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nerdnite 6 - Alchemy In Your Glass (Allyn York)


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nerdnite 6 - Alchemy In Your Glass (Allyn York)

  1. 1. Intro the tag line for Nerd Night is “it's like the discovery channel. with beer” the discovery channel is great, but really, i'm a fan of the second half of that aforementioned statement. Beer. And that is what i’d like to talk to you about tonight. I’d considered turning this into a bit of a game and was going to suggest that each time I say the word ‘beer’ all of you take a drink, but i’d like you to remain at least somewhat lucid for the rest of the speakers tonight because they have some really interesting things to talk to you about. Okay, now, on to the matter at hand...
  2. 2. History Depending on who you talk to, in broadest definition, the history of beer goes back to somewhere between 9500BCE to 3500BCE There are those who would say that it is the very basis of civilization, and those who have made a case that if even if it’s not actually responsible for civilization it is very likely to have saved it (in the global “West” at least) by virtue of the fact that during the plagues most water contained any number of pathogens, but the process of making beer made it, relatively speaking, safe to drink.
  3. 3. 9500BCE = neolithic farming / “accidental” beer 3500 = we start to have actual records in terms of writings and chemical remains of early beer Beer as it is would be generally recognizable to us is about 1000 years old, but more on that later
  4. 4. What is beer? (Bread in a bottle) so, what is beer? my dictionary says: an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt, flavored with hops and then goes on to say: any of several other fermented drinks which gives us pretty darn broad range. that breaks out to malt hops yeast In talking about each of these elements, i’m going to go over the basic process of
  5. 5. making beer. I’m going to be speaking in somewhat general terms because the variations in each stage are what gives us our different types of beers.
  6. 6. Malt & Mashing == Wort (alchemy #1) starting at the top we have malt. what is malt? malt starts out as a grain. a brewer can use all manner of different grains... wheat, rye, etc but the most common is barley so you take your barley (or whatever) and you malt it. which begs the question. what the heck is malting? malting is the process by which we
  7. 7. 1. make some of the yummy starches more available to the yeast in the form of sugar. more on that later 2. and it's also a big determiner of the flavour and colour of the beer to do that, the barley is (partially?) germinated... do i need to explain germination? and then it’s kiln dried. how much it is dried, at what temperature? and for how long is what is going to give us our different kind of malts the longer it is dried, and then potentially roasted, the darker it gets and the darker the resultant beer from the so-called crystal malt, the lightest which is used for pilsners and similarly colored beers to amber that’s used, appropriately enough, for amber ales to chocolate and black malts that are used for porters and stouts.
  8. 8. most beers use a combination of malted grains to achieve whatever colour and flavor balance the brewer is looking to achieve next the grains are cracked (also known as milling). and as with all stages of the making of beer there is a range to this activity. how much the grains are crushed will determine how much and how fast we're able to extract the sugars from the malt mashing next step is to translate those oh so solid grains into liquid refreshment.
  9. 9. this is known as mashing. and it takes the starches in our cracked grain and converts them into sugars. to do this we add x amount of (hot) water (which for reasons that escape me, is referred to as ‘liquor’) at y temperature (generally about 75C) to the grain for z amount of time (1 – 2 hours). yes, i'm using variables because, this is, well variable depending on the beer that is being made, but it’s important to note that this is not haphazard. The temperature is carefully monitored because it is The practical upshot is something that looks, and smells like a sweet porridge. Next we drain the liquid off and then rinse the malted barley (a process known as ‘sparging’. The brewing of beer, like most specialized activities has its own vocabulary) The liquid at this stage is known as sweet wort, which brings us to the next stage...
  10. 10. Hops (and other flavourings) Earlier i said that beer as we recognize it didn’t really come into being until about a 1000 years ago. That’s because it wasn’t until around 800 or 900BCE that brewers started using hops to flavour their beers, and hops didn’t really become fully entrenched in beer brewing culture for a couple hunderd years after that. Although as anyone who was at the Malthouse on Thursday will tell you, hops are now most certainly part of the very definition of beer. And unlike the grains that are used to make malt, hops have almost no other application (as far as humans are concerned for the last 800 years) other than in the brewing of beer. What do hops do for beer?
  11. 11. First and foremost they offer bitterness to the beer. This is because the resins in hop flowers are comprised of acids. As i was saying before we have converted our grains into sweet wort, which i think of as a kind of magical process, but as beverages go isn’t actually all that interesting. We need something to offset and compliment the malt flavour. The brewer is going to bring the sweet wort to a boil and add hops. The quantity and variety is going depend on what kind of beer is being made. The brewer will probably use a combination of a several types of hops added at different times in the boiling process but overall More hops == more bitterness.
