Beer podcast episode 4

There's nothing like a cold beer. In this episode we talk about:

00:14 — What I am drinking

03:56 —  Alcohol taxes, do they work?

06:53 — Beer for bone health, drink up!

08:16 — Boston Beer, Sam Adams

11:36 — Bucket list beer and real cask beer event

12:58 — Pork butt roast with beer

15:39 — Yeast

23:55 — Your questions answered


Welcome to another edition of Ask The Beer Guy. This is your host Jon Griffin, “The Beer Drinking Professor.”


What I am drinking

We are talking about the “What I'm drinking” section this week and I should say what I'm drinking right now, because I've drunk a lot of the different beers this week. As you may read later on or hear later on this podcast, I had some Oktoberfest beer that I cooked with, and that happens to be what I was drinking right now. I had some Sam Adams Oktoberfest, which I think is a decent example of an American version of an Oktoberfest. The German versions are definitely a little more authentic, but they're also not catered to the American palate.

Sam Adams Oktoberfest when it comes out I tend to drink, I like it and if you're not sure of the difference between Oktoberfest and fest beer and Marzen and all those others. They're all really related, but Oktoberfest is really an amber lager that has a lot of malt aroma and it usually toasted, it's from the Vienna or the Munich malt that used if you're a Brewer.

It's very clean; there shouldn't be a lot of fruit on it. No hop aroma, no caramel, just basically toasted malt. If you think of Grape Nuts heated up that would be kind of the aroma that I think of to compare it to. Usually it's a dark gold to deep amber color; some people will call it an orange-red. Dark gold to me is a little misleading. There are very few that are that light, I would put those under the fest beers, which are usually a little bit darker versions of the Munich Cala that are made for beer festivals, not necessarily Oktoberfest. Of course they’re bright they’re filtered in most cases, unless you're drinking homebrew.

The head on it could be a little off white, but it should have a fairly decent head retention to it. They start off malty sweet, but they finish kind of dry, which is very typical of a well-made German style beer. Even though their sweet the residual sugars are gone and they end up dry, which makes you want to drink another one, makes you want to eat some food, which is exactly happens whenever I'm over in Munich or Germany. I tend to not drink one, but I'm doing it for professional reasons, that's my excuse, I don't know what yours would be.

They should be toasted some complexity in the maltiness, could be some hop bitterness, but a lot of times it may be just a little bit of dark grain that you think is bitter. You might get a little tiny bit of hop flavor, but it's going to be more of a floral, noble, hop aroma but definitely, the balance is towards the malt.

The mouth feel on these is usually medium. I've seen some that are medium- light, but they should be a medium body. They're not meant to be a summer drinking beer they’re fall time festival time, the harvest is over, should be creamy medium carbonation and fully fermented, again like I say, that's what causes the dryness and it should not be sweet at the finish at all, that would be a flaw. I like it if you want to try some versions that are not from Sam Adams, there's a lot of different German versions out Hacker-Pschorr, Oktoberfest, Ayinger is great. The Paulaner I like it. Over at the Firkin Frog I actually had the Warsteiner Oktoberfest on draft, that’s surprisingly such a much better beer on draft than in the bottle, if you happen to see it on tap try it out. Spaten of course is another name. If you're looking for American versions, Gordon Beers has one they call theirs a Marzen. If you're back east and you can get Goose Island, try their Oktoberfest.

 Alcohol Taxes

It seems like everybody wants to tax alcohol and especially beer. Whenever there’s a crisis, politicians love it because, of course, it’s a sin tax and not sin tax like a programming word, but sin tax as in, “You’re a sinner and you should be taxed for your moronic use of drinking a God-given natural drink”.

France is the latest one. Britain had a major problem raising their tax rate earlier in the year and many of the pubs and brewers are seeing a significant drop in money. Now in France, taxes on beer are set to increase by more than 160% under a new law being pushed through the French Parliament. That’s what happens when you get Socialist Presidents in your country. It’s supposed to add $0.06 a glass but the President, Francois Hollande, he’s saying that it’s going to raise €480 million to invest in social projects for young people and the elderly and the ministers out there, the goody-two-shoes, say it’ll help reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption.

