By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In the wide world of beer making, there are many different places where homebrewers can find inspiration. When traveling for vacation, it may at times be difficult to find tasty beer, depending on the location. However, sampling another culture’s traditional fermented beverage can be an enjoyable and unique experience. Even if there isn’t beer readily available, trying new drinks can help develop your palate and spur future hybrid experiments back at home.
Expanding Your Brewing Pantry
In some parts of the world, people drink fermented milk and even blood. Of course, those ingredients may not make their way into your homebrew, but it’s still important to be open minded about unique ingredients.
The addition of fruit is no stranger to many homebrewers these days, but incorporating grapes in your next doppelbock or even some chanterelle mushrooms with hints of nuttiness can be a fun adventure. Be sure to have a good balance with the flavors you add and the beer itself; so experimentation is key. Even humongous breweries have a research and development department. This allows them to come up with the next crazy idea like a Cascadian dark ale. Of course, these research teams would be nothing without seriously dedicated homebrewers who are always willing and wanting to push the envelope.
The whole reason for traveling the world is to experience another culture and what makes it unique. Sometimes that means skipping the generic, mass-produced lager and instead trying a local drink made with fresh lime juice, a little sugar and a clear liquor made by distilling fermented sugar cane. You can then use those new-to-you beverages to develop a homebrew. Lime is easy, but getting the flavor of a banana or even a coconut to work well with beer can be a challenge.
Beyond the beverages, don’t overlook the possibility to be influenced by all of that wonderful food you’ll no doubt be gorging on because, after all, calories don’t count on vacation! For instance, the pomegranate chicken you may order for dinner contains an array of spices that could spark ideas about a unique flavor profile for a spiced beer instead of one made with the same old cinnamon and clove. Just remember that at the end of the day, everything you eat and drink can be used to create your next award-winning homebrew.
Building the Future
Once you have a fully stocked pantry of unique brewing ingredients, it’s time to build recipes and begin experimenting. Start by selecting flavors that will go well together. For example, lime and roasted malts probably won’t work. However, lime would pair wonderfully with mole spices in a dry stout. Take meticulous notes, so if you knock the first one out of the park you can replicate that process. But if the brew bunted and got tagged out, use your written record to edit and proceed in a different direction.
Keeping notes on what went into the beer and when is important, but so is a tasting log. This will allow you to see how the beer developed over time. Collecting feedback from people who try the beer is also useful. Homebrewing is all about trial and error, and what better way to experiment than to incorporate international flavors.
Down for the Brown [AG]
Down for the Brown [Extract]
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 Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Now that the new year is upon us, we should make some beer resolutions to continue to enhance our brewing skills. No recipe is complete without the perfect yeast, but what happens if the yeast that we love doesn’t get produced again? Not only can we as homebrewers harvest yeast from bottles and the world around us; we can also save a few dollars by keeping our favorite strain going for several yeast generations.
After your tasty homebrew’s primary fermentation period, the yeast will fall to the bottom of the fermenter and form a cake. Usually we would just discard this cake, but it‘s still a viable yeast pitch. As long as you were careful not to introduce anything foreign into it, you can use the cake as a new pitch for your next brew. The fastest and easiest way to reuse the cake is to brew the same day you empty your fermenter, then just put the new wort into the bucket with the yeast. You can only use this method a few times before you may notice some off-flavors beginning to develop. This is because there is protein and even some beer left from the previous brew. If you are planning to use this strain for much longer than a few brews, you can wash the yeast.
In order to wash the yeast, put about 3 gallons of cold water into your fermenter. Transfer as much of the sludge into a glass carboy or other clear vessel. Make sure there is plenty of liquid and that most of the sludge is stirred into the solution. You need to then put the carboy into a chilled area around 50 F. This will force the proteins and dead yeast cells to fall back into the cake and should only take a few minutes. Once most of the cake has re-formed, the live yeast cells will be floating in the water, so rack the water with the living cells into a separate sanitized container. After this is complete, you have a fresh yeast pitch with minimal impurities. You can continue to wash the same strain of yeast for several generations with very low levels of flavor change. Eventually the yeast will mutate and it may take on a completely new flavor. As long as it still tastes good, there’s no reason to stop using it when it can save you money.
Capturing New Strains
Purchasing yeast at your local homebrew shop is the safest guaranteed way to get the flavors that you are looking for in your homebrew. But sometimes you can harvest yeast out of an empty beer bottle and have your very own Duvel strain. If you are going to attempt this, you need to be sure that the beer has not been filtered or pasteurized. When you have found the beer with the yeast that you want, decant as much of the beer out of the bottle as possible. Add some cold water and transfer the remaining contents of the bottle into a flask or growler to begin making a starter.
To make a starter, cook up a small amount of wort by using dry malt extract and boil it with some water. Once the wort is chilled, add it to your flask or growler and allow it to begin fermentation. Be sure to incorporate air into the solution as well because it will help the yeast grow. You can do this by swirling the container every few hours or every time you walk past it. Another option would be to use a stir plate with a stir bar like the kind you might remember from high school chemistry class. Either way, in a few days your yeast should have enough cell growth for you to pitch it into your next tasty experiment.
Though it is cost-effective to save yeast and begin your own yeast bank, it can be a daunting task. Starting small and getting a few of the different techniques mastered can help to start the new year off right and ensure a successful brew year.
Killer Winter White [Extract]
Killer Winter White [AG]
By Gail Oberst
Oregonians are famous for their connection to what comes up out of their soil.
Eric Steen of Portland has taken Oregonian’s native interest in flora and suggested it could be used for more than just food and beauty. Local plants can also inspire art and beer.
“People are interested in beers that reflect their local landscapes,” Steen said.
