Cantwell & Bouckaert – Wood & Beer

Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide by Dick Cantrell and Peter Bouckaert

Date read: 17 July – 19 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Cantwell & Bouckaert's Wood & Beer book

Paperback, xxiv, 228 pages
Published 2016 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an excellent book, particularly for the pro brewer, but also for the homebrewer with the cash and fortitude to undertake fermenting and/or conditioning/aging in barrels. Of course, other ways to get wood into beer—spirals, chips, powder, etc.—are also covered.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword by Frank Book
  • Foreword by Wayne Wambles
  • Introduction
  • 1. The History of the Barrel, or There and Back Again
  • 2. Cooperage
  • 3. Wood & Wooden Vessels
  • 4. Wood Maintenance
  • 5. Flavors from Wood
  • 6. Flavors in Wood
  • 7. Blending and Culture
  • Appendix A: Techniques for Wood- and Barrel-Aging for Homebrewers
  • Appendix B: Wood Primer for Homebrewers
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I utterly recommend this book if you are considering barrel/wood-aging at any level. It can get quite deep at times —but always fascinating—but you only need to absorb small bits as a homebrewer. All in all, a lot of great stuff to be aware of even if you never stick any beer in wood or vice versa. This book will help you gain an even better appreciation of the art of cooperage and that of the barrel-aging of beer.

The bottom line: Every individual barrel [or piece of wood] is its own special snowflake. That is the starting point. Good luck!

This is the 22nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Snowed In (The Session #108)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

From Jon Abernathy at The Brew Site who is hosting this month’s Session:

“The theme is “Snowed In,” and I want it to be open-ended. It’s the first week of February—we are solidly in the grip of the winter, which means hunkering down from the cold and, depending on where you live, waiting for warmer days to thaw out the ice and snow. But perhaps it’s one of those winters, where the snow starts falling… and falling… and falling some more, and the next thing you know, schools are closed, there’s four or more feet of snow on the ground—and you are effectively snowed in and not going anywhere.

So what’s next? That is what I want you to write about—as it pertains to beer, of course! …

My birthday is 2/3rd of the way solidly into winter, late in February. People can complain about winter weather all they like—as do I on occasion—but my birthday is during that hell of sleet, rain, ice, snow, freezing winds and everything else that comes with being in the Midwest or Central Oregon in the dead of winter. I used to despise it but now I embrace it. I want it all. And I want all the winter types in February! Now I’m not sadistic; I am perfectly pleased with a day or two of each of the bad kinds of winter weather or even a good gobsmacking by two or three all in one day. Then it can go away. It can, of course, be as nice as it wants; although, admittedly, I’d be a bit freaked out by temps over 60F/15C.

All of that to say, I am fully down with Jon’s topic. And while perhaps not as prepared as I would like “knowing the snow’s coming” we are not unprepared either. Both contingencies will be addressed, as will most of the ideas Jon proposed.

Cold weather beer styles

My cold weather beer styles are pretty much my normal beer styles, although a few specific beers creep in during the colder temps. Imperial stouts and barley wines, barrel-aged or not, are our go-to beers, all year-long. I am not a fan overall of the winter warmer category but a few like Deschutes’ Jubelale and Anchor’s Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale do get put into the winter line-up, at least a couple of each. It also means trying more of them to hopefully find others that can do spicing the way I prefer; not many do. There are also other winter seasonals, such as Deschutes’ Red Chair, that also need a few or more imbibed.

Dip into cellar? Something special?

Here is where we are already prepared. Our cellar is two smaller fridges—4.4 and 11 cubic feet—which are temperature controlled, for which we have a by shelf inventory (spreadsheet). We also—as we buy more beer than we can actually cellar—have several boxes full, all of which is also accurately inventoried. Then there’s the general drinking beer which we do not bother (anymore) to put into the spreadsheet. “General drinking beer” may still be an Impy stout or a barley wine but we simply had no intention of cellaring them when we acquired them; we simply meant to drink them “soon.” We were buying mostly cellar beer for a good while. Had to get that (somewhat) under control. We also used to put every beer into the spreadsheet. We were young. Or something.

