There's nothing like a cold beer. In this episode we talk about:
01:14 — What I am drinking
03:00 — The NFL and beer
04:13 — Freakin Bucket list beers
07:01 — World's strongest beer?
09:00 — New York state of mind
11:42 — Did Jesus drink beer?
15:16 — Hops
20:23 — Your questions answered
Welcome to another edition of Ask The Beer Guy. This is your host Jon Griffin, “The Beer Drinking Professor.”
Welcome to episode three of Ask the Beer Guys podcast and I want to welcome you this week. We’re going to talk about hops for our beer geek session. We’re going to talk a little NFL football and some beer news related to that. Some questions we have answered, one on hops and also on the distribution of beer. We’re going to talk about New York and talk about what the Governor’s doing to help the beer industry in New York and also help the taxpayers I’m assuming.
I have got some interesting news from the Freakin Frog, some unbelievable beer that’s going to be on tap for Halloween night only. I've got a news article on the strongest beer in the world and why it really isn’t. Remember marketer’s lie and I'll tell you why and, did Jesus drink beer especially or was he just a wine guy? All that and maybe a little more is coming up on this episode number three.
I’m going to talk about my usual, what I’m drinking and it happens to be my number three Desert Island Beer which is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. People think, “Man why did you pick that beer?” If you knew my number one and two which I’ll reveal in the next couple of weeks, it’s really going to seem a little out of place but Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to me is just a classic of a great drinking American style pale ale that’s just hoppy and bitter enough to keep my interest but not so bitter that it wipes my palate out and not malty enough that it’s not a great beer for the summer time.
Remember, I’m living in Las Vegas so I love the balance of it even though it’s balanced to the hoppy side. American Pale Ale. If you've never had one, say you're e not in America, these pale ales are basically Americanized versions of the British style using American ingredients. It’s usually a little bit hoppier, a little less malt body but there’s definitely malt there it shouldn't be just a bunch of hop water. That’s the reason I love Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I’m sure many people love it too.
It’s one of the top micro breweries in the country and you can buy it almost everywhere now. When I first started drinking it, it was really only available in California along with a lot of their beers and they slowly spread out. I remember I was in Boston and it was the first time I actually saw Sierra Nevada east of the Colorado River and I had to get my Swedish friend who was living there at the time to try it. He actually loved it even though it was a lot different than the typical lager most people were drinking back in the early 90’s. That’s what I'm drinking it, I love it. The quality is great and if you like a great refreshing all around beer especially in the summer time, try Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
You know, I like to have funny beer news and there’s always something every week that’s kind of hilarious and this one is talking about Chris Cooley who’s just re-signed with the Washington Redskins for NFL football team. For those of you outside the States I'm sure you can imagine but these guys are not on the unemployment rolls making no money. These guys have tons of money and one of the funny things is that he actually wanted beer, a case of beer negotiated in his contract.
Not per week that would be kind of funny but I guess to prove that he wasn't a fat slob and out of shape, he basically said I want to have a 30 pack of Coors heavy into the contract that he had.
The Redskins basically said, “Nope, not going to do it,” because they're worried about the salary cap and that 30 pack of beer might have put him over the salary cap! They also mentioned that the guy negotiating, it was the first time he’s ever said no to a player in a negotiation but I thought it was kind of funny. It’s a short little thing but if NFL football players want Coors then I guess it’s okay.
If you happen to be in Las Vegas and I know a few of my readers are, or if you are coming in the next week or so, I want to let you know about the Freakin Frog. Most of you know about it if you’re beer geek but it’s a beer bar in Las Vegas owned by my friend Adam Carmer, who also teaches at UNLV. He’s probably got the largest beer selection certainly in Nevada if not on the West Coast. Last count was over 900 beers I believe. He’s got the whiskey attic upstairs, which is the largest whisky collection you’re going to find anywhere and what I want to mention is, he’s got some interesting beers coming up and one of them is Gonzo.
On Halloween night they’re going to get rid of a beer from Flying Dog, the Colorado Brewery, Flying Dogs Gonzo Imperial Porter. That’s the last keg anybody knows about and it’s a 9.2% porter that scored a 99 on Ratebeer.com and that was a long time ago.
This is a classic and it was brewed in honor of Hunter Thompson. This has been aged since it’s release in 2005 so that makes it a whopping seven-year-old beer but don't worry. Don't let the beer commercials fool you. Fresh beer isn't always good beer. Sometimes, these big old imperial porters, imperial stouts are a hundred times better five, six, seven, eight, nine years from now. If you happen to be in Las Vegas on Halloween, stop by the Freakin Frog, which is across from UNLV on Wednesday and they're going to have that Porter until it’s run out. I don't know the cost; they didn't tell me.
