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Time for truth in all things beer?

Ripped from today’s beer blog headlines:

Fakery and the Illusion of Variety.
Joe Stange sounds off:

“If you are a trained, experienced brewer who sometimes hires other breweries to make your recipe, you are not a brewer in the context of that beer. Sorry.

“That might sound petty. I prefer accurate. As an ongoing project I’m trying to connect the clearest meaning of those words — “brewer” and “brewery” — with a really simple public interest. Specialty beer is getting more attention these days, but more to the point: People just want to know from whence their food comes. Here is an idea — radical, I know — but why not put the place of manufacture on the label?”
Comment there

Great Story, Shame It’s Not True.
From Boak & Bailey: “Lots of pubs have fascinating stories attached to them but it’s a shame so few of them seem to be true.”
Comment there.


Next week, links about actually drinking beer


Organizing the links this week I figured out what was missing.

Making & selling beer

Inside The Ram Brewery.
Whoa! There’s a nanobrewery inside the Ram Brewery, the place where Young’s and Co, made beer 1831 and 2006. Here’s the tour: “We’re shown a set of cast iron grain hoppers, over a century old. These barley grains have sat in this chamber since the 1970s.” [Via Londonist, h/T Stonch]

Houston’s craft beer king opens up on staying relevant, the Sam Adams controversy and a greedy new wave.
A lengthy interview with Saint Arnold Brewing co-founder Brock Wagner delivers all that’s promised in the headline and more. Right up front, Wagner says, “We also don’t believe that our being here for 20 years is particularly relevant to the craft beer drinker.” I don’t know if it is a left brain/right brain thing, but he’s an MBA/homebrew enthusiast, so properly practical but with an appreciation for a business that makes it something beyond selling more beer than last year. [Via Culture Map]

Making diastatic brown malt.
This is Ed Wray’s contribution to Boak & Bailey’s call for #beerylongreads (the last round, for a while, at least). The others mostly appeal to a wider audience but I point to this one because it is authoritative. After I recommended Randy Mosher’s “Mastering Homebrew” I noticed a review at Amazon that concluded, “The advance brewer is likely to find a few things that s/he did not know but that can be found in web sources as well.” Not to come across as an author defending his turf (“You can’t trust what you read on the internet — buy the dang book”), but when you are following somebody else’s instructions on how to do something you really appreciate it when they are authoritative. Sorry, I don’t have a perfect way to sort out what is and is not. But this is. So there you have it. [Via Ed’s Beer Site]

Why Greene King doesn’t care that the haters hate its IPA.
A) This is how the beer market works. B) “A small rant directed at all those idiots who keep chuntering on about how Greene King IPA is ‘not an India Pale Ale’ and how IPA has to be ‘strong and strongly hopped’, so it would survive the long journey to the Indian sub continent, over 200 years ago. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.” And C) 97 comments. [Via Zythophile]

Seminary students make beer-making part of daily work.
Brother Albert Marie Curtis, 21, is in charge of the brewing. “He learned from another brother for a year, then took over the operation himself. Since he’s nearing the end of his time at the seminary, he is now training two other brothers to brew.” [Via LaCrosse Tribune]

Growing beer

Michigan’s hops acres to double.
What does it mean when an investment group that typically invests in commercial real estate plan to start 400-acre hop farm? It’s happening in Michigan, which already had more acres of hops under trellis than any other state outside the hop-rich Northwest. “It’s all about economies of scale,” Jason Warren, president of the investment group, said. “If you’re going to do it in a meaningful way you have to set yourself up for this size of a farming operation.” Farmers in the Northwest do operate on a larger scale, but the approach for the revived hop industry elsewhere has been to follow the German model. There the average farm has 34 acres under trellis. [Via Traverse City Record-Eagle]

Brewer’s Choice, SMaSH Beers, and NY Agriculture.
In this case SMaSH stands for State Malt and State Hops. Here’s what the Farm Brewery license does: it that allows breweries to sell beer by the glass at their own facility and elsewhere, including farmers markets. To qualify for the permit at least 20 percent of the hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients a brewery uses must be grown or produced in New York State. That percentage increases to 60 percent in 2018 and 90 percent in 2024. Those are going to be tough numbers to reach. [Via BeerGraphs]

R.I.P. Acadian Farms & Brewery has Closed.
But you can own it for $275,000, one-barrel brewing system included. [Via The New School]

Writing about beer

“Click Bait!” Not Really Code For Good Beer Criticism.
And don’t miss the Pete Brown’s comment. Having watched this from a distance for several days I have concluded I have nothing to add. [Via a Good Beer Blog]


Cascade – a study in hop terroir

Note: Boak & Bailey periodically invite bloggers to post something longer than usual. This is my contribution. It includes information published in “For the Love of Hops” and results of research conducted since the book came out.


Conducting a study during the 2010 hop harvest in the Willamette Valley, researchers at Oregon State University’s Shellhammer Lab discovered something outside of the focus of the trials.

As well as learning about the impact harvest date has on hop oil content — considerable and important — they saw that concentration of essential oils varied in a way that did not suggest a single one of three farms involved was “best” for growing hops. Instead, the variety Cascade had a larger volume of oil at one location (Farm 2 in the illustration below) and the variety Willamette at another (Farm 1).

