By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the beer world, there are brews that cover nearly every shade of the yellow-to-brown spectrum. This huge array is possible thanks to the careful addition of grains. Grain doesn’t just add color; it also helps shape the flavor of any particular style. Not unlike hops, the grain helps the consumer identify the type of brew they’re enjoying (or choking down).
What’s Out There?
Although there’s a large selection of grains to choose from and an even greater number of combinations to be used, don’t be alarmed. This is the most exciting part about brewing — the experimentation. Not only is there barley in all of its malted, unmalted, caramel and roasted glory; you can also brew with wheat, rye, spelt and some gluten-free grains that have been given the same treatment to add more dynamism to your batches.
With all of this variety, you can also opt to use a roasted malt that’s had its hulls removed. This provides a great deal of color with only a small amount of roasty character and little-to-no bitter/astringent flavor. Some grains like Chocolate Wheat also offer that flavor and color profile, but it can also enhance mouthfeel.
Of course, the grains you select help you determine the style of beer you’ll brew, but they can also be used in crazy ways to create new, interesting concoctions. The only limiting factor is your imagination.
Experimentation is aided by brewing software. You can also guesstimate by researching the malt and knowing how it’s produced. First and foremost, every grain you use has a measured color that will contribute to the Standard Reference Method (SRM) of the finished product. The unit of measure in the U.S. is called Lovibond. The Lovibond of the grain will tell you where it sits on the range of colors: from light yellow to amber to pitch black. There is a different unit of measurement used by European malting companies called European Brewing Convention (EBC). Thankfully, the conversion to Lovibond is easy and most malting companies provide both measurements.
Just as important as color is the flavor the malt contributes. Using too many specialty malts can result in a product that’s overly sweet or tastes burnt. On the SRM scale, anything above 40 is only adding roastiness. Take care to avoid going overboard with roasted barley, otherwise your brew will have an ashtray-like quality. And if you add too many caramel malts, you’ll be stuck with a cloying finished batch. If either of these things happen, the flavors will not fade with time.
The process of creating specialty malts requires more heat and time to allow the sugars to caramelize, eventually begin to toast and then burn. In the caramel malt world, you have flavors that run from a light caramel note to those that taste like dried fruit or burnt sugar. In the roasted malt category, there are characteristics that range from light toast to charcoal. With the wonderful variety of flavor and color combinations available, grains are definitely the paint on the brewer’s palette. When creating your next award-winning homebrew, remember that there is a spectrum of options.
Squealing Pig Wheat Pale [AG]
Squealing Pig Wheat Pale [Extract]
By Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Some partnerships are meant to happen. That’s certainly the case with Hopworks Urban Brewery and Patagonia Provisions, the result of which is Long Root Ale.
Released in October 2016, Long Root Ale is a Northwest-style pale ale that incorporates organic hops and barley alongside the perennial Kernza grain. The beer is named for the deep-rooted Kernza plant, which produced the grain. It was developed by Patagonia Provisions and the Kansas-based Land Institute as part of efforts to push sustainable, regenerative farming.
Hopworks became involved in the project more than a year ago, beginning with a phone call to founder and brewmaster, Christian Ettinger. Well aware of Patagonia Provisions’ efforts in transforming agricultural systems and practices, Ettinger was flattered and humbled.
“It was a surreal moment for me,” says Ettinger. “It was hard to believe a company I look up to as a business owner had dialed my number and inquired about making a beer with us. Within days, we met with them and my team learned about Kernza for the first time. Soon enough, we were thinking about brewing the beer.”
Long Root Ale is light amber in color and features a touch of nutty maltiness up front. It finishes with a burst of tropical hops and a hint of spice similar to what you find in a rye beer. At a little more than 5% ABV, it’s a nicely drinkable beer.
“Long Root is doing well for us,” Ettinger says. “I can’t provide numbers on pints sold, but we’re brewing it regularly and it serves as the primary pale ale in our pubs. It’s been well-received by our pub patrons and is selling well in packaged form. I also understand it’s doing quite well in Japan.”
Long Root Ale is made with organic two-row barley, organic yeast and a blend of organic Northwest hops. The addition of 15 percent Kernza brings a mild spiciness to the dry, crisp finish. Long Root Ale represents the first commercial use of Kernza grain. Integrating it into the beer was not without challenges.
“We soon discovered that the size and shape of the grain is problematic,” says Ettinger. “It’s long, thin and small, making it difficult to malt because it defies standard screens, bags and sieves. As a result, we’ve not been able to successfully liberate fermentable sugars from the grains.”
Which means, at least for now, the Kernza is behaving like unmalted wheat or barley. It contributes color, body and flavor, but no measurable sugar. Ettinger is searching for a solution and hopes to increase the percentage of Kernza used in the beer at some point.
