Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part Two: Beechwood Aging

Our friends at Anheuser-Busch have long told us that their flagship brand Budweiser is "beechwood aged." What exactly does that mean to us?

Well, they do use beechwood chips in their lagering process. The purpose is not to add any beechwood flavor, in fact they boil the chips before they add them to their aging tanks to remove any oils or resins that can impart flavors. The purpose of the chips is to increase surface area on the bottom of their tanks where the chips settle. Suspended yeast in the beer will then settle onto this arrangement of beechwood chips allowing more yeast cells to be in contact with the beer during aging.

What's the benefit of contact with these yeast cells? During active fermentation, yeast produces many flavor compounds. Some of these compounds are desirable in the final product, others are not. After active fermentation and when in the process of going dormant and preparing for their next batch to ferment, yeast cells will draw in those undesirable compounds, thus removing them from the finished beer as they are filtered out. A couple of these compounds we are concerned with are acetaldehyde (green apple flavor) and diacetyl (buttery and butterscotch flavor) the latter being most troublesome in lagers because of lower fermentation temperatures. So when you can increase the amount of contact between aging beer and the yeast, post-fermentation, by having yeast cells collect on all these beechwood chip surfaces instead of a single layer on the bottom of the tank you can speed up the diacetyl removal process, thereby shortening aging time and moving the beer to the consumer faster.

Next up is "fire brewed" the old Stroh's line.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beer Marketing Terms and What They Mean Part One: Cold Filtration

I recently saw a neon sign in a store window that read Cold-Filtered MGD. It got me thinking about cold -filtration and what it means. First of all, as far as I know all filtered beer is cold-filtered. I've never heard of anyone filtering a beer while it's warm and there is a reason for that, which I'll address after we examine why beer is filtered.

Beer is filtered to produce a more stable and bright (very clear) final product. The filter removes small particles such as yeast and proteins that can make beer appear hazy. Why we filter beer cold has to do with two compounds found in finished beer, proteins and phenols. These proteins and phenols will bind together in a protein-tannin complex when cooled to temperatures near freezing. This complex is heavy enough to precipitate out of beer on its own if left undisturbed long enough. But, in order to move beer more quickly from the cellar to the tap, these protein-tannin complexes can be filtered out. If beer were filtered warm these complexes are not formed and the two constituents separately can pass through the filter, only to bind together again when the beer is chilled, causing haze. When beer is cold-filtered the complexes are intact and have a large enough particle size to be trapped in the filter medium.

So while it is true that cold-filtration is a quality enhancing procedure, using it as a marketable attribute would be akin to running as ad campaign stating, "Our beer is brewed with water." Which would be true of course, but all beers are brewed that way.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Training Video: 04

Remember plenty of exercise helps build thirst for a nice pint of BBC beer...

Monday, September 3, 2007

RIP Michael Jackson; King of Malt Pop

Many beer industry people have commented now on the passing of the famed beer writer Michael Jackson, most have included their stories about the time they met him. The common theme seems to be that their hearts were all atwitter as they approached Mr. Jackson, hoping that they would recieve some sort of blessing. Stumbling through their words with dry mouths and sweaty palms they would say something along the lines of "Mr. Jackson sir, do you remember that time in 1987 when you dropped your coaster? I was one of the four dorks that pounced on it." All kidding aside, I can't think of a more revered man amongst serious beer people.

I am obligated to tell you of my meeting with Mr. Jackson. We were standing outside our hotel in Denver following the Great American Beer Festival last year, when an elderly, disheveled, hunched over man shuffled over to me and snapped, "Get me a cab." I promptly told him that the valet would be of more assistance in that request than I would be, so he shuffled off. As I seen him climb into the cab I said to those around me, "Hey, that was Michael Jackson." Not exactly a life changing religious experience for me, nor for him I'm sure.

I will give credit where credit is due, Michael Jackson helped create the craft beer culture in America, giving life to an industry in which I make my living. He was a fantastic writer and critic who could bring the heart and soul of the world's breweries and pubs to those of us half a world away, and we will certainly miss him for that. With all that said, I respect Michael Jackson the most for getting paid to travel around the world drinking good beer and whiskey. That is an amazing accomplishment in itself.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy