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Why dry hopping may lower iso-alpha acids but boost bitterness

Recent research related to hops and brewing is not making life easier for the people who write brewing software.

Exhibit A: A peer-reviewed paper in the Master Brewers Association of the Americas Technical Quarterly titled, “Humulinone Formation in Hops and Hop Pellets and its implications for Dry Hopped Beers.” (A condensed version of the results of the S.S. Steiner experiments described in the Technical Quarterly is available at the Hopsteiner website.)

Exhibit B: Research going on at Urban Chestnut Brewing in St. Louis related to the impact of dry hopping on pH, then the impact of pH on perceived bitternes.

We’re not talking about changes in International Bitterness Units (IBU) that result from dry hopping, so I pretty much made up that part about problems for brewing software. But the changes in bitterness are real. So ripped from the headlines:

– Humulinones are formed by the oxidation of alpha acids within the hop. They are not a recent discovery, but there was little reason to pay attention to them before brewers began dry hopping at the rate some do today. Yes, you may blame IPAs.

– They are about two-thirds as bitter as alpha acids that are isomerized by boiling (becoming iso-alpha acids, the primary bittering component in beer), but — here is the key — they are more soluable and will dissolve into beer during dry hopping to increase bitterness.

The devil is in the details:

– Baled hops (which is what almost all brewers previously used) contain less than 0.3% w/w (which basically means by weight), but the concentration can increase to .5% w/w after hop pelleting.

– Hops with a higher hop storage index (HSI – and when that is higher it means the hop loses its alpha acids more quickly) have a higher concentration of humulinones. This is variety dependent.

– Comparing a low-IBU beer to a high-IBU beer in order to understand the solubility characteristics of humulinones produced a surprising result. Increasing the dry hopping dose from 0 to 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 pounds per barrel resulted in progressively lower iso-alpha acide consentrations, from 48 to 39, 35, and 30 ppm, respectively. “This siginifcant loss in bitterness was offset, however, by the large increase in humulinones that dissolved in the beer.”

And the bitterness was different. I had to read this explanation slowly (I could feel my lips move): “Sensory evalutation of a very low IBU beer spiked with 22 ppm of humulinones was compared with the same beer spiked with 14.5 ppm of iso-alpha acids. The bitterness intensity of the two beers appeared to be similar, confirming that humulinones are about 66% as bitter as iso-alpha acids. The bitterness profile of the humulinone beer, however, appeared smoother, and there was less lingering on the tongue than with the iso-alpha acid beer. This smooth bitterness makes sense given humulinones are more polar than iso-alpha acids and should therefore not stick or linger on the tongue as long as iso-alpha acids.”

Moving on to pH.

Kurt Driesner, quality assurance manager at Urban Chestnut, discussed some of the early results of the brewery’s research at a MBAA meeting at UCB last month. Expect more information in a few months, but right now: typical dry hopping at UCBC increases pH between 0.1 and 0.25 units; preliminary data suggests that every 0.1 increase in pH is equivalent to a 2 IBU increase in perceived bitterness; and the perceived difference can be observed through pH adjustments independent of any dry hop addition.

S.S. Steiner also observed that pH increased as the dry hop dosage increased, so took five commercial beers with different IBUs and different pHs and dry hopped them with with Cascade hop pellets. The results showed that regardless of starting IBU or pH dry hopping had a linear impact on pH, with the pH rising by about 0.14 units per pound of hops used per barrel.


The last Monday beer links before the big Reinheitsgebot party


There was a lot to read last week. I felt particular pressure assembling these links because Boak & Bailey were out in the field and didn’t post their usual Saturday nuggets and longreads. I didn’t want to leave anything out, so pardon pairings that look strange and please be sure to at least scan to the end.

Recreating Old Beer Styles Conference part 2.
You knew I’d put this first. Beyond the the nitty gritty details about styles you may or may not care about there is this: “After the Beer History Conference we had a preview of CAMRA’s revitalisation project from Tom Stainer. Martyn Cornell asked if this was CAMRA’s version of Tony Blair’s ‘Clause Four moment’. Ron Pattinson saw it as the choice between taking a Stalinist or Trotskyist position. To which I could only reply that when it comes to real ale revisionism I’m positively Maoist.” [Via Ed’s Beer Site]


Wie verändert sich der Biergeschmack?
(What happens to the taste of beer?)
Next Saturday is the Big Day, the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot. If you are still catching up with what that might mean then read Jeff Alworth’s story in All About Beer magazine. This interview (Google will translate it for you, although I sense something is lost in the process) with Ludwig Narcissus is fascinating. He offers first hand experience about the last seventy years of brewing in Germany. There are many takeaways, beyond that Narcissus finds the Reinheitsgebot important. My favorites:

a) He wrote the recipe for a beer called “Hersbrucker” that was brewed at the Weihenstephan pilot brewery. I love Herbrucker hops.

b) At the end he is asked, “If you were young brewers today – what would you wish for and the beer?” He answers, “Dass es so bleibt wie bisher, mit dem erweiterten Feld der Craft-Biere.” In his view, tradition and craft can oo-exist. [Via Frankfurter Allgemeine, h/T @STLBrewer}

