Views on imported beers (The Session #122)

This month’s The Session on the topic of “Views on imported beers” is hosted at I think about beer by Christopher Barnes. It is apropos that this month’s instantiation of The Session falls on National Beer Day in the US, April 7th, when we, i.e., beer nerds, celebrate the Cullen-Harrison Act going into effect and effectively ending Prohibition. It is also, and more accurately, known as National Session Beer Day since it was 3.2% ABV beer that was approved for sale. Nor was it the entirety of the country as some states failed to pass there own legalization laws prior to the 7th.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

Barnes has a fairly close connection to imported beers as his post explains:

“I love imported beer, specifically Belgian and German beer. They’re what I drink. My cellar is made up of Belgian beers, my fridge is full of them, and there a few stashed around in a closet or two as well. Imported beer is my life. I drink them. I write about them. I travel to experience them. In fact, my career involves working with Imported Beer. I manage several prominent import portfolios for a Oregon craft focused wholesaler. And while I have a vested interest in the success of Imported Beer, it doesn’t lessen my passion for the traditional beers of Europe. As craft beer sales have surged across America, sales of imported beers have suffered. I’m going to ask a couple of questions.

For American and Canadians: What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?

For Non North Americans: How are American beers (imported into YOUR country) viewed? What is their place in your market?”

I am clearly a North American, and sadly have not been out of the country in a couple of years so could not tackle the second question anyway. I will begin by first answering the related question: “What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in my beer drinking?”

#1: What place do imported beers have in my drinking?

For point of reference, I spent three tours in the Army in Europe: twice in Germany and once in Belgium and I have been back once to Germany for my son’s wedding. Just not lately. To say the least, I drank a fair bit of European beers and drank them fresh and (mostly) local during those tours.

Over the last couple of years, I studied for and qualified as an MBAA Beer Steward, a Cicerone Beer Server, and a BJCP Certified judge. Preparing for all of these involved drinking imported beers from the major brewing centers of Europe and a few of the smaller ones to boot.

I also quite enjoy lots of Belgian beers, German Lagers, Czech Pilsners [have not had those local, sadly], some Samuel Smith’s beers, and many, many others. No doubt I would love many additional beers and styles if I were exposed to them.

But. Freshness is a major issue. [I have a gestating post on the freshness problem in craft beer, including local craft beer, so this problem is not an imports-only issue, although many of the issues are different.]

Living in a thriving local and state beer scene, no, even a hip and happening local and state beer scene, means the imports see a little less love than they might in an area without a glut of choice for fresh, tasty and local beer. Sure, you can choose imported—European or otherwise—beer but it will not be fresh. If that seems too strong a claim, then purchasing imported beer will always be a crap shoot seeing as you have no idea how it was handled and stored on its voyage from the brewery across the seas and to the store shelf or bar tap. It may be quite tasty but it will (most likely) not qualify as fresh.

Just recently I started studying to retake the BJCP tasting exam in July. I want that 80+%! This means, again, looking for representative beers from twenty (20) European style categories and sixty-seven (67!) European substyles I need to have a grasp of.

Imported beers—of whatever quality—will be critical to my preparation. If our exam administrator finds the time to do a prep class again, like last year, then they become critical in the context of a larger group of people. Perhaps the importance is the same but moving scale from one person to a class of several or more amplifies any learning by being able to discuss the beers with other like-minded folks towards the same purpose. That seems to me amplification enough of their value, in an educational context.

Imports also provide some variety, which is quite nice amongst all of the PNW (and other) beer at hand.

Back to the larger question: “What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?”

#2: What place do imported beers have in a craft beer market?

One of the areas I think imports may serve in the craft beer market is as a potential gateway. There are many folks—of all ages but especially nearer mine—for who it is little to no stretch to consider an imported beer on occasion instead of only industrial lagers. They might not think much past that but they can at least get that far. It might even only be on a “fancy” occasion.

While I agree that many craft breweries can brew a craft light lager that blows any macro away as far as flavor goes, not all beer drinkers want their light lager to be so. If they consider an international lager, or a Festbier, or German Pils, or Hefeweizen or any other imported beer that has just that much more flavor, then perhaps craft Euro-style beers might also appeal or at least be given a chance. But if said drinker never deviates from industrial light lager then all flavor “lures” are off-the-table already. Then they might be tempted to try an American craft version of that style [which is another completely fraught issue of its own].