Willamette Valley harvest dates and hop terroir

Hop farmers long ago learned that hops well suited to one region might not do as well in another. Refugees from Flanders established England’s first modern hop gardens relatively early in the sixteenth century, planting Flemish Red Bine hops. They did not produce desirable lupulin or much of it in English soil. Brewers likewise determined that the aromas of particular varieties were more to their liking from certain regions. So the research at OSU substantiates some of what is intuitive. Watermelons grow better some places than others, as do roses, basil, and carrots. Oh, and grapes. The variations are at the heart of what winemakers call terroir.

The significant difference in oil content on farms located just miles apart has wider implications. Most of the hundreds of odor compounds hops produce come from the essential oils. They further interact with yeast, the biotransformations creating still more odor compounds. The compounds, in turn, are responsible for aroma, and what constitutes desirable aromas in beer has broadened considerably in the past 40 years.

Hop scientists and brewers still have much to sort out, and more oil itself doesn’t guarantee anything. Cracking the code on how the composition of oils in a hop such as Citra or in one like Saaz impacts odor compounds will allow brewers to fine tune the way they use varieties, or more accurately a combination of varieties, to create beers that have currently fashionable flavors and aromas.

For example, research supported by Japanese brewer Sapporo has examined how geraniol metabolism might add to citrus and related flavors in beer. In one experiment, a team headed by Kiyoshi Takoi brewed two beers, using Citra hops in one and coriander seeds in the other because both are rich in geraniol and linalool. The finished Citra beer contained not only linalool and geraniol but also citronellol, which had been converted from geraniol during fermentation. The same transformation from geraniol into citronellol (perceived as rose-like, lime, other citrus, or peach) occurred during fermentation of the beer made with coriander.

The scientists at Sapporo followed up with an investigation into the behavior of geraniol and citronellol under various hopping conditions and with various blends of hops. They identified several hops of American heritage rich in geraniol. They also looked for varieties with an excess of linalool. Some of those are shown here.

Geraniol-rich hop varieties

(Light blue is linalool, red is terpineol, yellow citronellol, green nerol, and dark blue geraniol)

Bravo is highlighted because of its high geraniol content and because in the study Bravo was blended with Apollo in one test and Simcoe in another. A test panel described the beers blended with Bravo to be more flowery, fruity and citrus-like than the unblended beers.

Blending hop varieties for fruitier flavors

Cascade, Chinook, Citra and Mosaic are all rich in geraniol, but notice that the two Cascade samples are different. They both came from Washington’s Yakima Valley. The differences are doubt larger, at least on average, between Cascade grown in Yakima and Cascade from Oregon or Idaho. And what about from New York, Minnesota, Michigan and all the other states where farmers recently began growing hops? Or from New Zealand, Germany, Brazil and England?

Some of the differences are for the same environmental reasons grapes grown in the Napa Valley are more highly valued than those from Missouri, but with hops latitude is particularly important. Researchers realized only early in the twentieth century that day length controlled flowering plants, describing them as “photoperiodic.” While plants will grow between latitudes 30º and 52º, they thrive between 45º and 50º.

In 1983, the International Hop Growers Convention conducted a study that illustrated the importance of growing cultivars with day length requirements suited to where they are planted. In the trial cultivars with a common female parent that had been bred and selected in England, Germany, or Yugoslavia, at latitudes of 51°, 48°, and 46°, respectively, were all grown in those three countries, and also in France at 47°. The cultivars flowered earliest in the lower latitudes, the difference between Yugoslavia and England being 10 to 14 days. The English and Yugoslav plants both showed a steady reduction in yield as the sites became more remote from their place of origin.

Differences such as the ones the Shellhammer lab discovered illustrated latitude isn’t the only determining factor in why the hop grown here isn’t quite like the one grown there. John Henning, the research plant geneticist at the United State Department of Agriculture offices in Oregon, explained that environment and epigenetics combine to make hops from a particular area unique. All plant species have methylated DNA, which causes some genes to be “switched on” more easily than others. Differences in soil, temperatures, amount of rainfall, and terrain all may influence the methylation process. The underlying DNA does not change, but the methylation pattern can be different.

Cascade provides an excellent opportunity to explore these differences. German farmers recently began growing Cascade and in 2012 the Society for Hop Research released three new varieties, all of which were bred as children of Cascade. In addition, German hop merchant Barth Haas included Cascade grown at six locations in its three-volume “Hop Aroma Compendium.” Two beer sommeliers and a perfumist evaluated each of the hops “raw” and in a cold infusion. The infusion is intended to emulate dry hopping.

American grown Cascade hops

New Zealand grown Cascade hops

Australian grown Cascade hops

UK grown Cascade hops

Hersbrucker grown Cascade hops

Hallertau grown Cascade hops

Mandarina Bavaria hops (spider graph)

Hop aroma descriptors

Mandarina Bavaria is pictured in the final spider graph. It is one of the varieties released in 2012 and already popular with American breweries (it is prominent in Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack). Like its mother, it is rich in geraniol. When it released Cascade as a new variety in 1972 the USDA did not have the instrumentation to measure geraniol, said Al Haunold, who was the hop geneticist at the time. Haunold has told the story many times about the role the Adolph Coors Company played in getting Cascade into the public domain.

