Malts & Natural Preservatives
Part II of IV in a series on the age of beer. [ Part 1 2 3 4 ]
The tasty aromatic oils of the hop cone may be the most vulnerable to degradation, but hops are only one of the ingredients in beer. Let us examine the primary ingredient in beer: malts. Barley malt is where most of the flavor comes from in beer and it also contains the sugars that are turned into alcohol during fermentation. While a few ounces of hops spice the beer, barley malt is the backbone.
Beer stored cold, the ideal retailer.
The core flavor of a beer comes from the malt and degrades over time. Beer with little malt flavors such as pale lagers have a crisp taste that becomes stale and grainy within months. These beers are made with pale malts and use little of it. More substantial beers have more shelf life, as there is a great deal more flavor to begin with and a variety of malts are often used. Stouts, for instance, have good shelf as they not only utilize more malt, but also malts with more flavor, like roasted barley.
Despite these differences, the vast majority of beers are designed and made to be drank fresh. When most beers hits the shelves it is ready to drink, so it makes sense that most beer should be kept refrigerated by both retailers and consumers. The number of beers that do not benefit from refrigeration makes up a small percentage of beer sales. Though few stores do, almost all beer should be refrigerated to preserve its brewery fresh taste.
It could be said that pale beers have less shelf life than dark beer, but there are many exceptions to this rule. The first exception is related to the alcohol content. With every pound of malt in a recipe, more sugars are added which ferment into beer. Alcohol is a natural preservative, so the higher the alcohol content the better the shelf life of a beer. More hops normally complement brews with more malt, and these are also natural preservatives.
It’s in Japan. Is it coming soon to the US market?
It has long been my belief that the more a light lager resembled water the more popular it would be. With Bud Select 55 we are eerily close to this point in the USA. How far will it go? Well, if Japan is any indication of the future—and it usually is—it will go all the way down to zero.
Several firms are battling it out already, including Suntory and Asahi. Of course they are also zero alcohol, as alcohol remains the largest source of calories in nearly all light beers. Within one week in August, Suntory received 400,000 orders of All-Free and had to suspend sales until September due to excess demand.
In Japan, it seems like light beer can actually be about refreshment. The only question is whether Americans actually like the taste of light beer enough to buy it when it doesn’t have any alcohol. Somehow I doubt it.
Part I of a series on the age of beer, freshness and cellaring.
DEMAND BREWERIES DATE THEIR BEER
While it is obvious that any time is a good time for beer, time and beer have a complicated but fundamental relationship in the realm of beer enjoyment. Time affects beer just as it affects any food, but its nature can be quite fickle. Most people understand that freshness is often essential when it comes to beer, and advertising from commodity beer brewers has reinforced this notion. Time can be beer’s worst enemy. On the other hand, as the well-versed beer drinker knows, age can also be a wise friend to beer. Both consumers and retailers need to understand the interaction between time and different beer styles and the organization of fridge and shelf or cellar space should be based upon this knowledge.
The complexity of beer is attributed to the variety of sources that different flavors can be derived from: different amounts and varieties of hops and grains, different yeast strains, multitudes of flavorings at the brewer’s discretion, and the level of alcohol in the end product. Time reacts with each of these elements differently. This explains why different types of beer require different methods of storage.
Victory for Freshness Dating
Hops are the top priority when it comes to beer age and freshness is tantamount. The flavor and aroma compounds that we squeeze out of the hop flower are by far the most degradable part of beer. Any beer with substantial hop flavors or aromas should be refrigerated at all times. This includes, but is not limited to, Pale Ales, single and double India Pale Ales, and real Pilseners. Any beer where hops are central to the beer is in danger of fading to flavor oblivion in a matter of weeks to months.
The 2010 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition winners were unveiled today, narrowing some 3,523 individual beer entries into a winner’s pool of only 80. GABF is inarguably the most prestigious and respected competition for American beer.
The Brewer’s Association, the organization behind the event, noted a geographic widening in the winner’s circle with the Midwest and Southeast stepping up the game this year. Despite this trend, it is immediately apparent that California largely dominated the competition. Pizza Port smashed competitors with a ridiculous ten medals, including five gold medals. A record-settng 142 entries were stared down by Pizza Port San Clemente in the American-style India Pale Ale category and beaten with their Pseudo IPA. Pizza Port Carlsbad claimed Large Brewpub of the Year and Pizza Port San Clemente claimed Small Brewpub of the Year. California continued its rampage with Firestone Walker taking six medals and TAPS Fish House & Brewery taking the Brewpub Group of the Year award along with three medals. Eagle Rock Brewery from Los Angeles won the Pro-Am category with their Red Velvet.
Click here for the full winner’s list
Stone Brewing Co. will bring forty taps to take over seven bars in seven cities in seven days the first week of October. Not sure if this needs to be pointed out, but forty individual taps of Stone means they are pulling out all the stops and breaking out a maddening variety of rare tasty beer. Greg Koch, Stone CEO, will personally kick off the festivities at each and every bar.
Stone will take over bars in Baltimore, Cambridge, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Charlotte, and Redondo Beach, CA. Details can be found on Stone’s web site—except for the event at California. Stone is prohibited by California law from promoting this event, but luckily Extol Beer is not.
Total Tap Takeover at Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach
On Thursday, October 7 at 7:00 PM Stone will take over the taps at Naja’s Place, one of the original beer bars on the west coast. Special guests will include not just Greg Koch, but also Steve Wagner (Stone President/Brewmaster), and Mitch Steele (Stone Head Brewer). This event will also kick off LA Beer Week!
Full beer list and tour dates after the jump.