So … “snowed in and not going anywhere”? We do have projected dates for most of the cellared beers but we adjust some of the longer, more hopeful, dates based on drinking as we go. Some have definitely moved up across time. We also realized we needed to drink a lot more of them sooner rather than later based on incoming amounts so we are “suffering” our way through that. 😉

I am going to assume this is around my birthday in a couple weeks; thus, as of now anyway, first up would be my last Firestone Walker Double DBA Proprietor’s Reserve Series No. 001 (2012). I drank the previous one February 28th last year and it was freaking ridiculous. It was simply one of the best beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting and we had a whole 22 oz. bottle to the two of us. I got four of these from our friends at Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café in late 2013 and they have been amazing all along but the improvement along the way has been off the charts! So I have chosen this as this year’s birthday beer. Could change my mind but not thinking I will.

Next up for consideration:

Some of the tasties we are already scheduled to drink soon: 2013 editions of Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout and Crux’s Tough Love. There are far more coffee stouts than the Péché, like a 2013 BCBS Coffee, a Stone 2013 IRS Espresso and a Founders’ Breakfast Stout. among a few others.

We might finally get on with our Fort George Cavatica Stout tasting. We have 16 oz cans of regular Cavatica Stout from 2014, along with the barrel-aged versions from the last few years: 2013 Rye, 2014 Rum (also 16 oz cans) and 2015 Bourbon (22 oz bottle). Should make for a fun excursion.

I spy a 2014 Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin slotted for sometime in 2016. Snowed in seems like as fine an occasion as any for it.

Perhaps one evening as we’re winding down, we could sip on a Westvleteren XII (2012) and contemplate our moments of good fortune. I still have three of these that I got in the “fix the roof” six-pack.

Like I said, there are others, listed in the spreadsheet or not, but these are some of the more intriguing and, in a few especial cases, better—fully world class—beers that would fit the extended snowbound occasion.

Stock up on go-to beer

Depending on the timing, I would want a case of Deschutes’ Jubelale. This year’s (2015) is my favorite so far. Every time I drank it I wanted another. Sometimes I chose not to but the “but I want another” was strong for me in this year’s Jubelale. The thing is … I only drink this fresh. Same as with Red Chair. And I do mean fresh. If I can’t verify this is only a month old or less I generally won’t touch it. My choice, I know. Saw a 12-pack at Haggen’s (supermarket) the other day (first week of January) for a reasonable price and I had a tough time rationalizing my way into following my own principles. I adore both of these beers but can only drink them for a few weeks each year as if it isn’t fresh it is not the same to me. I am not so much on this level of freshness with any other beers. Not at all. Don’t get me wrong I like fresh beer (and appropriately aged beers, no doubt) but this is some kind of hyperfreshness fetish. But, to me, when definitely fresh, these are both world class beers of the highest order but when not quite fresh anymore they rapidly start to approach “Meh. There’s better beer available in this town/bar/pub.” I don’t want to be there with either of these beers. So I self-limit in an odd way.

Picked up a case of Oskar Blues’ Ten Fidy Imperial Stout end of January. This is currently the wife’s go-to beer whenever I am drinking one of the many things I have around that she isn’t into. I also quite like it and generally leave it to her but with a case I can have a few. We’d been buying it by the 4-packs but realized I should just ask “my guy” for a case. Making that request a couple weeks ago reminded me I have no Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the house either. Went through several cases of that the last couple winters especially as that was my go-to beer. Might need to grab a 6-pack or two and see how it’s tasting. Could need to talk to my guy about that again too.