Trade groups, though, of course, are arguing that it could damage the beer industry. Reading this article, at $0.06 a glass, when you’re paying $4 to $8 for a glass of beer in the European Union, I don’t think an extra $0.06 is going to matter. The reason I would object to it is it’s … first it’s $0.06, then it’s $0.10, then it’s $1, then it’s $2. Then, well, they can take two, so now it’s 10. It’s the slippery slope.

This particular one, I don’t agree that there should be a major problem, but of course, a lot of the owners of bars are saying that there’s going to be a big problem. This guy Richard Wilson, who works at the Bower … it’s a British pub in Paris … he’s telling his employees that it’s a bit catastrophic. The industry’s having problems already. People are drinking at home more and the bar sector in France is diminishing quite considerably so it’s going to affect us quite badly.

Again, I don’t see how $0.06 can make that big a difference. I think it’s a societal shift that more and more people want to entertain at home. The economy’s bad. They don’t want to go out. It’s a good boogey-man and I don’t agree with the tax increase. I think the politicians should spend what they have wisely instead of just saying we need more, more, more. That’s a political question which I don’t really feel like getting into on these Ask the Beer Guy podcasts.

Please let me know what you think. Is $0.06 this time a big problem, going to cause the major collapse in the bar industry in France or anywhere in Europe with these increases in taxes? Do you think these people are just whining or do you see it like me, that it’s going to be a slippery slope that the next time they need money, it’s going to be a $0.10 increase, then $0.20, then $1. Please let me know at

Beer for bone health, drink up!

Looks like even Dr. Oz is getting into the beer world. He's talking specifically to men, which are probably the majority of beer drinkers in the world even to this day, even though a lot of women are drinking beer. He's basically talking about bone health, and they find out now that there's a bone saving secret in brew, and that is silicon. That's the chemical that stimulates collagen, and collagen is a protein that makes your bones denser and your joints more flexible. People take glucosamine and chondroitin and that, but now they're finding that drinking beer can actually help your bones. He's actually advocating beers with a lot of hops and malt and barley as being the richest in silicon. So all you Imperial IPA drinkers, keep on drinking, and if anybody says anything just tell them, "Hey, basically I'm doing it for my bones." Bananas and brown rice are also high in silicon, so if you can find a way to make a banana, brown rice Imperial IPA, you could sell it as a health food.

That's my health tip for the day, for the week, for the month. Anyways, you all know that drinking beer is healthy. The hops have been proven to be antiseptic, and we'll talk about some other stuff as the weeks go on and I dig up some more medical news.

Boston Beer, Sam Adams

Just got an interesting report about Boston Beer. You may know them as Sam Adams, but on the New York Stock Exchange their symbol is SAM. They actually reported some really good numbers for the third quarter of 2012, with net revenue increase of about $31.6 million, or 23% over last year's same period. They are claiming that’s mainly over the core shipment growth of 17%, and the net income was 20.8 million, or $1.53 a share, if you happen to have the stock. That’s also an increase of $0.34 per diluted share from the third quarter of 2011. It looks like for Sam Adams and the Boston Beer company, the beer business has been very very good.

One thing I want to mention to people, as they always ask me, especially in class … I always get one or two a semester that they take my beer class because they want to open up a beer company. I want to stress that even though some companies do good, there are so many businesses failing in the beer world, just like the restaurant world. The few that are making a lot of money, make a ton of money. There’s a few making good money. Most of them barely survive. There’s all those that drop off. The reason I mention that is the beer market’s really … it’s not an ever-expanding market like people think. In fact, if you followed my blog or my AskTheBeerGuy site, you’ll see that beer, in most cases, consumption’s gone down in the United States and in most of the world, so you’re fighting for a bigger piece of a smaller pie. That takes a lot of money.

I think I mentioned before, I had some guys from out of the country that wanted me to help them with a distribution arrangement in the States, and I turned them down. I basically said it’s almost impossible unless you’ve got millions of dollars for budget, because the competition is so fierce and the big guys have such a big hold on the market, and I’m including more than just the Big Three. I’m talking about probably the top 100 breweries in the country. They make it very difficult to get shelf space. You can go to all the free tastings you want and give away all the beer you want. The distributors, in many cases, don't care. They want you to do all the work for them, so you’re going to have a sales fleet pretty much on your own in each state. If you don't, you’re probably barely going to make any money.