Blind German Pils Tasting #3 – In the Land of the Blind.
We can’t get most of these beers in the United States, but there’s a good chance you can’t get a bunch of the beers on any other “drink this” list. [Via Berlin Craft Beer}


Cloudy IPAs: Cloudy with a chance of hops. [Via Joe Sixpack] and What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About North East IPAs. [Via Beer Graphs]

Wooing the Brewery: How Asheville’s big beer deal fell flat. Remember the discussion last week about Roanoke “winning” Deschutes’ east coast brewery? This is the story from the other competitor. A very long read, about 5,000 words worth. [Via Citizen Times]


What Happened to the United Craft Brewers?
[Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]
What Could UCB Ever Do For Us?
[Via Beer Noveau]
Brewdog and craft beer post-The United Craft Brewers.
[Via Brew Geekery]

Much of the discussion here is about defining “craft beer.” Where have we seen that before? Just because there is no definition that satisfies everybody does not mean tha craft beer is not a thing. But, from Brew Geekery, there comes a warning: “Surprisingly, Brewdog’s project is an international one, as James told us he and Martin are in talks with Stone Brewing in the US regarding it. Stone has obviously been a massive influence on Brewdog, but how any definition of UK craft beer can be arrived at between the two perplexes me. It would make sense if Brewdog had applied to the Brewers Association about an international membership, but just what is it and Stone brewing here? A breakaway global movement? Craft brewers of the world unite? Whatever they are up to, they’re no doubt set to throw a metaphorical hand grenade into the already volatile battleground of how to define craft beer.”


Anheuser-Busch buys Devils Backbone, its 8th craft brewery.
Just one story about last week’s big sale, an interview with Devils Backbone co-founder Steve Crandall. “We have a vision, and we’ve had a vision since we started this business. We’re on 100 acres here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we want to develop a very positive experiential facility, including a campground and RV hookups. We’re a destination brewery — people drive to get here and want to stay on the property — but we couldn’t spend any money on it because everything was going to capacity. AB listened to us and believed in us. From the very beginning, we had a great relationship with these guys; prior to meeting them, I wasn’t sure they put they’re pants on one leg at a time, but they do. They’re decent people. So we’re building the campground — plus some other things we’re not ready to announce yet — and a 50,000-square-foot facility at our packaging facility in Lexington.”
[Via Chicago Tribune]


On the Road Again: The Very Real Impact of Beer Tourism.
“In a way, it’s merely one end of a spectrum, where at the other, local rules supreme. Even if you may be a national brand, you can still find a connection to that powerful emotional theme of community.” [Via This Is Why I’m Drunk]

Finding Cuban Beer in the Land of Cigars and Rum.
“‘This is the perfect drink for this country,’ our guide, Anna, explained as we drank mugs of helles lager. ‘People think we are sugar cane and rum, but here people are hot all the time. You go to the beach and the baseball game, and people drink beer. Not the mojito, not the Cuba libre. Beer. Every day they are drinking beer.’ [Via All About Beer]

Lithuania and its peculiar, little-known farmhouse ales.
“When we name the world’s great beer-drinking people—the Czechs, Germans, Belgians, Brits, and what the hell, Americans, too—we probably ought to include the Lithuanians. Based on their number of breweries, distinct brewing traditions, sheer quantity consumed and beer’s importance in their social life, they belong in that echelon. But people rarely mention Lithuania in that conversation, because they don’t know much about it.” [Via DRAFT}


Two Atlanta beer pioneers talk local beer history.
[Via Creative Loafing]
Inside the Tank | Off Color Brewing’s John Laffler.
[Via Porch Drinking]
Hear From DC Brau’s Co-Founders About Their Five Year Mark.

Reports from Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Does the metro-centric aspect indicate anything? I’m not sure, but I know you too should love the barrel aged cask story (link No. 1).



How original is latest Brewdog prank?

Because links to a story about how 200,000 cans of Brewdog Punk IPA had to be recalled is a result of an employee prank keep showing up in my Twitter feed this smorning I remembered that something similar happened at Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis last year.

Given that we cannot agree on who brewed the first Double IPA — the same thought may occur thousands of miles apart at somewhat the same time — this certainly does not mean what happened at Brewdog was derivative. But it is a reminder that little in beer, no matter what modifer (in this case “craft”) in front of the word, is new.

If you missed the Brewdog story, packing manager Graeme Wallace added “Mother F***er Day” to the time stamp on the bottom of Punk IPA cans. He was not fired. Instead, a Brewdog spokesperson said: “At another company, someone responsible for a prank like this might have been given the heave ho. At BrewDog, Graeme was awarded Employee of the Month.”

And if you forgot the Sun King story, it involved 20,000 cans of Wee Mac Scottish Ale with “Tom Brady Sux” stamped on the bottom. This wasn’t too long after Brady and the New England Patriots had defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL playoffs (the “DeflateGate” game). The message qualified as an obscenity for Patriots fans, and certainly wasn’t “Midwest polite.”

