Tag Archives: hop pellets

Beer School: The Harvest

18 Jul

After a full year of blogging about beer and food, I’ve realized that perhaps not everyone reading this blog is a die-hard beer geek and might be interested in the basics of what makes beer awesome.  Therefore, in the next weeks I’ll be rolling out Beer School 101.  The first installment covers “The Harvest”, wherein I’ll discuss the growing of hops and barleys, and the different varietals among them.

THE HARVEST:

Hops are an essential ingredient to beer and are a product of a female plant.  They provide an array of different flavors and aromas in beer when used at different periods of the beer making process which will be discussed in greater detail later.  As for growing hops, something I have yet to try, their process is fairly easy and has been likened to the rapid growth of kudzu.  They are trained up stakes or trellises as they are a climbing plant.  Only the cones/flowers are used in the brewing process and look like spikey, leafy pine cones but smaller and bright green.

Pictured above are fresh hops which can be used in brewing but offer some difficulties in consistency for the brewer.  More commonly, hops in pellet form are being used for their increased stability and consistent flavor delivery during the boil.  If you have access to your own fresh hops, you can crush one of the cones between your fingers then drop in the bottom of a glass and pour say an IPA over it: having crushed the cone you’ve released the aromatic oils of the hop flower which can greatly enhance your drinking experience.

There are many different varietals of hops, each with their own distinct profile that results in a spectrum of flavors and aromas.  Two uses for hops are bittering and finishing: bittering is used to make a beer have a bitter bite to it while a finishing hop is used to produce certain aromas that are citrus/piney/resinous/floral/grassy.

Barley is the second ingredient essential to beer.  It can be grown in two-row or six-row which indicates the style of beer in which it will be utilized.  The row number refers to the amount of barley on the plant that will later be husked for use.  The lower the row number = the higher amount of sugar available for fermentation which yields a higher alcohol content.  Most English Ales and traditional German brews use two-row for this very reason while American ales sometimes use six-row if they’re using additives such as corn.  Barley is malted for brewing use, meaning the barley is soaked in water until it germinates which gets the enzymes working so the starch of the plant turns into usable sugars.  Remember that sugar is what the yeast will feed on later to create alcohol and CO2.

I could go on and on about the complexities of these two important ingredients, but hopefully you get the general idea.  Now you know a little more about what goes into that beautiful thing called the beer in front of you.  Cheers!

Black Beer, Yellow Cap

28 Jun

Last week was my second time working at Buckeye Brewing this summer.  Two weeks ago, all I did was wipe down the bombers before packaging them in cases and transporting them to the coolers.  As boring as that may sound, no task is menial at a brewery and it allowed me to keep my ears open and ask a lot of questions about the brewery and its history.  My second time round, I worked a 9 hour day: the first half went the same as the previous week and the second half I got to bottle.  I was doing alright until I mixed up the buttons.  The bottling machine works by placing 2 bombers under the fillers and pressing 2 black buttons at the same time.  Then you move the bombers over to the capper and press 2 yellow buttons and 1 bottle is capped at a time.

However, I managed to accidently press the black buttons instead of the yellow when no bombers were under the fillers and so 2 bombers of Hippie IPA went spraying all over the machine, the table, the floor and me while I yelled, “NO NO NO!!! STOP STOP STOP!!!”  I pressed the stop button and called over the owner who was very sweet and told me “It wouldn’t be a brewery if you didn’t get soaked in beer at some point”.  To insure it didn’t happen again, I wrote in red sharpie on the back of my hands, “Black Beer” and “Yellow Cap”.

That was one highlight of the day, but the real highlight was being shown and allowed to dry hop the Hippie IPA with Cascade pellets for aroma.  Hop pellets are so funny looking, they remind me of gerbil food from 5th grade science class.  However, they offer brewers a great advantage in that they are more consistent in their bittering and aroma capabilities and more stable during the boil than regular full hops.  Anyways, the point of this little story is that even after my little accident I came away feeling like a big girl and one step further on the brewing yellow brick road.

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