One other thing that the Freakin Frog does is they have cask beer tastings and the next one’s going to be on October 30th, so the day before Halloween.It’s going to be Cask Number Six Old Engine Oil Reserve, which if anybody knows is a brewery from England and it’s actually from Clackmannanshire in the UK. This isn't just the regular stout; this is a reserve version of it. It’s jet black; it’s a bucket list brew for any beer lover. This is the only cask there is of this in the world because none of it was put in a cask except for this one for the Freakin Frog. There is very limited seating. Go to freakinfrog.com and you can get the information there or you can call 702 217 6794. It’s first come and they pour until the cask is done. It is $45 a person but they usually have food. I will be there so you can meet me if you want. They also have a new fresh menu that you can check out as well.
We have another company from Scotland making some crazy beers and it’s probably time to talk about fermenting versus distilling because this brewery, which is the Brewmeister Brewery, based in Kincardine UK, is claiming they have a beer with 65% alcohol by volume.
As you know, it would be impossible to ferment a beer that high in alcohol. As far as I’m concerned, Sam Adams still has the real highest volume of beer because that’s truly fermented.
What these guys do is they actually cold distill. They're calling it cold fermenting or freeze fermenting but in reality what they're doing is distilling because distilling can either be hot or cold and you're either boiling the water off to produce alcohol or you're freezing the water to produce alcohol because water freezes before alcohol does.
They bring the beer down to freezing, take all the water ice off and then it leaves a concentrated beer. In my mind that’s not a true beer. It’s really liquor because it’s distilled. In fact you can’t even legally sell that if you make it in the United States because the U.S. considers freezing a form of distillation. Whenever you concentrate alcohol that’s what it is.
It’s probably a great beer. I wouldn't mind trying it and 330 milliliter bottles is what they sell it in. They are basically saying it’s a hoppy but slightly sweet, which I could imagine because of all the malt that comes out, and they're saying to serve it in Brandy size measures.
If you want to check it out they have a Facebook page and they're called the Brewmeister Brewery and they also create some traditional pale ales and darks and other things like that. If you happen to be in a place where you can buy that then try it out and please let me know. Just remember, it’s really a distilled drink; it’s not a fermented beer.
I ran across an interesting article in Bloomberg Business Week about New York and they're trying to boost their beer, wine, and liquor sales. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the State Government would put beer, wine, and liquor promotions on steroids to boost jobs and help the small yet growing industries.
It’s kind of interesting because to me if you don’t know me, I’m a big history buff for beer. I especially like U.S. beer history. Anybody that studies prohibition will know that one of the reasons that we ended prohibition was because of the economic situation and the taxes from alcohol were the cause for ending prohibition. Now that the State of New York’s in a big deficit, they don’t say that in the article of course, but I believe that they understand that taxing alcohol is an easy way to get more revenue for the State just like they did back in prohibition.
That’s how we got our three-tier system in the United States where distribution, manufacturing, and retail are three different tiers in the system, which for those of you outside the United States may seem like a strange deal. In fact I had some guys from Australia wanted my help in distributing some Australian beers. I said, “Look, it’s not like we can just bring the beer into the U.S. Every State has different laws and well as the Federal Government and a distributor can’t be an importer in most States and they certainly can’t own bars and everything else.”
This is all really kind of funny to me that Governor Cuomo all of a sudden decided that beer, wine and alcohol are going to be the big things. What they decided to do is put a million dollar tourism ad promoting New York wine. They're going to use PR firms to target New York City restaurants to sell and promote New York products. They're going to work with top chefs in the Food Network who happen to be based in New York, to promote products. It’s funny also that his girlfriend is Sandra Lee (a Food Network star), is not part of the plans, She is Governor Cuomo’s girlfriend, but they're going to promote everything, including beer.
There are 75 wineries and breweries opposed to the proposed drilling offshore and Cuomo also did a similar summit on Greek Yogurt this summer and that resulted in easing some of the environmental protection restrictions on dairy farms that the wineries and breweries are talking about because of fracking and some other things. Many of the breweries and wineries are against the proposed drilling and I guess Cuomo’s trying to appease them by saying, “Look, we're e going to help promote your businesses but you've got to help us out here.”
Was beer in the Bible?
Dr. James Bowley a Professor of the Department of Religious Studies at the Millsaps College, recently said that it almost certainly was and part of the question was, “Did Jesus drink beer or was he strictly a wine man?” It was all kind of serious but at the same time in fun because of the Greek week that’s happened with sororities and fraternities on the campus.
They talk about what it was really like there and how beer was basically started in the fertile crescent which as somebody who loves the history of beer, I studied a lot. Experts are even saying that beer probably changed the way the world was -- not just was part of it. There’s a lot of new theories about and there’s a lot of evidence showing the beer drinking and beer-making practices of the time especially when Jesus was around it was very popular. Mesopotamia, Egypt, the entire fertile crescent including Ancient Israel which is kind of funny because beer is almost impossible to find in most of those areas due to religion.
