Friday, April 27, 2012

Well, here it is... Beer Basics:

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Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beer Basics Podcast Transcript

The following is the transcript of the podcast that I have recorded and am just waiting for a couple things to be in place before it goes live. Hope you enjoy!

Hello, and welcome to Hop Thoughts. My name is Brian Waddell and I will be your guide on our journey through beer. This is my very first podcast, and I’m glad you’ve joined me. Today’s episode is sponsored by Liquidity bar consultants. Email and mention Hop Thoughts For a free drink menu analysis. Liquidity bar consultants,  Turning your liquid assets into solid profits. In looking over the podcasts available about beer I found most of them to be too long for my taste. I want concise information about beer, not someone and their buddies ranting for an hour while they sit in a bar and drink. But that is just why I did this. I don’t plan on going much over ten minutes if I even drag that long.

Now I figure if you’re looking for a beer podcast you probably already know some of the basics. Then again, maybe you think you do, and you really don’t. I’m going to take this first episode and discuss just that: Beer basics.

First, there are four ingredients that all beer has in common, after that all bets are off, but these four are imperative.

Malt- The malt is used generally to derive sugars so fermentation can take place and can impart a good deal of sweetness. Malt is usually malted barley, but in some beers it is malted rye or some other grain. This comes in many different strains that impart a wide range of different flavors.

Hops- This dandy flower comes in many different varieties, some natural and some hybridized to produce specific flavors in beer. This ingredient gives beer its characteristic bitterness, and is used to balance out the sweetness necessary for fermentation.

Yeast- Without yeast there would be no alcohol in beer. The yeast “eats” the natural sugars of the malt and farts out alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast can also impart a flavor of it’s own and comes in many different strains.

But wait Brian, you said there were 4 ingredients common to all beers? That’s three and I can’t seem to think of another?

Well, The last one is possibly the most important.

Water- Yes, water is an ingredient, and a damn important one when making beer. The same ingredients put in water from two different places will tend to produce beers that taste slightly different.

Moving on from the ingredients, There are two basic kinds of beer. Ales and Lagers. These names simply refer to how the yeast used prefers to chow down. Different yeasts like different conditions and are therefore ale yeasts or lagering yeasts.

We’ll start with the ubiquitous- at- home- brew- meetings- everywhere Ales.

Ale yeasts top ferment, which means just what it sounds like. You sprinkle yeast on top of your non-alcoholic brew to make an ale. These yeasts also like warmer climes than do lagering yeasts. Ales should be fermented at around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Or if you prefer, about 16-21 degrees Celsius. Ales also don’t take very long to ferment, usually in the two or three week range.

The top fermenting yeasts also produce phenols and esters as another by-product of their consumption. Phenols tend to impart a spicy note to the beer. While Esters actually have a fruity flavor.

Lagers use bottom fermenting yeast strains. These strains prefer to eat in a colder environment of about 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or about 4-10 degrees Celsius. The lagering process takes about twice as long as the fermentation of an ale. The lager yeasts do not impart flavor like ale yeasts do. This produces a more straightforward view of the hops and malts involved in the brewing.

That being said, there are literally billions of ways to combine ingredients to produce a beer.

So, next time you look at your handle jockey and say, “I like ales, what do you recommend?” and they look at you like you have three eyes and ask, “What is it that you like about ales?” Don’t get frustrated or angry, he or she really is trying to help you find the right beer. Ale is a very broad term and anyone who knows beer knows they need more information to get you the right liquid. The same is true of lagers. Neither of these general terms tell enough of a story of a flavor profile to be very useful. Keep in mind that malt-leaning Stouts and Porters are technically ales, while a person just asking for an ale often means something more like a pale ale. So, if you just say you want an ale and get a Guinness, don’t be angry.

Well, maybe be a little angry.

To be fair, a well made ale will tend to be more complex than a well made lager simply because of the extra flavors the yeast imparts, but complex doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Now that we learned all that, I would like to take a little time to go in depth on one of today’s most popular beer styles. Normally, I’ll discuss a beer style as I talk about specific beers, but this one is so crazy popular I can’t ignore it even for a minute. The IPA.

I have encountered numerous people who claim to enjoy IPA’s and yet don’t even know what IPA stands for. Let me fix that for any of you in the same boat. It means India Pale Ale.

 It is so named because the style was created in the late 1700s to utilize the preservative qualities of alcohol and hops on the long sea voyage from England to India. These beers, for the one of you listening who hasn’t tried one, tend to be higher in alcohol- than normal pale ales and also more generously hopped which leads to them tending toward a more aggressive lingering bitterness.  Just like all beer styles, IPA’s range in color and flavor profile, but are generally hop reliant in flavor and a deep golden or amber color.

I know some of this was a bit technical, but that’s one of the most beautiful things about beer. It is a blending of art and science that creates a tasty product. A great beer is like poetry in a glass that becomes even more spectacular and easy to understand when you are aware of the chemistry that went into creating it.

Next time on Hop Thoughts I’ll be talking to you about some of my favorite beers from all over the world. Signing out from New York City, I’m Brian Waddell.  Where's my beer?

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.