I have been drinking a boatload of Pelican’s Umbrella Single-Hop IPA with Ella hops from New Zealand as my go-to beer lately. I’ve been loving the heck out of that! Also a bit strange as there are only a few IPAs—of any kind or color—that get me excited. And never one I have bought by the 6-pack! I was so excited when Umbrella was put in 12 oz 6-ers and made year-round. Crazy but there it is. Seems I need a good hop bite with none of that “Is it the roast malts, or the bitterness from the hops/coffee/chocolate/ … WTF is that bitterness?” that we get frequently in many of the beers we love.

Even more lately, I have been drinking Fremont’s Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout in 12 oz cans. Fremont has just recently begun distributing in Bend but I have had several of theirs previously thanks to a local friend, Ryan, who is a big fan of them. In fact, he gave me one of these for my birthday last year. I gave it 5-stars (of 5) and wrote “Very creamy. Fruity. Nice. I like this a lot.” I left out the ridiculous roastiness, the massive mouthfeel during and long after, and the lingering complexity. This is big and chewy and at 8% seems even bigger.

Whoa! just checked Fremont’s website and they say this beer is only available January 1st to February 29th. Oh. Hell. No. Just shot my guy a message. Got a case on its way. This is stocking up on go-to beer, right?

Too late for more Jubelale for me this year but maybe if I truly knew the big one was coming I’d break my prohibition as it would still be a tasty beer, to say the least. I would want a case of at least one of the stouts but preferably the Ten Fidy as we need something Sara is happy to consume without investing lots of thought. Going with the Fremont for now but would not a couple 6-packs of the Barney Flats for something more sessionable and also of Umbrella. Need a little variety in your drinking beer, I do.

Homebrewer

I am a fledgling home brewer so do not yet even have all of the equipment and certainly not any ingredients for brewing up something on the spot—well, that’s a lie as I have a good 3/4 lb or so of Cascade pellet hops in the freezer that were given to me.

I have also not brewed in the snow yet but look forward to it. If I can find a way to make it possible.

I think a nice roasty, toasty porter or stout would be a good match for the weather and goes along with many of my other choices in this post.

“Desert island beer” but colder – snowed in for all of winter

Well … this depends. Is this something available and affordable to me? Is it something I choose for myself or for the wife and I both or something we choose together? Those questions will all influence the answer.

Considering that if it isn’t available to me (for whatever reason) or I cannot afford it (one of those reasons) then I’m not going to get it so we will just forget that blissful group of beers and move on.

I think, as of now, the easy answer is Barney Flats if only I’m choosing and Ten Fidy if I am for both of us, and possibly if we both choose one between us. I would go with the almost sessionable Barney Flats over the not-at-all-sessionable Ten Fidy myself as it would have a bit more range.

If I could somehow get fresh deliveries but only of the same beer I might for go this year’s Jubelale but that’s not really possible over Winter anyway since by then Red Chair has replaced it as a seasonal.

Beer book(s) paired with which beer

Well, there’s the easy answer of the appropriate style with each book in the Classic Beer Styles series from Brewers Publications, for instance Pale Ale with one’s favorite pale. I’m not sure what my favorite pale is although I know I like a few. Poking UnTappd I’m going to have to say either Deschutes Hop Trip, Block 15 Print Master’s Pale, Mazama Oregon SMASH, or Crux The Pale Ale.

I own Pale Ale (Foster), Porter (Foster), Stout (Lewis), and Barley Wine (Allen & Cantwell) (all of which I’ve read) and Vienna, Marzën, Oktoberfest (Fix & Fix) which I have not.

Probably couldn’t get very far at a time with Barley Wine unless sipping very slowly. I’ll leave it to you to choose appropriate beers for these and the following.

Might I suggest some possible combinations for your own consideration:

Boak and Bailey  Brew Britannia with the best approximation [if not in the UK] of English beer, preferably a sessionable one, that you can achieve in your location. Actual British beer would be preferable, with something from one of the upstarts even better. Perhaps you ought sit in your local and enjoy your beer there while you read it. That would be my choice. [Learned to read in bars in college & grad school, basically across my 40s. “Retired” from the Army and started college full-time to finish undergrad degree and eventually grad school.]