That’s just a little warning for anybody that’s really thinking about opening a brewery, especially if you’re trying to brew in the package market, you’re bottling and canning for sale. If you’re going to open a brew pub, that’s a different story. That’s still a hard road to hoe, as they say, and one thing you might want to think about is you’re really opening a restaurant, not a microbrewery because you have a huge restaurant that happens to sell the beer you make. There’s still opportunity for that because people locally still like big beer. It’s just much harder to get state or national distribution, much less international. That’s my two cents. If you have any comments and think I’m full of it, please let me know at

Bucket list beer and real cask beer event

I mentioned last week those of you in Las Vegas, if you were there for Halloween, you could get the last of the Gonzo. I actually had some the other day as well. There are still a little bit left of the 9.2 percent Gonzo Imperial Porter that’s been aged for five years from Flying Dog. If you happen to be in Vegas, go to the Freakin’ Frog and get it before it’s gone.

I also mentioned that there’s going to be a special Cask Number Six which is old engine oil reserve from Clackmannanshire, UK. That got changed so you still have time. I know it didn’t sell out because the date changed but it’s now going to be this Sunday, November 11th, that’s 06:00 at the Freakin’ Frog. It’s 45 bucks a person. You don’t want to miss this bucket list. There’s never going to be another chance for you to have it.

It’s a classic and intense Jet Black Stout. It should be on anybody’s list, any beer drinker’s list, as I mentioned in the last podcast. If you need more info, go to FreakinFrog, that’s F-R-E-A-K-I-N-F-R-O-G, (dot) com, or you can call them at 702-217-6794. I highly, highly recommend being there this Sunday for the Engine Oil Reserve. If you’re there, let me know. I wouldn’t mind talking to you and seeing what you think.

Pork butt roast with beer

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking with beer lately and one of the things I like to do is convert recipes that I find and add beer to them. The other day I happened to be at the local store and they had a nice big pork butt roast with the bone in it on sale about half price. It was expiring that day but it was vacuum packed so I didn’t really worry about it being old. I just know that you can buy some stuff that’s on the last day and it lasts a couple of weeks, especially when it’s vacuum packed, so I decided to do that.

This is a really simple recipe. I love the crock pot because a) it makes the house smell awesome and b) you don’t have to sit over the stove. For those lazy cooks, it’s great. You can start something in the morning. For those of you that aren’t lazy but just like cooking and you just want to do a nice slow cook, crock pot’s great for that … or the slow cooker.

What I did was take this pork roast and did a really simple thing with it. I had about four big leeks that I bought also on sale at the same day, cut off the green part and got the sand out of them. Throw those in the Cuisinart along with about 10 or 12 cloves of garlic. You can use more or less depending on what you want. Minced those up really nice. Took all of about 30 seconds. Threw that in the bottom of the slow cooker. Then I salt and peppered them a little bit just to get a little flavor. I also salt and peppered the pork butt roast and threw that on top of the leek and garlic mixture.

Then I took one bottle that I had of some Oktoberfest beer and I used a amber lager for a reason and that was because I was looking for a little bit of character from the beer, but I didn’t want something dark with chocolatey and coffee or burnt notes in it that a darker beer would have given me. I also wanted a little bit of some nutty sweetness or beer character that I probably wouldn’t have got from a light lager. You could use an amber ale as well. In fact, you could probably use almost any beer, but like most cooking, you don’t want a highly hop beer because that hop character may not go well with the beer … or I’m sorry … may not go well with the food.

I threw all that in there. Put the top on and six to eight hours later, it was done … fall apart good. Threw it on a toasted piece of a Kaiser roll with some mayonnaise … actually I think it was a Mexican bolillo roll … or a telera roll … and ate that up. The rest of the family loved it. They just ate it plain. It’s a great thing for sandwiches or as a meal. Try that. It’s on the website at


Today’s home brewed geek lesson and beer lesson is going to be about yeast.

I'm not going to try and make this the be all and end all about yeast because yeast is probably one of the most complicated parts of the brewing cycle. I just want to go over some general concepts and maybe help people understand what yeast is; how it affects beer especially home brewers.