He recently elaborated for an oral history kept at the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives. Coors expected to be able to replace imported hops that it was using with Cascade. It didn’t work out as they expected. “The beer tasted OK, except when the beer drinker would have another bottle of beer … something would come up through the nose he wasn’t familiar with. We know now that it is geraniol.”

The European landrace hops that Coors had been using contain little to no geraniol — which on its own adds floral notes, think geranium, and can be rose-like; and of course may be transformed during fermentation.

By the late 1970s the USDA was able to analyze more components in hops (information readily available now, such as the percentage of myrcene or cohumulone), although it was be later before the lab could easily sort out linalool, geraniol and other compounds. It was in the late ’70s that Coors sent Hallertau hops to the lab to be analyzed because their finished beer had higher levels of bitterness than they expected.

“The first time I saw the cohmulone levels I thought, ‘This is Brewer’s Gold’ and sure enough it was,” Haunold said. Brewer’s Gold is a cross between a hop found growing wild in Canada and an unknown European landrace variety, so a mutt with America character and higher level of alpha acids than Hallertau Mittlefrüh, which Coors thought it was buying.

“The Germans didn’t really cheat,” Haunold explained. By law they were allowed to label any hop grown in the Hallertau region of Bavaria “Hallertau” and they had for centuries. After some negotiations they agreed to begin including the variety of hop, the year it was grown, and the region it was grown in on labels.

In the years since brewers have focused on varieties ahead of region. As Cascade illustrates, it is important to consider both.


Thanks to Barth-Haas for permission to use the spider graphs.


The bier-oyster connection seldom spoken

You dont see newspaper leads like this any more. It appeared in the Nashville Union and American in 1871, and was taken from the Cincinnati Gazette (no date given):

It is the custom of the world to honor great inventors and discoverers with a meed of praise proportionate to the importance of that to which they have introduced the human race. We glorify Franklin for bottling up lightning, and sound high the name of Morse because he utilized it for commercial and other purposes. We apotheosize Watt for demonstrating a practical use of steam; Guttenberg, for the invention of movable type; Jacquard, because he gave the world the silk loom, and Friar Bacon for the invention which is said to have blown his student and his laboratory out of existence at one and the same moment. Upon these and other inventors and discoverers all can put we can put our finger, as it were, with a moments reflection; but looking for the man to whom civilization is indebted for its bier, we find this identity wrapped in the mists of uncertainty which which envelop that of the individual who ate the first oyster.”

One hundred and sixty-four words. Whew.


Book review: Mastering Homebrew

How many homebrewing books do you really need to own?

In the foreword to “Mastering Homebrew: The Complete Guide to Brewing Delicious Beer” Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch writes, “This book might just be the only brewing book most homebrewers will ever need.”

For personal reasons, I hope that most homebrewers don’t take that thought seriously.

There are a bunch of “if you were to buy only one homebrewing book this one will take care of all yours needs” books available, but it seems to me that “Mastering Homebrew” jumps immediately into what now constitutes a Big Three (I might as well mention now there is a disclaimer at the end). “How to Brew” and the recently revised “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” are not only at the top of Books > Cookbooks > Food & Wine > Beverages & Wine > Beer at Amazon, but also the books you find in any decent homebrew shop.

I can see where somebody who has already worn out a copy of “How to Brew” and has a growing interest in sour beers would choose to buy “American Sour Beers” next, but I think a book that serves a beginner may offer value for even the most experienced homebrewer (in fact, commercial brewers as well). John Palmer (“How to Brew”), Charlies Papazian (“Complete Joy”) and Randy Mosher (“Mastering Homebrew”) think about beer differently, different than each other but, as important, different than you or I.

Within the early pages of his book, Mosher writes about “Brewing with Both Halves of Your Brain” and that “The first question is an existential one: Why is there beer? That answers will depend very much on your point of beer.”

He’s not always deadly serious. So “Doing It the Hard Way” (yes, that’s really the header on page 134, and it is a dive into mashing) is balanced with “Brewing the Perfect Party Beer” (Page 352).

Gravity to IBU chartAnd if you bought a copy of Mosher’s “Brewer’s Companion” when it came out in 1993 some of the graphs and charts will look familiar, if a little fancier. Like “Radical Brewing” and “Tasting Beer” the book is beautifully illustrated, reminding us that Mosher is a graphic designer in real life. We’re not simply talking eye candy, but illustrations that, well, illustrate. The chart at the right makes it easy to visualize the balance between gravity and bitterness in various beer styles.

You can use the “Look inside” feature at Amazon to see the table of contents, but that only hints as how astonishingly complete this book it. (So you can see why Koch wrote what he did.)


The disclaimer: My friendship with Randy Mosher is old enough to buy beer legally. In addition, he was the technical editor for “Brew Like a Monk,” for which I will always be in his debt, and he has said and written nice things about me on occasion.


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