Mississippi where the college is located, just passed some new laws allowing more high quality beers in so they’re trying to link to that as well; comparing modern Mississippi with what the Israelites and the biblical era had.
One of the questions asked is, “Would some religious peoples views about alcohol change in any way if they understood ancient beer culture?” It’s rather interesting that many of the especially Southern Christian Religions and certainly Islam, shun almost all alcohol if not all alcohol but biblically, at least for the Christians, there’s an argument to be made that many of the people of that era drank, including Jesus.
Bowley says, “Our culture clearly has difficulties handling alcohol as one can see from our drunk driving accident rates but it’s not because our laws are not strict enough since in cultures where drinking laws are much more lenient and wine and beer a part of daily life from a young age, there are often fewer difficulties.”
He makes the same argument that I make. In Europe at least historically, there used to be a lot less hang-up about how old you were when you drank and it was not a big deal to go get beer or wine or any other alcohol so people tend not to abuse it. Not that there aren't people abusing it but the incidence is a lot less especially in the Westernized parts of Europe. Certainly in the communist part there’s a lot of alcoholism. In Russia, Poland and those places, the former Eastern Block but that’s for other reasons.
Bowley also goes on and says, “Furthermore, the idea that religious people should abstain from all alcoholic beverages is a fairly modern one in history and peculiarly Christian and it’s certainly not the case in the ancient world of Israel or other Mediterranean cultures or among most early Christians. The wise use of these beverages and the wise use of all creation in the ancient world and today is the lesson that sages both ancient and modern teach.” He’s basically saying beer is a biblical drink so keep drinking and I’m going to talk about beer history in a couple of weeks here and I will get into the ancient beer culture and how there is a lot of new archeological evidence that beer actually did save the world in many ways and if it wasn't for beer we probably wouldn't be living in our agrarian society. We'd still be nomads so, drink up!
For our beer geek lesson this week we’re going to talk about hops.
They're also known by the Latin name Humulus Lupulus and they were named by the Roman’s Lupus due to the growing among the reeds like a wolf among sheep.
You will hear a lot of people talk about being hopheads, they love hops, and most of them kind of know what the main reasons for hops are.
They’re mainly for bittering those people who like extremely bitter beer. There are also some aroma components and there’s of course flavor.
When people talk about being a hoppy beer, generally they're talking about the bittering because you can have a beer that’s not very bitter, that’s got a lot of hop aroma and most people would just call that a great hop aroma but they wouldn't necessarily call it a beer for hopheads. Most people know hops for the bittering component although aroma is certainly a big part of it especially in American beers, which use what’s called dry hopping.
Dry hopping is basically when the beer is already fermented; they transfer it to another tank and they throw in some hops to give it some aroma, a lot more aroma. They've found now and I've talked about it before, but they've found that there is a little bit of flavor and a little bit of bittering also given off because there’s alcohol soluble components. They used to think it was only good for aroma, which it still is mainly. If you see dry hop beer you’re not going to necessarily have a bitter beer but you’re certainly going to have a beer with a lot of hop aroma.
One of the traditional reasons to use hops was to take a very sweet beer and counteract that. If you think about cereal like Grape Nuts or some kind of barley cereal without any hops it’s sweet. That’s why people like it at as a cereal to eat in the morning, hot or whatever. Wort, which is unfermented beer, needs something to counteract the sweetness. The beer would be almost undrinkable. It would taste kind of like malta which is a non-alcoholic beer that’s sold for kids all around Latin America. Hops are the bitter component and they can add many specific characters to a beer.
Before hops were used many brewers used whatever bitter herbs or flowers were around and traditionally that was called Gruit. Dandelion, burdock root, marigold and heather were often used; heather of course was used in Scotland.
Hops also add a preservative aspect to the beer, which is one of the reasons hops were first used in beer because it was found to have antibacterial function. Of course they didn't know it was antibacterial at the time but they knew that the beer lasted longer with hops and the bitterness was a great by-product of that and since then hops have been in and out of favor. The Germans were the ones who really brought hops to the mainstream.
The one thing to know if you are brewer or a beer lover or even home brewers, that there are many different varieties of hops but there’s three main types of hops that we can discuss. The first ones we are going to call the noble hops and those are generally used for aroma and they're valued for their aromatic properties. They generally have floral or spicy components to them and you will hear names like Saaz, Hallertauer Tetnang or Spalt. Notice they are all German except for the saaz, which is a Czechoslovakian hop.
There’s other hops that are really prized for bittering and those would be like Brewers Gold and Nugget or Galena. Others are sort of in between, versatile hops. You’ll see names like Perle which are German hops and Centennial which is an American Hop and Northern Brewer. These are kind of used in bittering, aroma, and flavor.