“We’re working on finding or designing a malting bin that will accommodate the Kernza,” Ettinger says. “If we can do that, it will be a full player in this beer and we’ll be able to increase how much of it is used. In fact, a bin like that might hold other unconventional grains, which would be a nice development.”
The environmental advantages of the Kernza plant are many. As a perennial, it doesn’t need to be replanted each year, reducing fuel use and topsoil loss. Because it grows 6-8 feet deep, compared to annuals like wheat and barley that grow only 6-10 inches deep, the Kernza requires significantly less water, fertilizer and pesticide. The roots of the plant extract nutrients from deep in the soil, improving soil biodiversity and trapping carbon, good news for the planet.
“For a lot of reasons, we are extremely proud to be part of this project,” says Ettinger. “It’s one of the most spiritually satisfying things that we’ve been involved in.”
For its part, Patagonia Provisions saw a unique opportunity in teaming up with Hopworks to showcase efforts the company has made in developing environmentally sound farming practices.
“Beer holds a critical role in society and history. It’s the center of many tables, uniting us with its common language,” said Patagonia Provisions’ Birgit Cameron in a press release.
“We saw an opportunity to use a widely influential product to help tell the story of organic regenerative agriculture, via Kernza, to a wide swath of people. All it takes is a small tweak in the way we make our beer to effect big change — we’re hoping this message reaches the big brewers of the world.”
Long Root Ale is available in packaged form at Whole Foods stores in Oregon, Washington and California, as well as at Hopworks locations in Portland and Vancouver, Wash. But don’t look for the iconic HUB logo. Artwork on the 16-ounce cans features Patagonia Provisions branding.
“The Patagonia brand is super clean, minimalistic,” Ettinger says. “Any artist will tell you restraint can be a good thing. Sometimes less is more. We hope to get some Hopworks logos on Patagonia apparel in the near future. We are still in the early stages of this partnership.”
The complementary values of Patagonia Provisions and Hopworks run deep. Both are B-Corporations, a type of for-profit corporate entity committed to making a positive impact on society, workers, communities and the environment. B-Corporations are currently authorized in more than half of the U.S. states.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in sustainable practices,” Ettinger says. “Our partnership with Patagonia Provisions has actually helped us refine and sharpen our vision. Part of that is sharing what we know, because awareness leads to experimentation, which leads to action.
“Baby steps are fine. That’s how change often happens.”
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The world of craft brewing is constantly evolving, which allows consumers to experiment with a vast variety of new styles — from the Cascadian dark ale to experimental ciders. However, an emerging trend that proves to be challenging to make even to the bravest of breweries is the gluten-free beer. Homebrewers should be at the forefront of making novel concoctions and, therefore, we shouldn’t shy away from gluten-free. Figuring out the best and easiest way to develop this type of beer so that it’s economical and tasty won’t be easy, but that’s why we’re here to help.
What’s in a Grain
Gluten is found in pretty much all of our favorite brewing grains. To get started, one of the simplest things you can do is avoid the usual grain you’d pick up at the local homebrew shop. However, most supplies carry two different gluten-free syrups that can serve as the basis for every gluten-free recipe you want to create. If you’d like to avoid extract, options include rice, corn, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, oats, teff, amaranth and quinoa. The two syrups available at most shops are made of rice and sorghum. They should be treated just like any other malt extract. All-grain brewers can seek out a malted whole rice that’s fairly new to the market, but it’s also expensive and not carried in every shop.
If you’re brewing for someone who’s very sensitive to gluten or has celiac disease, be sure to purchase grains, particularly oats, that say Certified Gluten Free. Unfortunately, there are no roasted or caramelized versions of these malts, so any beer you make will be very light in color. Those with an adventurous streak can always buy some whole grains from the list above and try to toast them. This may help add a different flavor profile to your finished product. For example, rice is very dry and, once fermented, doesn’t have much of its own unique characteristics to add to the brew. However, sorghum has a lot of flavor that has been described as a sour or tart-like finish. When building recipes, be sure to taste the grains while thinking about how they will impact the final product. Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it tastes good.
If you’re not excited about making a 100 percent gluten-free brew, there are alternatives. An enzyme sold by White Labs called Clarity Ferm will reduce the amount of gluten in a finished batch of homebrew. A handful of commercial beers use this product to achieve gluten-free status. Be sure to read the package for dosage. You can also use a large amount of oats or spelt malt for less gluten. The two malts can provide the flavor and appearance of most other base malts, but contain less gluten.
Those with gluten sensitivities, in many cases, can still enjoy beer with these options. Just remember to divulge any information about your homebrew recipe to test samplers. It’s no fun to be a guinea pig when you might end up sick.
No Gluten for Punishment
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