemalt, hops have almost no other application(as far as humans are concerned for the last800 years) other than in the brewing of beer.What do hops do for beer?
First and foremost they offer bitterness to thebeer. This is because the resins in hopflowers are comprised of acids.As i was saying before we have converted ourgrains into sweet wort, which i think of as akind of magical process, but as beverages goisn’t actually all that interesting. We needsomething to offset and compliment the maltflavour.The brewer is going to bring the sweet wortto a boil and add hops. The quantity andvariety is going depend on what kind of beeris being made.The brewer will probably use a combinationof a several types of hops added at differenttimes in the boiling process but overallMore hops == more bitterness.
There are two primary kinds of acids in thehops, unimaginatively namedAlpha and Beta. And there are differentbalances between the two types of acids indifferent kinds of hops.The higher Alpha acid hops are used in theinitial boiling stage, and thus are referred toas boiling hops. They are what gives us mostof our bitter flavour.Near the end of the boiling process, high Betaacid hops are added. These are known asaroma hops and as you’ve already probablyguessed primarily contribute to the lovelysmell of the beer. But we all know that smellis closely tied to taste.After we’ve completed the boiling process,the sweet wort is now simply called wort.
Now i want to take just a brief moment to talkabout other flavourings.I mentioned previously that brewers didn’treally start using hops in beer until about1000CE in the area we now think of Germanyand really not until about 1400 in Britain.This was a transitional period. In the longhistory of beer before this time a variety offlowers, roots, herbs, seeds etc were used inthe many many beers. But the goal was theessentially the same. Balancing and makingthe flavours more interesting.Over time, hops supplanted most everythingelse, and in the case of the “German BeerPurity Laws” absolutely everything else.But with that rich history of experimentationwe now have a whole range of things that wemight add to the boil.
Okay, enough of that. Returning to thesubject of hops. I mentioned before that thefirst thing they give to beer isbitterness/flavour.But hops are also slightly antibiotic. They aregoing to inhibit the growth of unwantedbacteria in the brew which helps to preserveit during storage.Which is another distinct advantage of beerover water. So, drink more beer, it’s healthy;-)
Fermentation (the wonderful world of yeast,e.g. alchemy #2)and finally we have yeast. But before wecan get to that we need to cool our wort.And although the hops are giving us somemildly antibiotic protection to the wort, wewant to cool it quickly. The longer it takesto cool the more opportunities all matter ofmicro-organisms have to take upresidence in our proto-beer.yeast are magical little critters. reallytheyre fungi… they are responsible foradding the fun to your beer. they eat thesugars in malt and produce. CO2 1. alcohol C2H5OH
2. CO2 which is to say, those fun littlebubblesThere are many many kinds of wild yeastsin the air.Those early beer-like beverages wereprobably happy accidents.Someone left a clay pot full of some kindof grain in a store-room or cave. It got abit wet giving them a rough approximationof the mashing process. And then the wildyeast would settle and discover what is forthem a happy environment. It would liveout its happy little yeast life until someonediscovered this slightly bubblysoup/porridge and taking a sip found it tobe generally pleasing and made theirhead feel a bit funny ... yay alcohol!Unless of course you got ergot, but that’sa whole different experience.
Now, just like with the malting, i don’treally have the time, or the specializedknowledge, to get into exactly what ishappening with yeast. In fact i’m prettysure that someone could give a whole talkjust on yeasts. But suffice it to say thatsomething alchemical is happening here.The yeast is transforming the base sugarsof the malt into the gold (or amber orblack) of the beer in your glass.
Types of beer (e.g. what’s in your glass rightnow)The other important thing to note is thathumans didn’t get very good at culturingyeast until a couple hundred years ago.Which is why particular styles of beers areassociated with certain places... theplaces where those yeasts wereprevalent.Because just like with the malt and thehops, the yeast is also contributing to theoverall flavourSo, let’s move onto what those yeasts areand the kinds of beers we have...
broadly speaking there are two majorcategories of beerale and lager.and they are made with eponymouslynamed ale yeast and lager yeastof course there are the exceptions suchas Anchor Steam... but it seems that ruleswere made to broken. Or at least bentale yeast, also know as top fermentingbecause they produce foam at the top ofthe wort during fermentation. ale yeasttypically happiest at 15 - 24ºC/ 60 - 75ºFlager yeast, unsurprisingly know asbottom fermenting yeast, are typicallyhappiest at 10 - 13ºC/ 50 - 55º
with that in mind i’d like to take a fewminutes to talk about what you’re drinkingtonight(Munich) lager:Ah yes this is the style, in it’s many variations,that most people think of when they think“beer”Pilsner:Similar to its Germanic cousin, but this onecomes to us from the Czech republic.Specifically, the city of Pilsen... hence thename
Hefeweisen:Wheeee! more german beer! Well, actuallythe Dutch have some claim to this one aswell.this beer is a bit different. Most notablybecause it is made with wheat.IPA/APA
Lots of discussion about the history andvariations in these stylesBelgianThis is an odd category because it’s actually awhole bunch of different categories. Lambic,Trappist, etc.Porter & Stout
As a few of you will have noticed there isGuinness on tap here but there is also...Porters and Stouts are ales that are madewith darker malts