“It wasn’t an idea we came up with at all,” said (co-founder) Clay Robinson, referring to Sun King the company. “Every day, we change the thing on the bottom of our cans. One of the guys running the canning lines had to come up with something. Biscuit is his name. So Biscuit put ‘Tom Brady Sux.'”

Sun King is known for its quirky words next to its born-on dates. During the Indianapolis 500, for example, there will be sayings like “Turn left,” or “Go fast.”

Sometimes, there are movie quotes or one-line quips, such as “Drink and Repeat” and sometimes all the can says is “Yummy.”

Biscuit is real. Robinson didn’t reveal his real name because the brewery received numerous profanity-laced phone calls and, Robinson said, one death threat against Biscuit. A week after the first story appeared, he agreed to an interview with the Indianapolis Star that didn’t include his given name.

In addition, the brewery created this video:


Session #111 announced: Beer mid-life crisis

The SessionHost Oliver Gray has announced the topic for the 111th gathering of The Session on May 6. He writes, “I’m having a beer mid-life crisis, yo.” And so …

All that talk of beer bubbles might prove true, but instead of a dramatic *pop* we’ll might see a slow deflation followed by a farting noise as some of the air leaks out and the hobbyist move on the spend their time and dollars elsewhere. It’s impossible to see the future, but if my fall from rabid beer fanboy to dude-who-drinks-beer-and-sort-of-wants-to-be-left-alone is indicative of a trend, I’ve got some signs to make a doomsaying to do.

What say you?

Do you find it hard to muster the same zeal for beer as you did a few years ago? Are you suffering through a beer-life crisis like I am? If so, how do you deal with it?

I don’t mean to pick on Oliver, but when I saw his tweet — “I’m hosting the Session again in May. Topic? Beer Mid-Life Crisis. It’s exactly what it sounds like.” — my first thought was, “Mid-life crisis? You are a pup.” I do hope some bloggers in his age class, as opposed to mine, tackle this question.


Not so pretty Monday beer links: Sexism and cronyism


It seems not all of the stories, or tweets, I found last week were written with rose-colored beer goggles on.

Black Acre Brewery’s Jason Gleason’s viral post on sexism shouldn’t be remarkable.
[Via Time Out]
Gendered Wine Marketing Is Still All Too Real.
[Via Punch]
“It should be totally normal to treat women like people.” Take the time to read the first post, at a minimum.

The Crony Capitalists of Craft Beer.
“It’s easy to understand why politicians like funding breweries. They get to play with other people’s money, and much like when funding a new sports arena, they get to associate themselves with a product that many voters consider fun and pleasant. But the economic benefits are dubious.” And: “Lowering these barriers or making it easier for businesses to navigate them would encourage entrepreneurship across the board, rather than concentrating benefits on big breweries that cultivate political connections.” [Via]

Why one of the nation’s premier beer festivals seems to have lost its luster.
And I thought slow ticket sales were because I am going to be there. [Via Washington Post]

Craft Beer Talk: Escape captures Redlands in a bottle.
“I was in the past. It was my first time home from college. Returning from a meal with my family, my mother took the back roads home through the orange groves and rolled the windows down. She said, ‘Did you miss this?’ It was in that moment that I realized what San Diego was lacking: Orange blossoms at night. This beer brings back that moment. That realization of what home smells like.” [Via Redlands Daily Facts]

Italian Rabbit and Polenta With Danny Smiles.
“According to Rhino, he started Beer Thugs because he “had fallen out of place” from Hop Heads, a larger craft beer club. The group has existed for five years and now has members in central California, the East Coast, and as far away as Tokyo. Most of the members are old punks, potheads, and skinheads. Beer Thugs is just one of the mostly Latino private craft beer groups that exist in Southern California, which are using their passion for craft beer to find their bicultural identity while also extending their personal networks.” [Via Munchies]

Allagash Brewing Company — Chasing Waves and Beer.
Beautiful photos, an excellent introduction to Allagash Brewing for those who have had the beer but know little about the Maine brewery, or a fine way to catch up with what is new there. However I don’t agree with the notion that flagship Allagash White “may be the brain, but it’s their fruited, oaked, and soured ales that are the heart.”

I might be wrong. I understand what Cory Smith is saying about rewarding consumers and that for them beers that come out of Allagash’s coolship are the heart. And, what the heck, one of the Allagash employees showing him around calls those beers “100% of soul.” White accounts for about 80% of the 80,000 barrels Allagash brewed last year. It is a delicate beer, nuanced, balanced. It could fall of the rails easily, but it doesn’t. So I think about what founder Rob Tod said when I visited the (much smaller) brewery in 2008 to talk about White for Brewing With Wheat. “Our focus has been on maintaining the flavor of the beer,” he said. “Six years ago, it might have been precisely like we wanted it after a certain amount of time. Now we have extended that time dramatically.” So I’d say White, and the passion for quality behind it, represents the soul of Allagash. [Via Good Beer Hunting]


… and bringing us back to where we started (click on the time/date).


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