Aside on imported beer and craft/macro: Let me be perfectly clear, by-the-by, that craft beer and imported beer are neither mutually exclusive nor mostly overlapping categories, but overlap they do. Just as much imported beer overlaps with “American” macro beers.

Now this should not be the only role for imported beer in a craft scene. As I just said, many of these beers should and do qualify as “craft” [define how you like].

Beers like Saison Dupont are exquisite and amazingly affordable. Then there are the even more renowned beers such as Westvleteren XII that is neither affordable and was only once legitimately available here in the states. I still have 2 bottles that came with my 6 bottles and 2 glasses package. Being able to taste this “best beer in the world” and to share it with friends and fellow craft beer geeks was very special. Is it delicious? Quite. But I like beers of that profile, call it a style or not. Is it “the best beer in the world”? Seriously? Those titles are always ridiculous. It is not even my favorite beer. By a long shot. But I am stoked that I still have 2 little bottles to drink and enjoy some day in the future.

I guess I don’t really know “What place imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market.” Many traditional European beers are craft beers.

Primarily, they should be available in their own right for being the (often) tasty beers that they are.

For many folks studying for Cicerone, MBAA, BJCP or other certifications, having a diverse array of imported beer available is critical to their study, preparation and continued learning.

Lastly, they might serve as gateway or transition beers for folks who either “do not like beer at all” or to lead those who might on occasion drink an imported beer to other craft examples, whether imported or American.

The role of beer books (The Session #115)

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

This month’s Session is hosted by Blog Birraire (Joan Birraire in Barcelona) and is on “the role of beer books.

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. There’s also the -bad- role of books that regrettably misinform readers because their authors did not do their work properly. There are many different ways to tackle this topic.

The Session has been about books before just once, and it was about those that hadn’t already been written. I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session. To participate in the current Session just write a comment down here with a link to the article on -or before- September 2nd, so that I can include it on my Round Up.”

05 September 2016: Update posted below

Being me and being about books this is long and perhaps even rambling. Sue me. I’m a reader, a librarian and a cataloger.

The short version: the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place.

First beer books

I doubt that it was my first “beer book,” as I had been collecting beer cans since the age of 12, but I received a copy of Michael Jackson’s The World Guide to Beer, 1st US ed. for Christmas 1978. As I was a 19-year-old US soldier stationed in then West Germany, this is the book that first opened my eyes more fully to the world of beer, as it did for many, many others.

Prior to that I was given a copy of Will Anderson’s, The Beer Book; an Illustrated Guide to American Breweriana, 1st US ed. by my parents for my 16th birthday (1975). Somewhere in and around here I also got copies of The Beer Cans of Anheuser-Busch: an Illustrated History (©1978 so one of my earliest “beer books”) and The Class Book of U.S. Beer Cans (©1982), both new. Somewhere in there I also acquired a copy of The International Book of Beer Can Collecting (©1977).

Of course I read all of these books, some, in particular Jackson’s World Guide, several times.

More Recently

For a long time my interest in reading about beer waned as did my can collecting. I am simply ecstatic that I never got rid of any of my early beer books, unlike many other books over the years or like the vast majority of my can collection that was actively worked on for almost two decades. Too many moves. Too many dollars spent on storage. Most of the cans had gone long before we moved to Oregon, although most were shed over a ~20 year period.

Books Owned

More recently since moving to Bend, Oregon my interest in all aspects of beer has been rekindled. According to LibraryThing—which until now has served as my personal catalog—I own 87 books having something to do with beer or brewing, plus there are a couple that aren’t in as they need manual cataloging and I haven’t yet.

Books Read

My Goodreads account has 118 books on my beer shelf. Bouncing that off of the read shelf I show 74 as read, 1 skimmed, 1 gave up on (had a better version), 1 on pause, and 3 currently being read. Many of those would have come from assorted libraries, both public and academic.

My beer blog

My blog is named “By the barrel; or, the Bend Beer Librarian.” Sadly, I have done a poor job at reviewing all of these books. There are many reasons for that, only a few of which are actually good/legit ones. I always strive to do better although I see seven beer books waiting for reviews on my review-these-damned-books-already (physical) shelf next to my desk. There are of course many more that aren’t sitting here needing reviews. Some of those currently waiting are:

  • Alworth – The Beer Bible
  • Acitelli – The Audacity of Hops
  • Zainasheff & Palmer – Brewing Classic Styles
  • Papazian – The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, 4th ed.
  • Amato – Beerology
  • Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide
  • Herz and Conley – Beer Pairing

Others waiting to be reviewed, not directly related to beer but of immense overlap and interest possibly, include:

  • Halloran – The New Bread Basket
  • McQuaid – Tasty

Of course, these are just those books still to hand. ::sigh::

The Role of Beer Books

So what do I consider the “role of beer books”? I may not be much of a reference librarian—my specialty is elsewhere—but as a reader (and a cataloger) that “role” is completely dependent upon the context(s) brought to bear by the reader and cannot really be given much in the way of an answer unless that context is included.