Last year, Steen helped organize over 30 “Beers Made by Walking” events that got the public up off their barstools and into the wilds of Portland, Astoria, Ashland, Oregon’s parks and points in between with a goal to inspire professional and home brewers to include native plants in their craft. His walks and hikes took participants past wild wheat and wild flowers, nettles, thistle, dandelions, Echinacea, yarrow, heather and mushrooms, to name a few. Mint, elderberry, and rosemary wound up in local beers – Upright and Coalition, for example – as a result of the public hikes.
“Beers Made by Walking” is among Steen’s many projects aimed at combining his love of hiking, beer, art and sustainable living.
“Everyday actions are art. Activism is art,” said Steen. “I’m not just putting on a beer event. It’s art.”
His programs have inspired features at the Portland Art Museum and at Oregon, Washington and Colorado breweries. He’s garnered attention from local, regional and national media, including a feature on NPR’s food blog and Oregon Public Broadcast’s Ecotrope series. His findings are catalogued in The Walking Encyclopaedia, on exhibition at Stoke-on-Trent, England. He was awarded the Outstanding Instructor of the Year in Letters, Arts & Sciences College at the University of Colorado. And the list goes on.
So, what’s he doing now?
Steen is digging in, literally. He’s working on a project with Portland’s Forest Park Conservancy to raise awareness about the resources in the park and in the urban area, including yeasts. Brewers from one of the Columbia Gorge’s newest breweries, Thunder Island, placed beer wort in the old-growth forest area of the park to expose it to wild yeasts there, and then exposed another batch to second-growth forest yeasts. The results are still in the works.
Brewers – professional and home brewers – and other organizations can contact Steen for help organizing their own Beers Made by Walking event. He helps brewers locate a route or a trail, connects them with an area botanist, and provides assistance either in person, or via phone and e-mail. Steen doesn’t charge for his services, but he does ask for donations of beers inspired by these programs, which he shares with the next group of walkers. He also asks that breweries donate a portion of the proceeds from the beer they make to a local environmental nonprofit of their choice.
The walks don’t have to be sponsored by breweries. Recent sponsors have been 16 Tons in Eugene, and Belmont Station in Portland.
Updates on Steen’s activities are on his website and Facebook page, listed on this page. To connect with Steen, send him an e-mail.
Beers Made By Walking
( e ) Eric@beersmadebywalking.com
Facilitator: Eric Steen
By Gail Oberst
You probably haven’t heard of Tiah Edmunson-Morton. She doesn’t brew beer, she doesn’t run in brewing circles, and she hasn’t published anything of note about the beer world.
But someday, if you live and breathe beer, you will want to visit some of Tiah’s work. Tiah and her cohorts at Oregon State University Library’s new Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives (or OHBA) are quietly gathering the artifacts of the drama that has become Oregon’s modern and vibrant brewing Renaissance.
OSU – a land grant university with a long agricultural past – has been keeping records on brewing and hops-growing for at least a century. This summer, Tiah began to hone collections for OSU’s archives in a way that was “more deliberate,” she said. These archives can put an archivist’s stamp of authenticity on Oregon’s brewing Renaissance.
Although she’s been working at OSU for seven years, Tiah’s work on OHBA has just begun, so she’s looking for help. To kick it off this fall, she staged several community events – including a cooking with beer event that featured beer-based foods made from historic recipes gathered and archived in the OSU Libraries. The recipes are now listed online, ranging from a 1914 rye beer gelatin to Depression-era egg beer and dozens of other beer dishes.
Creating an archive dedicated to documenting and preserving Oregon’s brewing past and present is not just an archivist’s work, it’s the community’s work, said Tiah. The more people know about the archives, the better the potential for collecting materials that may now be gathering dust in someone’s attic. Already, supporters have produced photos, event records, coasters, letters, postcards, stories and recordings related to people, places and beers we now see as “historic” in their importance.
And Tiah is moving into a new branch of archiving, born of the digital age.
“How do you preserve a website or a blog?” she said. “People are writing and talking about really amazing stuff at an unheard of level. They’re growing hops, brewing and visiting breweries and writing about it!”
You might mistakenly assume from her enthusiasm for social networking that she is new to this internet thing, but she is not. In addition to web archiving and working in virtual boxes to collect what people are producing, staff at OSU are also digitizing their historical photo collections and putting them online. She’s also blogging about her adventures in archiving Oregon’s beer history at http://thebrewstorian.tumblr.com. Thanks to the recipe event, OHBA now has a collection of old and new beer cookbooks, and her blog adds a few notes about new recipes being added, such as those at Deschutes’ www.deschutesbrewery.com/brews/pub-recipes. And, as a true librarian should, she indexes things to make it easy to access.
But Tiah also said she hopes that beer history events will bring people to the collections, not only so they’ll donate materials, but also so they’ll learn from them. “I’m hoping for a hands-on way to engage people,” Tiah said.
Those who are interested in the archives can start at http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/ohba.html, which has links to photos in Flickr and Tiah’s blog.
How can those of us who love beer help?
“We’re asking people to see their place in this history and see that we didn’t come to this place in history without a connection to the past,” Tiah said. “But we can also ask people to archive right now, so that researchers in the future will get it right about us. Think in the future,” Tiah said.
Beer writers, farmers, brewers and company owners need to consider how their information is being saved. “Think about your place in history, and record it. Be intentional and deliberate.”
That means taking the pictures off your phone and organizing them into accessible files with dates and identifications. That means backing up your files! For writers, it means doing real research, with information gathered from the source, not just repeated from blogs or other publications. For videographers, it means talking to people who have played a part in Oregon’s beer history, no matter what their role was. “Did they have any idea at the time they started that any of this would happen? I don’t think so,” Tiah said.
Tiah can be reached at 541-737-7387, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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