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]
After homebrewing an English IPA yesterday, I was left with about two quarts of "spent" grains -- whole barley, rye, wheat -- and so I took about two cups of that, added a cup or two of EVOO, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, and fresh mango salsa to taste ... about a cup of pickle juice (I like that instead of vinegar), chopped in a few garlic cloves, let it sit a bit while I prepared my salad (beets, arugula, kale, swiss chard, several kinds of lettuce -- all from my garden) and grated in some local cheese. Then I tossed the desired amount of "dressing" together with the salad and viola -- delicious! Not all grains come out of the homebrew process with flavor left -- but mine did. Taste it first! Mine was a nutty roasty flavor.
For a crunchy texture, fry the mash/spent grains, add a little salt and pepper, and then add them to any salad instead of croutons!
I don't know how the beer will turn out (it's bubbling madly as I write this) but the salad dressing is delicious.
P.S. 11/1/2013 -- The beer is great, and it's almost gone. Time to make some more.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.