As most of you know there's Lager beer and there's Ale beer and of course there's Belgian - that's more of a flavor profile as opposed to a type.

There's Lager, there's Ale and there's also what we might call hybrids, which might be warmly fermented Lager or cool fermented Ale. In the case of Scottish beer that would be like a cool fermented Ale yeast and in the case of California Common, or Anchor steam type beer, that would be a warm fermented Lager yeast.

What does yeast do? A lot of people understand that it eats the sugar in the beer. The two bi products that really most people know about are C02 and alcohol, but there's a lot more that goes on with that.

There’s Esters, there’s Phenols, there's Diacetyl which I’ll talk about in the question this week. Focculation and attenuation ... there's also more than the two normal types of yeast which are the Lager and the Ale.

There's also yeast that aren’t really even in the same genus as the normal, what people think of as a yeast. There’s Brettanomyces yeast there for Lambics or Lambic if you want to pronounce it more professionally.

The main thing to understand in the two type of yeast and that’s what I'll concentrate on today is Ale versus Lager - is the temperature difference.

Lager yeast is fermented cooler, so generally below 60 degrees, usually in the 50s, 55-50 degrees. Ale yeasts are fermented warmer, usually 68 or 72. It could be anywhere from 65 to maybe 80 on a Belgian yeast.

All yeast - even Lager yeast - they all ferment higher but they put up more and more bi products and the bi products are the flavor profiles in yeast but those flavor profiles can be good and they can be bad.

By fermenting your Lager yeast really warm, you're going to get a lot of odd flavors or things that don't seem beer-like. The yeast are just doing their thing but they’re more accustomed to being cool and they breath slower, their metabolism is slower, they tend to be a lot cleaner. When we think of Lager yeast we think of clean crisp refreshing beer. It doesn’t have to be yellow fizzy water. There’s Lagers that are dark, there's Lagers that are amber. On Octoberfest which I was drinking is really an amber Lager. You can get Swartzbier which is a dark Lager.

Basically you can see by keeping the same grain vial on the same hop load. Just changing the yeast and the temperature fermentation is going to create a completely different beer.

Ale yeast is warm fermented so it's known for more Esters more Phenols more bi products but one advantage it has is there's less Diacetly. Diacetyl is the popcorn butter type flavor and aroma. It's generally a flaw though, Ale - especially some English ones - it is okay but you shouldn’t overpower the beer.

Also in Czechoslovakian style pilsners, they don't get rid of the Diacetyl either but in general in most beers you don't want any noticeable Diacetyl. The way the Lager brewers get rid of it is they warm their yeast up for a couple of days when it’s almost fermented out to raise the temperature to 65 degrees or so. Then the yeast reactivate. They get more active and when they get more active they start to clean up their own mess, you could say.

Ale yeast is fermented warmer but at the same time as we talk about in our question that’s coming up, you still need to let the fermentation process continue. If you cut off fermentation and just start cleaning everything up you're not allowing the yeast to clean up after itself, so that's a good thing to know. Even if your beer may ferment out in three days, if it's an Ale, let it sit another week or two. It's not going to hurt anything and it's only going to clean itself up.

Another thing we talked about is Flocculation and that’s the ability of the yeast to clump together and maybe fall out of suspension. Lager yeast tended not flocculate to the top. They tend to just fall down to the bottom which is why you'll hear Lager being called the bottom fermented yeast. That doesn't mean that yeast is at the bottom. Fermenting it really means that the yeast have a tendency to drop out of suspension or flocculate out well.

Ale yeast on the other hand tends to be top fermenting or tend to clump together at the top of the fermentor that you're using. That's how you get those terms. I'll go in to flocculation and attenuation when we get into serious home brewing and how you can tweak your yeast out and those kinds of things.

You'll also hear about attenuation and that's the ability for the yeast to eat all the sugar that's available. There's certain sugars that can't be eaten by Ale yeast. Raffinose is one. In general highly attenuating yeast tends to consume more of the sugars that are typical in a wort or in a beer.

Low attenuating would leave more of a mouth feel and have obviously less alcohol because there's more sugar left in the beer. A brewer doesn’t just pick the Ale and Lager yeast, they also pick base on the flocculation characteristics, the attenuation.

