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Time as beer’s fifth ingredient

Brian Yaeger asks if “consistency is the fifth ingredient in beer” (the first four being those specified in Germany’s beer purity law).

I find it easier to think about time as an ingredient. It adds to cost of production, and it influences the quality of the resulting beer, just like barley or hops. A beer that lagers six weeks occupies tank space that could have been used to produce three two-week lagers. Decoction makes a longer brew day. Beer properly bottle conditioning in a warm room is beer that could already by bringing in money were it otherwise carbonated.

Which box is that notebook in?In all fairness, Brian’s post is really intended to be more about the importance of consistency. There’s a New Beer Rule (#4: The god of beer is not consistency) about that, but he’s reminded me of the need for further discussion about the difference between quality control and blind devotion to “consistency.” That’s going to have to wait a couple of weeks, because there are comments from brewers somewhere in these boxes (or others) I want to include.

But a quick hint where I’ll be going. I’m far less bothered when a brewer changes the blend of hop varieties in a particular beer based on the quality of a particular crop than when he or she is dry hopping a beer and she or he doesn’t understand how that can affect diacetyl reduction. A little more or less marmalade on the nose this month is OK. A little more butter in the mouth is not.

Back to filling boxes.

14 Responses to Time as beer’s fifth ingredient

  1. Alan May 27, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    While I don’t mind the butter so much as an eastern NAm beer fan, I like another aspect of inconsistency to a certain degree. Time and distance traveled affect the final taste of a beer. I fully accept that beer “X” when I have it is not like it is when it sat utterly fresh at the brewery’s loading dock waiting for the truck. Sometimes this is intentional as with, say, a barley wine that needs time to come into fullness but sometimes it isn’t like a faded but still tasty IIPA or even lower strength brew that has developed a saucy tang.

    If it tastes good – even for reasons the brewer did not intend – I am still happy.

  2. Jorge - Brew Beer And Drink It May 27, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever heard of dry hopping affecting diacetyl reduction… how does that work, or where can I read about it?

    Cheers,
    Jorge

    • Stan Hieronymus May 27, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      Jorge – I apologize for putting it this way but you’ll be able to read about it in “For the Love of Hops.” Since that is a year out once I’ve completed that research I’ll post something here and/or at the site for the hops book.

  3. Matt May 27, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Um, yeah, never personally had any issues with diacetyl from dry hopping, nor have I ever heard of this before.

  4. Jorge - Brew Beer And Drink It May 27, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Oh, I didn’t know you were writing a book… I’d love to hear more about it and if you want I can interview you… I’m sure my readers would love to learn about it…

    If you can send me an email on the topic and I’ll start experimenting to have more material ready when your book is ready…

    Cheers,
    Jorge

  5. Steve May 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Matt — you read that wrong; drop hopping doesn’t create diacetyl, it appears that it can help reduce it. Interesting.

  6. Steve May 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Drop hopping? Have I invented something new?

    Sorry — meant to type “dry hopping,” of course.

  7. Stan Hieronymus May 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Guys – You are interrupting packing. I kinda like the interruption, but then the work doesn’t get done.

    Dry hopping is part of process, as are diacetyl reduction and harvesting of yeast. There’s a balance to be struck. This is not nearly as much of a concern in homebrewing as brewing on a commercial scale.

  8. Kristen England May 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I thought passion was the 5th? That would make ‘quality’ the 6th ingredient I believe.

  9. Matt May 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Steve – not sure how “A little more or less marmalade on the nose this month is OK. A little more butter in the mouth is not.” indicates that dry hopping reduces diacetyl.

    Stan – How’s there a balance to be struck? Wait for the yeast to clean up the mess, dump the trub out of the fermentor, add the dry hops. Those seem like three discrete processes.

  10. Pivní Filosof May 28, 2011 at 3:27 am #

    I like the idea of “time” as an ingredient, because, unlike passion, it’s something you can taste in the final product.

    As for consistency. To me it generally means that buying a beer repeatedly over time won’t mean “hoping for the best, expecting the worst”.

  11. Velky Al May 28, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    The time factor may explain why I prefer Budvar to Pilsner Urquell. Budvar have kept the old tradition of 1 week of lagering time for each degree Plato of original gravity, so their 12 degree lager spends 90 days in the lagering tanks after a 12 day primary fermentation.

  12. Stan Hieronymus May 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Steve – dry hopping does not reduce diacetyl (although I’ve seen suggestions it could be used to mask it)

    Matt – Sorry not to be more expansive, but I’d rather exam all aspects, but complete and then explain. However, for one thing, the processes may overlap.

  13. Steve May 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    Stan — I figured it was more of a masking property than reduction of the actual character.

    Matt — This is the part of the quote I was referring to:
    “…in a particular beer based on the quality of a particular crop than when he or she is dry hopping a beer and she or he doesn’t understand how that can affect diacetyl reduction.

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