Erin has mentioned a few times that she has a burgeoning interest in beer. I (Sam) have to say that most of this interest is a direct result of my talking her ear off about the various aspects of beer making that I am taken with on a near daily basis. She told me that I could write a post about beer making, and today, since she is off in Albany at a USDA education program for beginning women farmers and I am home making beer, I thought I ought to give it a try.
SOBArley Pale Ale.
This beer is very exciting for two reasons, (a) it is the first beer that I am making from a recipe of my own creation and (b) it is the first time that I am making something using ingredients that I have never tasted before in beer. It is also the riskiest beer I have ever brewed. It could end up being terrible!
In case you were not able to decode the pun in the name of this beer, it is an IPA style beer that is brewed with a heavy dose of kasha, aka soba, aka toasted buckwheat groats. Kasha has a delicious nutty, smokey flavor that I have thought would do well in beer since the first time I brewed anything. To make the recipe I looked through my beer recipe books and then looked in my box of beer ingredients and then improvised. Here is the recipe:
Combine 3# of pale malted barley, 2# of Soba and .25# Crystal malt.
bring 2 gallons of water up to 150 degrees. Add grains and maintain temperature for 90 minutes.
Strain grains through a mesh strainer, collecting the fluid (now called Wort) in a large vessel.
Add another 2 gallons of 150 degree water to the grains and let sit for 15 minutes. Then strain again, allowing time for as much of the wort to drip out as out have the patience for.
Add 4 1/2#’s of extra light malt extract to the wort that you have collected. (This should be about 3 gallons since much of the liquid was absorbed by the grain.) Bring to a boil carefully. It is difficult to get the malt extract to dissolve fully, as it has a tendency to clump. Watch the pot closely, perhaps even use a thermometer, because when it comes to a boil it will foam up powerfully, spilling all over your stove and making a sticky mess. It may foam up several times before it settles into a comfortable boil.
Add your bittering hops. I used 1/2 oz Spalt and 1/2 oz Amarillo hops but you could probably do better with a full ounce of something like Cascade. Boil for 45-50 minutes then add flavor hops. I used 1/4 oz Spalt and 3/4 oz Cascade. Boil for another 10 minutes then add aroma hops. I used 1/4 oz Spalt, 1/2 oz Amarillo and 1/4 oz Cascade. (I used these hops because I had them in my fridge and needed to use them. The Spalt hops are really not the best for this beer because they are not that bitter, that flavorful or that aromatic.)
Combine the hot wort with enough cold water to raise the total volume to 5 gallons. Allow the wort to cool until it is about 80 degrees. If you have some fancy wort cooling device, use it. I don’t, so I either set it outside in the cold, set it outside in the pond (this is fun because it floats) or bury it in snow. no matter how you shake it, however, if you want this to go quickly you need a fancy wort cooler.
Add the yeast, here an American ale yeast. Seal the fermenting vessel with an airlock and let it sit at a constant indoor temperature for about 5-7 days. It should start to bubble pretty aggressively within 24 hours, then gradually slow down. Siphon into a secondary fermentation vessel after fermentation has slowed. Let it all settle for another week to 10 days before bottling with 1 1/4 cup malt extract.
I have to wait another 6 weeks until I get to taste this stuff. I hope that it will have a not too subtle toasty, nutty flavor, medium bitterness, full hop flavor and a nice big aroma. The big question for me is how well the toasty Soba will go with the IPA style, and will it do anything weird to the overall flavor?
A few notes about what is happening during the process of brewing for those readers who may be uninitiated. These bits of information should help you to appreciate any beer you drink. I know these bits have made Erin willing to drink beer from time to time.
1. Beer is made from grains that have been sprouted – in beer parlance, malted. Malting changes the biochemical makeup of the grains. A wide variety of enzymes are produced in the malting process. These enzymes, when heated to various temperatures (all hovering around 150 degrees), convert the complex carbohydrates in the grain into various sugars and proteins. Some of these sugars ferment into Alcohol, some do not. The sugars that do not convert help to give beer a thicker, fuller feel in the mouth. Those that do, help give the beer a higher alcohol content. They also leave some residual sweetness to the beer. The protein is necessary in order for the yeast to stay healthy while they do the work of converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol.
2. The process of heating the malted grains so that the various enzymes can convert the starches in the grains is called “mashing.” In the beginning of the SOBArley Pale Ale recipe, malted grains are mashed with unmalted Soba. In most malted grain there is more enzyme than is necessary to convert the starches in the malted grain. This extra enzyme can be harnessed to convert the carbohydrates in unmalted grains. This is what I was hoping to achieve. In this recipe there is not enough enzyme to convert all the carbohydrates so there will be some extra carbohydrates that should make the beer thicker.
3. Hops will do different things to beer depending on how long they are allowed to boil in the wort. The longer the hops are allowed to boil in the wort, the greater the amount of bitterness they will lend to the final product. The less time the hops spend in the boiling wort the greater the amount of aroma they will lend to the final product. Bitterness is totally in the mouth, aroma totally in the nose, flavor is somewhere in between. When thinking about hops and how they affect the taste of beer, it is helpful for me to imagine a line that runs from the back of the tongue where we experience bitterness, through the tip of the tongue, all the way to the nose. In this metaphor the amount of time the hops spend in the boil is analagous to the line and it is the variable that is manipulated to achieve more or less of the different characteristics of hops. There are some beers on the market that exploit the full range of this spectrum, most notably Dogfish Head Brewery’s 60, 90 and 120 minute IPA’s. These beers have hops added to them continuously throughout the boiling process. I sometimes like to imitate this process in miniature during the last ten minutes of so of the boil, adding my flavor and aroma hops in small doses every minute or so.
4. Like all the other fermented foods that Erin has discussed here, homebrewed beer is a living food. Most store bought beer is pasteurized before bottling. This allows for more shelf stability and less flavor variability over time. Homebrewed beer is not pasterurized. There are living yeasts, albeit mostly dormant, in the bottle that continue to ferment any sugars that are available. The yeast, and the CO2 they produce while metabolizing, are what cause homebrewed beer to carbonate. They are also a big part of the reason why homebrewed beer is sensitive to temperature and light in storage. Homebrewed beer, because it is unfiltered, is also rich in B complex vitamins. These help our bodies metabollize alcohol and stay hydrated while drinking.