Patrick Dawson – Vintage Beer with anything cellared for over three years.

Sam Calagione – Extreme Brewing with some Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, or one of their other off-centered beers [same issue as Barley Wine above, though].

Terry Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts with tasty porters or stouts or an assortment of the various sub-styles if your tastes are eclectic enough. Mine are. I can appreciate a well-made porter or stout of any origin.

There’s also the Brewing Elements series from Brewer Publications:

Stan Hieronymous – For the Love of Hops with a nicely hopped (whatever that is for you), hop-forward beer, with either your favorite hops or some of the newer German varieties or anything from New Zealand.

John Mallett – Malt with tasty malt-forward beers.

Chris White & Jamil Zainasheff – Yeast with tasty yeast-driven beers. [not yet read]

John Palmer & Colin Kaminski – Water with, well, not sure what a water-forward beer would be, but tasty beers where the style is heavily-dependent on the water profile seems a good start. [not yet read]

Then there are potentialities like working your way style-by-style through some of these:

Mirella Amato – Beerology [read, not yet reviewed]

Garrett Oliver – The Brewmaster’s Table

Jeff Alworth – The Beer Bible [read, not yet reviewed]

Randy Mosher – Tasting Beer

Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries (or your own state/region) with a selection of Oregon (or other “district” as appropriate)  beers

Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer [still need to do a proper review of this]

Pete Dunlop – Portland Beer (or your city)

Joshua Bernstein – The Complete Beer Course [not yet read]

Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium with as many of the great beers of Belgium you can (easily) get to hand. [not yet read]

Leaving the easy to come by—self-evident—beer-related pairings:

Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with some “home-brewed ale.”

“‘Sine as ye brew, my maiden fair,
Keep mind that ye maun drink the yill.’*”

“From ‘Country Lassie’, a song by Robert Burns (1792). ‘Sine’: then; ‘maun’: must; ‘yill’: ale (Scots dialect). Cf. the proverb, ‘As they brew so let them drink’ (ODEP, 85).” 227/433

If you are still reading, thanks. Sorry for going on so long but I was inspired by Jon’s topic, even if it was mostly meaningful to me.

Dawson – Vintage Beer

Read 3-9 Mar

Vintage Beer by Dawson is an excellent introduction to cellaring beer. It is a quick read that will also bear close studying and better note-taking. Production values are high and it is well-edited.

My only gripe, which is both a philosophical one but also an extremely important one practically, is with the author’s stated purpose for cellaring beer:

“So you might ask, why go to the trouble of aging beer? Well, the answer is very simple: aging beer allows time for various flavors not immediately present to develop and meld. With experience and knowledge, your nose and tongue learn to detect different aromatics and taste aspects in a beer and judge whether changes in them would make the beer more enjoyable. This book gives you the background knowledge you need to get started” (6).

My gripe with this is that the goal is restricted to “more enjoyable” when the goal should be “differently enjoyable.” If you start with an already exquisite beer, it may still be “improved” by seeing how “flavors not immediately present [and those already present] develop and meld” over time. The results may not be “more enjoyable” but “differently enjoyable.” I do agree that this book will give you knowledge that will serve you well in learning which beers to cellar, whatever your stated aim is.

The book is full of useful facts, many of which can be found in other places. They have been brought usefully together but with a different focus. These kinds of facts are related to, or at least studied under the rubric of, the spoilage of beer but are here focused on the deliberate aging of beer to impart desired flavor changes.

For example,

“There are also malts that have low lipid (fatty acids found in some malts) levels, which makes them much less susceptible to oxidation and so enables the beer to have a longer cellar life. For these and other reasons, the pricey Maris Otter malt makes extremely rich, long-lasting beers that stand up remarkably well in the cellar” (25).