Education

Education is the simple and most relevant generic (and specific) answer. As you can see from just the above list, my personal beer book-enabled education covers a lot of ground from brewing to the history of craft beer to style knowledge to beer and food pairing to almost encyclopedic works and on from there to the revival of craft grain/malt production to the science of taste.

Early spring this year I went on a book buying binge to ensure I had most of the books in the BJCP Judge Certification Program “BJCP Beer Exam Study Guide” [see pg. 3-4] as I was involved in a 12-week tasting exam prep class and hoping to take the tasting exam [I did manage to take it on 23 July and now get to spend a few agonizing months waiting on my score]. I already had quite a few of the books listed but I got almost all of the others, except for the individual style books in the Classic Beer Styles Series from Brewers Publications I didn’t already own.

To backup, my very first beer books were books about beer can collecting and were for both education (history, production) and to see far more of the variety of what was out there (can porn) than I could encounter in my Midwest home town and surrounding environs. Will Anderson’s book is more generally about breweriana and so helped broaden my education beyond cans.

Michael Jackson’s book was given to me just a few months after I had arrived in Europe for my first tour of duty. I knew styles existed, of course, but this book was a real eye opener.

Nowadays my interests are far broader and I have a massive amount to learn! I want to be a competent and confident beer judge. I want to brew beers well that Sara and I like, along with understanding their historical and current cultural contexts. I want to be solid at beer and food pairing. I want to understand how we got to where we are culturally via archaeology, anthropology, ethnology and so on (across cultures). I want to understand as much of the science of brewing as I can. I want to enjoy what I read, at least some of the time. I could probably elucidate many other reasons for a desire to learn about beer and to be entertained by beer writers.

On Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon beer

If you are interested in the beer, breweries, and history of Bend, Central Oregon and Oregon then I highly recommend the following:

  • Jon Abernathy – Bend Beer: A History of Brewing in Central Oregon
  • Brian Yaeger – Oregon Breweries
  • Logan Thompson – Beer Lover’s Oregon: Best Breweries, Brewpubs & Beer Bars

For the larger region but covering Oregon also are:

  • Lisa M. Morrison – Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest: A Beer Lover’s Guide to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
  • Gary and Gloria Meier – Brewed in the Pacific Northwest: A History of Beer Making in Oregon and Washington

All of these books are a bit dated; some more than others. They are either primarily history (Abernathy & the Meiers) or Regional guidebooks (the rest; and the most dated).

“Beer books” is a non-category

I think beer books is too broad a “category” to consider as a whole; as in it isn’t really a category, far too amorphous. In 2013, I gave a talk on beer books during Central Oregon Beer Week and this is how I broke down what I talked about:

Those I addressed:

  • General
  • Beer porn
  • Reference
  • Beer business
  • Historical
  • Breweriana
  • Trivia
  • Regional Guidebooks

Those I did not:

  • Homebrewing
  • Brewing science

No doubt other categories could be named as no doubt some of these could be split further.

The role of a regional guidebook is generally going to be much different than a book of beer porn or one on the business of beer or one on brewing science and so forth. A book of beer can porn serves one role to a collector and another to a student of mid- to late-20th century commercial art.

Conclusion; or, a return

Thus, I am going to say that the role of beer books is education to entertainment, and hopefully a bit of both at the same time, along with any other roles between or on other, orthogonal axes that people may have for any particular book in a time and a place (context).

Update

I have received a few comments regarding the Brewers Publications Classic Styles series. I believe that I could have been a bit clearer in places in my post but let me offer some comments to take or leave as you please.

I believe that the only books I explicitly recommended were under the heading ON BEND, CENTRAL OREGON AND OREGON BEER. All of those are technically historical documents at this point; one always was and a second mostly was. But the first four are still close enough to the present to be useful even if lots of newer breweries are left out. Any other book(s) mentioned I meant to neither recommend nor not; many I would but that was not my point. I was attempting to discuss the role of books from my perspective and not which were good or bad. Perhaps I should have had a small section on the use/role of books that have bad or contested information. That would include pretty much every beer-related book ever written to some extent. The reason I mentioned the Classic Styles series was in the context of acquiring the recommended books to study for the BJCP exams. Clearly I did not believe that those style guides were necessary for my studying.

