Making a new beer.
I’ve been out of the spotlight the last couple months as I moved, we had a our beer tasting, life got busier at work and this stupid, cold weather keeping me down! This has definitely been the longest stretch without making a beer since we began… and it’s driving me crazy! So, with much ado, we begin the process again, finally! And, while I get back in the groove and begin the process of making our next beer, I thought it would be fun to outline exactly what I do to make a Hello, My Name is Beer masterpiece.
What beer to make?
Well, since we tend to make beers in threes and then have a beer tasting, we first have to decide what three beers to make and why. Right off the bat, I realized that A.) After we make these beers, this will be our one year anniversary Beer Tasting for Hello, My Name is Beer, and B.) I’m going to have a baby soon, so this may be our last beer tasting for a while. SOO, we decided that the next three beers will be our heavy hitters, our cream of the crop, our most popular beers from the last year, but perfected using the skills we’ve developed so far. Mainly, these beers were good, people liked them, but they weren’t QUITE as good as I would have liked them to be – I believe I make them better. And these beers are: ‘Bruce: the Porter’, ‘Lando: the Honey Orange Lager’, and ‘Janey: The Rose-hipped IPA’.
But who first?
Now that we’ve chosen which beers will come about in the next few months – which to make first? Well, first let’s look at what needs the most time to age? Lando will be full of sugar from the honey and need to condition under colder temperatures due to being a lager, but since we use ale yeast, the fermentation will be a pretty normal length. Also, though Janey will be dry-hopped (adding some additional time in the secondary fermentor), it won’t be too much longer. However, since Bruce will be a bit beefy (due to being a Porter) and the yeast need to take some time to organize the different kinds of sugars in him, this will definitely take the longest to condition and will be the first to make.
What should it taste like?
Now that we know which beer to make, what is it going to taste like? Well, here is where the real fun begins! With a little R&D! A mid-day jot to the local beer store (in our case – a giant Fred Meyers) and home we come with 4 22 oz bottles of different kinds of Porter to sample. We got: “Stone Brewery’s Smoked Porter”, “Deshute Brewery’s Black Butte Porter”, “Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter” and “Samuel Smith’s English Porter”. We then pour a glass each of the different beers and fully experience each beer, finding the qualities we like and noting the qualities we don’t like. For example, we loved the creaminess of the Artic Rhino, but not its coffee taste. We liked the balance of roastness to sweetness of the Black Butte, but not it’s weak body. After sampling them, the funny thing is, we didn’t necessarily LOVE any of them. They all had good attributes, but not enough to want to buy them again. And this is where I tend to have a problem with Porters. By definition, I should love this type of beer, but it is really hard to find a REALLY good one in the normal grocery store. My favorite so far was actually brought over from Denmark! So, my mission is to improve upon my last Bruce and make a great Porter is that much more important. In the end of our R&D, we have a long list of characteristics we want/don’t want, bellies full of delicious brew, and two pretty drunk brewers at 4:00 in the afternoon. BEST JOB EVER.
How to make it taste like that?
Now, what to do with the data? Well, it is time to crack the books! I now take each thing we wrote down and decide how to best achieve it. For example, we want minimal burnt roast flavor, a good body, a sweeter taste and some smoked flavor. Off the bat, I know that I should put in little to no roasted barely (which tends to create a burnt taste) and get the roasted taste from chocolate malt and highly kilned crystal malts. The crystal malts will also make the beer sweeter. However, how to create a bigger body and smoked taste? Upon looking in the grail of beer brewing books ‘How to Brew’ by John Palmer, I found out that the more malt I add, the more body the beer will have – however, I don’t want to taste like hard alcohol beer – so, another option is too add wheat, oats or other unfermentables (like Malto Dextrine) that stay in the beer and don’t get eaten by the yeast. Oats will also make the beer taste creamier. For the smoked taste, I look toward the internet. A few posts mentioned adding liquid smoke, but this seems really dumb and fake, so no go. I also found an article mentioning smoked malt or smoked peat malt. So, may try that. I also kind of want to try something new – adding smoked wood pieces to the secondary fermentor. Let’s get crazy!
Now that I know what I want and how to get it, it’s time to put it all together in a recipe. Beer recipes are actually very similar to food recipes. You have your main dish (or base malts), side dishes (specialty malts) and additional sauces/spices that make the whole thing taste “just right” (hops, yeast, ingredients added to the secondary, etc.). However, instead of eating them separately, with a beer you put them in a pot and blend em all together. That’s why, with a beer recipe, you tend to list the malts in percentages and the other ingredients in time in the boil. So, I start to plug in the ingredients, and adjust the percentages/times based on how strong I want the different tastes to come through. I also have to make sure these tastes fit with the general style guidelines for the kind of beer we have chosen. For this beer, I have chosen the specific Porter style – Baltic Porter, as it fits everything that we wanted when researching.
Other brewers have different processes, use different ingredients and make their choices based on different standards; but in the end, I bet it’s all something pretty similar! Hopefully this helps to shed some light on the process and gives a little more insight on how the magic of beer is made.
-Matt, Head Brewer