Or,

“So put yourself in the shoes of a brewer who is designing a beer to age. You would want a hop varietal that has a high ratio of beta-to-alpha acids, which will reduce the trans-2-nonetal potential while retaining the beta acid’s bitterness through the aging process. Luckily, there are hop varietals that meet the need, and, no big surprise, they are used in beers that age well, like English barley wines and Belgian quads. Notable varietals are hops of the noble and English varieties, which sometimes reach close to a 1:1 alpha-to-beta-acid ratio” (30).

Contents:

  • Introduction: The World of Vintage Beer
  • 1 The Aging Beer
  • 2 Determining Vintage Potential
  • 3 The Best Beer Styles for Your Cellar
  • 4 Tasting Classic Cellar Beers
  • 5 Dark and Cool: Selecting Your Cellar
  • 6 How to Manage Your Cellar
  • App. Outstanding Vintage-Beer Bars
  • References
  • Glossary
  • Index

Introduction: The World of Vintage Beer

Discusses the author’s entry into aged/aging beer and provides an overview of the rest of the book.

“What I eventually found out is that every beer is highly time dependent. Each beer had a “window” in which it can really shine. Finding that window takes a critical review of a beer’s current qualities and the knowledge of how they (might) change. What you have to keep in mind, though, something it took me a while to figure out, is that everyone’s optimal window is different, and it requires knowing what you are looking for in a beer” (5-6).

1 The Aging Beer

Provides 14 ‘Vintage Beer Rules’ to help one stock “a respectable cellar without too many regrettable choices” (15).

2 Determining Vintage Potential

Looks at the ingredients/components/processes of beer [malt, hops, yeast esters and phenols, alcohol, wood (if present), oxidation, and microbiota (if present)] and provides guidance around each of these topics/issues for choosing beers to cellar.

Under Oxidation we learn that larger volumes oxidize more slowly (45). We also learn that oxidation has four main effects in beer:

  •    “Creates a variety of new compounds with the kilned malt molecules;
  •    Degrades the alpha acids left by the hops;
  •    Causes the esters and phenols produced by the yeast to develop in flavor and aroma;
  •    Forms aldehydes from higher alcohols” (45, reformatted).

3 The Best Beer Styles for Your Cellar
“One of the main reasons for aging beer is to allow new, sometimes subtle flavors to develop and emerge and thus add layers of complexity” (59). Indeed! But not necessarily “better” ones. Different is not wrong.

Styles covered include: English barley wines, American barley wines, Imperial stouts, Belgian quads, Flanders reds/ brown ales, and Gueuzes.

Dawson includes a Vintage Beer Tasting Wheel on p. 61, which has some intriguing differences from the Meilgaard Beer Flavor Wheel. I only wish he had provided more information on where/how it was developed. I’ve read the papers by Meilgaard, et al. on the genesis and evolution of the standard flavor wheel and would be very interested in learning more about the genesis of this one.

4 Tasting Classic Cellar Beers

Eight beers are covered in depth with another three getting shorter mention. The writer and his circle of “experienced vintage beer aficionados” did vertical tastings of these beers and included detailed notes on how appearance, smell,  taste, mouthfeel and overall impression changes over ten years for each of the beers.

5 Dark and Cool: Selecting Your Cellar

Provides a short but reasonably detailed coverage of choosing and outfitting a cellar, focusing on temperature, light exposure, humidity, ullage, cellar configuration, and bottle orientation.

6 How to Manage Your Cellar

This chapter gives ideas on keeping track of what you have and what you have consumed. Paper vs. spreadsheet vs. cellar apps are considered with a side discussion of how to date a bottle of beer.

Appendix. Outstanding Vintage-Beer Bars

Discusses 10 vintage beer bars with a mention of 10 more.

Concluding notes:

All-in-all, I found this an excellent little book about a topic near and dear to the better half’s and my heart(s). The author has provided a wealth of knowledge in a condensed but accessible form, which will bear closer study when I revisit it soon. But first, I will have to pry it from my wife’s hands once she’s done reading it.

Highly recommended to anyone considering the intentional aging of beer.