I am aware that there are some definite issues with the Classic Styles series books. I do not have enough brewing chops to provide much useful critique though, except in the rarest of circumstances and that would still be based on book learning. I do know that some of the “history” is definite bunk. I also realize that they still sell. I have even picked up a couple—all used—as primarily archival documents, if you will. Not necessarily to learn how brew the styles, nor to believe everything written in them—I do that with no book; do you?—but to take them as an artifact of a time and a place.

I do my best not to slog products here—especially those creative endeavors of one or two authors—but rather avoid them or discuss them in a context that hopefully doesn’t entail recommending them. Others far better qualified have addressed the deficiencies on the individual Classic Styles titles and I leave it to them.

I have read several books—some of them fairly new—by big names in the beer world and I thought them either not at all worth the paper they were printed on; there are more older books that fit in that category, thankfully. I gave them a low rating in Goodreads and moved on without writing a review. I do not believe in the “If you don’t have something nice to say …” school of thought but I also see little reason to be an ass for the fun of it. I get excitable enough, which turns me into something of an ass on occasion, that I do not need to pursue it as hobby.

Besides, I have too many outstanding reviews still to be written for books that I do want to recommend to bother writing reviews for ones I find lacking.

I apologize if I failed to pull apart some of these issues but they did not seem particularly pertinent to me in my thinking on the role of beer books at the time I was writing my post. That does not mean they couldn’t have, and maybe should have been, included; or, I could have been clearer about what I was recommending and what I was not. But that was also not my point.

My point is that use of any particular book is up to the individual reader. And while we may or may not be privy to the specific failings of any given book, that too is a part of the context that we need to attempt to bring to it, even before reading sometimes. That is often difficult after reading it. Makes life a little less uncertain to say the least but you should regard pretty much all of your knowledge as potentially fallible and kept open to actual experience anyway.

To decide if a given book is relevant to your own purpose(s) is a critical, complex, and, yes, often fraught undertaking.

That was an awful lot of words to say that “mentions do not imply endorsement.”

Strong – Brewing Better Beer

Brewing Better Beer: Master lessons for advanced homebrewers by Gordon Strong

Date read: 09-19 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Strong's Brewing Better Beer book

Paperback, xvii, 316 pages
Published 2011 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an amazing book and it has vaulted to the very top of the list of homebrewing books (as far as I’m concerned) for anyone beyond ultimate beginners. I intend to get very good use from this. Strong writes that it’s meant for advanced homebrewers but as Michael “Musafa” Ferguson writes in the Foreword:

“Gordon would say that this is for the experienced home brewer already brewing all-grain recipes. I say that this book is a book for anyone who has ever contemplated or attempted homebrewing, from the newbie looking in through the window to the professional brewer who has returned to his or her roots, not unlike what I have done” (xiv).

I think the author of the foreword makes the more accurate assertion, although I disagree with the whole “anyone who has ever contemplated …” claim. I believe it would be a bit overwhelming for them. But it is for anyone else with almost any amount of experience, and especially if any of that is with all-grain.

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing.

[I finished this book a month ago. I would prefer to write the review that this book actually deserves but I am seriously backlogged on book review writing and want to get something out. I guess I am telling myself that I will revisit the review and improve on it, just as I intend (and already am) revisiting the book. Perhaps I can give you enough of an overview to make a decision whether it is for you or not; that is kind of the idea anyway.]

With that in mind, I have provided the outline of each chapter at one step below the chapter heading so that you may gauge the book’s coverage. Keep in mind, there are a couple levels below many of those headings also.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Philosophy
  • Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing
  • Part II: Mastering Your Craft
  • Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques
  • Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment
  • Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients
  • Part III: Applying Your Knowledge
  • Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer
  • Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer
  • Chapter 7. Troubleshooting
  • Chapter 8. Finishing Beer
  • Chapter 9. Competition Brewing
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
  • List of Recipes
  • Index

Foreword [by Michael “Musafa” Ferguson]

I liked several things Ferguson said. The first is in relation to book forewords and does go on just a bit more for a little more clarity but this excerpt is what you get. The others are more directly about the book in hand.