Another thing to know is that British Hops, if you are trying to make an authentic British beer you want to use British Hops because they have a certain earthy, mushroomy, dirt type of flavor and aroma. We talked about the Noble Hops, they’re going to be floral that’s mainly German style beers and if you’re doing Saaz hop that'll be a little spicier. If you're doing American style ales of course you can use any hop in American beer that’s part of the characteristic but if you want that real Northwest flavor and aroma and bittering, you want to use a Northwest Hop. These are going to have more citrusy pine maybe some forest, depending on the properties.
It is kind of important what hops you pick. Is it the most important thing in a beer? For some styles it may be but generally yeast is probably the most important thing along with your fermentation temperature. If you put the wrong hop in a beer and it’s only used for bittering, it’s probably not going to be noticed. If it is a big American IPA and you don’t put in any bittering or aroma hops at least American ones that have that citrusy character, people are going to think it’s more like a British style of an American IPA. That’s the main thing you need to know about hops.
Now we are at the question section. I actually have a couple of questions from Brian so I will answer both his today. One’s about hops and the other one about the actual brewing process.
His first question is, “Are there different types of hops or if you grow them differently will they have a better taste?”
Brian I hate to say this but the answer is yes and it depends. There are obviously a lot of different hops and depending where you grow them you could have the same exact hop and it would not only taste different, if you want to use the flavor portion, it would have a different aroma possibly and they certainly could have some different bittering components. Remember that we talked earlier about the three different regions, the Noble hops, the British style hops and the American hops and of course now there’s Australia and New Zealand becoming big producers but I haven't had much experience with those so I can’t tell you the exact profiles of those.
If you take a German hop and grow it there it’s going to have more of a German character, the noble hop character, floral, bright, maybe spicy depending on what the type is. Then you brought that hop rhizome over to England and you grew it there, it would get more of the earthy mushroomy English character that people would expect. Then say you brought it over to the Northwest and grew it in Oregon or Washington, you’re going to get much more of that Pacific Northwest citrusy possibly some piney; pine forest type of notes to it.
Just the earth and the water that it grows in, the temperature and all that are going to make a difference. In the wine world that’s called terroir so you can use the same thing regarding hops and even barley. Anything organic and I don't mean organic in the sense of no pesticides but a living product like a plant is going to be different every batch and every crop. Most of the time when you see hops, they take a whole bunch from the farm and they average it out so remember if something says 10 percent alpha acids, that doesn't mean every single piece is 10 percent , that’s the average of that bunch. In case I didn't mention it, which I think I forgot, alpha acids are how you measure the bitterness in hops.
I hope that answers your hop question and I’ll go on to your next one which is, “How long does it take to make a beer from the moment production starts until it is shipped to a store?”
Well, again Brian I’m going to say it depends. If you are a brewpub certainly it can be anywhere from two to three weeks which would be probably a little fast but there are certainly Hefeweizen and some fast fermenting British ales that you could do that quick. On an average probably four to six weeks I would say for a brewpub. If you are doing lagers it’s going to be six weeks to two months maybe depending how long you actually lager.
If you’re talking about actually to a store or a bar then you’re talking about the three tier system again at least in the States so you have got to make it, then send it to a distributer and then the distributer actually has to ship it to the end user location, the retail spot. I would say on average in a fast time it would be about two months for an ale and three to four month’s minimum for a lager.
If they’re coming from Europe it’s going to take a lot longer obviously depending on if you're in New York or California. They mostly go by boat and that takes time. I know my friend who imports German beer into California takes about a month and a half to two months from the time it leaves the dock at the brewery until it hits his warehouse through customs and all that on top of the two to three months of lagering that goes on in the German brewery so we’re already at five months. Then it goes to the distributor, which is probably another week or two maybe even longer if he’s going across country with it. Then from the distributor it’s got to go to the retail location so now we're talking an imported German lager probably anywhere from four to six months minimum before it sees the shelf.
British beer would be a little less long because they're ales but it seems to me that a lot of the English beers don’t survive the journey on a ship as well. I find them to be a little bit lifeless even ones that are in brown bottles. Cans tend to hold up better which is a reason why if I'm buying English beers I tend to want to get it in a can if I can’t get it on tap somewhere because remember a can is nothing but a small keg.There is very little air and no light can get in it, it’s a great way to do beer.
Unfortunately I don't see any time in the near future that home brewers are going to be able to do that. There are beers that take much longer though. There are certain barleywines that age a year before they’re bottled and certainly some Belgian beers take from one to three years before they’re bottled or shipped or anything else. In general, take one month or so for brew pub ale, a couple of months for a normal ale to a store and it can be anywhere from two to six months for lagers depending where they're from. I hope that helps answer your questions.
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