  12. 12. There are two primary kinds of acids in the hops, unimaginatively named Alpha and Beta. And there are different balances between the two types of acids in different kinds of hops. The higher Alpha acid hops are used in the initial boiling stage, and thus are referred to as boiling hops. They are what gives us most of our bitter flavour. Near the end of the boiling process, high Beta acid hops are added. These are known as aroma hops and as you’ve already probably guessed primarily contribute to the lovely smell of the beer. But we all know that smell is closely tied to taste. After we’ve completed the boiling process, the sweet wort is now simply called wort.
  13. 13. Now i want to take just a brief moment to talk about other flavourings. I mentioned previously that brewers didn’t really start using hops in beer until about 1000CE in the area we now think of Germany and really not until about 1400 in Britain. This was a transitional period. In the long history of beer before this time a variety of flowers, roots, herbs, seeds etc were used in the many many beers. But the goal was the essentially the same. Balancing and making the flavours more interesting. Over time, hops supplanted most everything else, and in the case of the “German Beer Purity Laws” absolutely everything else. But with that rich history of experimentation we now have a whole range of things that we might add to the boil.
  14. 14. Okay, enough of that. Returning to the subject of hops. I mentioned before that the first thing they give to beer is bitterness/flavour. But hops are also slightly antibiotic. They are going to inhibit the growth of unwanted bacteria in the brew which helps to preserve it during storage. Which is another distinct advantage of beer over water. So, drink more beer, it’s healthy ;-)
  15. 15. Fermentation (the wonderful world of yeast, e.g. alchemy #2) and finally we have yeast. But before we can get to that we need to cool our wort. And although the hops are giving us some mildly antibiotic protection to the wort, we want to cool it quickly. The longer it takes to cool the more opportunities all matter of micro-organisms have to take up residence in our proto-beer. yeast are magical little critters. really they're fungi… they are responsible for adding the fun to your beer. they eat the sugars in malt and produce . CO2 1. alcohol C2H5OH
  16. 16. 2. CO2 which is to say, those fun little bubbles There are many many kinds of wild yeasts in the air. Those early beer-like beverages were probably happy accidents. Someone left a clay pot full of some kind of grain in a store-room or cave. It got a bit wet giving them a rough approximation of the mashing process. And then the wild yeast would settle and discover what is for them a happy environment. It would live out its happy little yeast life until someone discovered this slightly bubbly soup/porridge and taking a sip found it to be generally pleasing and made their head feel a bit funny ... yay alcohol! Unless of course you got ergot, but that’s a whole different experience.
  17. 17. Now, just like with the malting, i don’t really have the time, or the specialized knowledge, to get into exactly what is happening with yeast. In fact i’m pretty sure that someone could give a whole talk just on yeasts. But suffice it to say that something alchemical is happening here. The yeast is transforming the base sugars of the malt into the gold (or amber or black) of the beer in your glass.
  18. 18. Types of beer (e.g. what’s in your glass right now) The other important thing to note is that humans didn’t get very good at culturing yeast until a couple hundred years ago. Which is why particular styles of beers are associated with certain places... the places where those yeasts were prevalent. Because just like with the malt and the hops, the yeast is also contributing to the overall flavour So, let’s move onto what those yeasts are and the kinds of beers we have...
  19. 19. broadly speaking there are two major categories of beer ale and lager. and they are made with eponymously named ale yeast and lager yeast of course there are the exceptions such as Anchor Steam... but it seems that rules were made to broken. Or at least bent ale yeast, also know as top fermenting because they produce foam at the top of the wort during fermentation. ale yeast typically happiest at 15 - 24ºC/ 60 - 75ºF lager yeast, unsurprisingly know as bottom fermenting yeast, are typically happiest at 10 - 13ºC/ 50 - 55º
  20. 20. with that in mind i’d like to take a few minutes to talk about what you’re drinking tonight (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 one comes to us from the Czech republic. Specifically, the city of Pilsen... hence the name
  21. 21. Hefeweisen: Wheeee! more german beer! Well, actually the Dutch have some claim to this one as well. this beer is a bit different. Most notably because it is made with wheat. IPA/APA
  22. 22. Lots of discussion about the history and variations in these styles Belgian This is an odd category because it’s actually a whole bunch of different categories. Lambic, Trappist, etc. Porter & Stout
  23. 23. As a few of you will have noticed there is Guinness on tap here but there is also... Porters and Stouts are ales that are made with darker malts