One case where you may want a yeast that doesn’t fall out of suspension easily usually or clump together is a Hepavite - especially the German style or the Belgian wheat beers - where you have an unfiltered beer but part of the style is actually to have that yeast in suspension. That's why they’re cloudy. Nobody filters it. If the yeast was highly flocculating it would just drop to the bottom and it would still be pretty much a clear beer and that's not want you want. There is a lot of consideration into that.

I want to clear up another myth. A lot of people say, “Oh, yeast wasn't discovered until Louis Pasteur or right around that time.” Actually the first known instance that I could find, was 1674 when Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek discovered yeast. That was a long time ... that was in the Middle Ages. They probably didn’t know a lot about it at that time. They just knew it existed.

In 1837 Theodore Schwann discovered that yeast metabolizes sugar. He’s the actual one who named it Saccharomyces. Bottom fermenting ... really lager brewing began in 1841 with a guy named Gabriel Sedlmayr in Munich and then his counterpart in Vienna, Anton Dreher.

It wasn't till 1850 that Louie Pasteur came really close to isolating yeast. Finally Louis Pasteur and Buchner revealed that alcohol was the bi product of carbon metabolism of yeast involving zymase. Then the famous Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen was the first one to finally isolate lager yeast and that was Emil Hanson in 1881.

You could see brewers have known about yeast for a long time but it's still like a black art. There’s constant research going on whereas malting and those things are pretty well known. There's some innovation that happens but basically yeast is still the black magic of the brewing world.

It's going to pay to understand how yeast not only affects the flavor but also how the brewer picks a certain yeast.

I hope that helps and if you have any questions or comments please let me know.

Your questions answered

I got a question from Sara this week. It says, “Is there any way to control the production of diacetyl?” If you don’t know what diacetyl is, it’s usually a flaw in most tiles, bit it’s the butter, butterscotch artificial popcorn type butter that you would get at the movie theater flavor. They’re sometimes in aroma of butter as well. The threshold is pretty low.

If you have it in your beer, a lot of people can taste it fairly easily. I happen to be one of the two-thirds of the country that has a really hard time tasting it unless it’s a pretty high concentration. There’s an easy test for it and that slickness on the roof of your mouth. If you rub your tongue on the roof of your mouth, you’ll feel the slickness there.

That means there are some diacetyl. If it feels normal, it’s not dry because it’s obviously watery, but it sticks instead as it is slippery, then you know you may have a diacetyl problem. If you can smell butter or you can really taste it, the mouthfeel is going to get buttery, then you know you have a problem.

One of the things that I have been studying a lot about is yeast production and how a yeast affects beers. I’ve always said the best thing a home brewer can do is there’s one way to improve your beer above all others is temperature control. That’s because the yeast hate fluctuation. As we talked about yeast in the earlier section, you can see how important yeast are to your beer.

One advantage of temperature control is the yeast tend to metabolize their own diacetyl. A home brewers tend to have this mentality that yeast is an evil thing. As soon as their beer is fermented out, they drop the yeast, freeze it, filter it, rack it over, or whatever. When in reality, what they should be doing is waiting another week or two before they even lower the temperature because even at ale temperatures, the yeast, even though they may not be fermenting any sugars, they are getting rid of some by-products.

Chris White’s book, “Yeast,” talks a lot about how diacetyl production occurs. If you think about it from a lager point of view, they raised the temperature up to 65 degrees or so for a couple of days, and that reactivates the yeast and they start to eat their own by-products. One of the lagering effects is even though the temperature is low, the yeast isn’t dead yet. If you’re beer isn’t filtered out of yeast, the yeast will slowly, very slowly eat the by-products including diacetyl. It’s still better not to just crash your yeast.

I hate to stress this, but most home brewers have some weird obsession with yeast that if your beer stays on the yeast for more than two days after it’s fermented, and I’m exaggerating there, but I’d actually had some people that they’ll measure their final gravity two or three times a day. As soon as it gets to what they think it should be, they rack the beer. They’ll crash it down into 30 degree, 35 degree refrigerator, and that is one way to guarantee you that you’re going to have, not only diacetyl, but other by-products.

Again, temperature control and understanding how yeast works will really help your home brew. I hope that answers your questions, Sara.


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