“There are basically two reasons to read a foreword. You have either already bought the book and are looking to get everything out of it you can, or you are contemplating buying the book and are looking for insight into whether or not you should spend the money.” xiii

“This book, however, is not a how-to book; it’s a “do you want to” book.” xiii

“This book is just like having a mentor.” xv

“This book flows along the lines of analogy, technique, and practice.” xv

Introduction

  • Blown Up, Sir
  • The Journey Is the Reward
  • Structure of This Book
  • Using This Book
  • But Why Nothing on Extract Beers?

The recipe for Old Draft Dodger, an English Barley Wine [p. 3], gave me a solid slap upside the head in full acknowledgment of how large a mash tun I need. And since my mash tun will also be my boil kettle—am going to use Brew in a Bag—that was a good and solid bit of info. I had been working with estimates of 25 lbs but this uses 30.25 lbs of malt + 1 lb muscovado sugar [yields 8 gal to boil down to 6 gal]. Thus, this was a critical equipment and process control point, for me, which I will discuss in a bit.

There is a fair bit in the intro but mostly Strong lets us know what he isn’t about and a touch of what he is attempting to be about. In the process, he gives the authors and texts he turns to in a pinch or otherwise necessary, as he does throughout the book. Pay attention as he tells you exactly who he turns to for a topic.

What the book is not

  • “isn’t a textbook or a purely technical brewing book.”
    •     SEE brewing reference textbooks – “De Clerck, Kunze, Narziss, Briggs, Bamforth, and Lewis.” 5
    •     more towards homebrewers SEE Fix and Noonan 5
    •     “online technical studies by A.J. deLange and Kai Troester that describe practical experiments, ….” 5
  • “isn’t a scholarly study; …” 5
  • “is not a recipe book, but I provide many of my award winning recipes.” 6
    •     illustrate points & add color
    •     “If I’m looking for a new recipe, I often look at books by Zainasheff/Palmer, Noonan, or the Classic Styles Series published by Brewers Publications.” … “If I’m looking for ideas on formulation, I’ll look to Daniels and Mosher.” 6
  • “is not a basic brewing book and it doesn’t discuss extract brewing at all; … … won’t teach you how to get started brewing or give you step-by-step procedures for bsic brewing processes.” SEE Palmer, Korzonas 6

What the book is

“What this book does is fill an unaddressed niche in homebrewing literature. It describes how to think about brewing, how to select and apply proper techniques, and how to continue to learn and develop your own brewing style.” 6

Stories, recipes, and anecdotes are used to illustrate points, analogies (and other influences) will be used liberally, and he states strong opinions based on his experience. [quasi-paraphrase] 6

Part I: Philosophy

Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing

  • Everyone Has a Story
  • Channeling Influences [Write out your own]
  • Mastering Skills [On what it means to be a master]
  • Developing Your Own Style

“Think about your own style being your framework for brewing. You’ll find out the details as you learn and grow in your abilities. Select the tools and methods you want to use and learn. Work towards mastering a core set of skills that let you make the beer styles you enjoy most. …” 23

“Reconsider what you are able to do whenever you make modifications to your system.” 23

Part II: Mastering Your Craft

“In the next three chapters, I will review the stages of brewing, the choices to make, identifying the critical control points, and what your choices will imply later.” 25

Books for all-grain knowledge:

“My favorites are John Palmer’s How to Brew and Greg Noonan’s New Brewing Lager Beer. Noonan’s book is more advanced and is really a great reference text. I also like Al Korzonas’ Homebrewing: Volume I as a source  of useful information, although it doesn’t cover all-grain brewing. For a person first learning to homebrew, I still like Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide. All of these books have given me information that I still use today.” 25-6

Some of the things that will come up in the next several sections are control points [e.g., single-infusion mash], decision points [e.g., lautering options], techniques of interest [to me], and critical process/system decisions [e.g., moving liquids]. These are strewn throughout the book and add immense value to Strong’s clear system thinking.

Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques

  • Transforming Grain
  • Mash Temperatures, Final Gravity, and Maltsters
  • Step Mashing for Attenuation Technique
    • Tripwire–Belgian Tripel (recipe)
  • Decoction and Tannins
  • Hochkurz Double Decoction Mash Technique
    • Procrastinator Doppelbock (recipe)
  • Step and Decoction Mashing Techniques Combined
    • El Hefe German—Hefeweizen (recipe)
  • Cold-Steeped Roasted Grains Technique
    • Headlights On Sweet—Stout (recipe)
  • Unusual Technique: The Overnight Oven Mash by Joe Formanek
  • Lautering
  • Part-Gyle Technique Producing Two Beers
    • Seven-Year Itch—English Barley Wine (recipe)
    • Session Slammer—Northern English Brown Ale (recipe)
  • No-Sparge Technique
    • Pride of Warwick—Strong Bitter (recipe)
  • Managing the Boil
  • Intentional Caramelization Technique
    • Gunn Clan Scotch Ale (recipe)
  • Using Hops
  • First Wort Hopping and Late Hopping Techniques Combined
    • Avant Garde–American Pale Ale (recipe)

An example of control points [for single-infusion mash] under Transforming Grain:

  •     mash temperature
  •     rest time
  •     mash thickness
  •     mash pH [measured at mash temp; NB: pH is temp dependent; generally regulates itself] 33-34

Lautering Options are a [decision point]

“The method used to get the wort into the kettle is a decision point for the brewer: Will sparging be used, and if so, what technique? We examine the techniques of continuous sparging, parti-gyle sparging, batch sparging, and the no-sparge method.” 50

Some decision points under Using Hops are:

  •           Varieties to use
  •           Form of hops
  •           How much of each
  •           Techniques used during/after boil 65

All-Late Hopping [technique of interest]

“In a nutshell, the techniques involves adding all your hops within the last 20 minutes of the boil, adjusting your amounts to compensate for the reduced utilization.”  … You will want to watch out for excessive vegetal and grassy flavors coming from the increased hop material (as weel as the volume loss due to absorption). The advice to keep your total hop bill to less than 8 ounces (227 grams) per 5-gallon (…) batch still applies.” 66

Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment

  • Matching Equipment to the Task
  • Learning Your System
  • Optimizing Your Brewing

“In order to be a great brewer, you have to learn your brewing system in detail and make it your own. You have to know its strengths and weaknesses and how it responds to different brewing conditions.” 75

“The major topics in this chapter are selecting your equipment, learning your system, and optimizing your brewing.” 75

Matching Equipment to the Task tells us to:

“Start with what you need to accomplish, then find devices to best meet those needs.” 76

“Consider your equipment selections along with your process choices.” 76

“In this section, I’ll walk through the common brewing tasks that require equipment and discuss alternatives and tradeoffs. 76

This section is most valuable for brewery planning. I am really happy that I have read this before I finalized my ideas on what I think I am doing. Nothing changed except I feel better prepared and better educated/validated in my decisions. I appreciate that. [I have read quite a few how-to-brew books. This one works for me.]

To give you some idea of the further breakdown and amount of information covered by Strong, Matching Equipment to the Task covers all of the following: Measuring Ingredients, Crushing Grain, Moving Liquid, Managing Heat, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling Wort, Chilling and Separating Wort, Fermenting and Conditioning, and Packaging.

Moving Liquids under Matching Equipment to the Task brings in the most important decision, per Strong, as to system design:

“Water and wort have to be moved between vessels during brewing. This is generally accomplished manually, with gravity, or with pumps. To me, this decision, along with the number of brewing vessels, is what drives the overall design of your system.” 79 [critical process/system decisions, emphasis mine]

“The phases of this that are important in this step are how water gets into the hot liquor tank, how brewing liquor is added to the mash tun, how sparge water is added to the mash tun, how the outflow of the lauter tun is directed to the kettle, and how the boiled wort is moved to the fermenter.”  79

Learning Your System contains a massive amount of useful advice, again, especially still validating your system design.

“Think of systems in abstract terms, like black boxes with inputs and outputs. … This is the systems approach for managing complexity; it allows you to learn the system a piece at a time.” 89

Some of the key things to understand about your system: The range of anything that can be adjusted, How those changes affect the outcome of each step?, …. 90

Some examples of process control points: How accurate are your thermometers and other instruments?, …, When step mashing, how do I increase temps? Direct fire, how long continue to rise after cut-off? Responsiveness of thermometer?, …, What is my evaporation rate?, How much loss do I have from final boil volume to initial fermenter volume, and from initial fermenter volume to final finished beer volume? Also from mash volume to IFV, …, In general, how many pounds of grain needed to hit different gravity targets?, …, What kinds of techniques are possible on my system? How difficult are they to perform? 90-93

Not all control points are of equal importance; focus on those that make a big difference first. 94

Optimizing your Brewing

“…, since the difference between a competent brewer and an expert brewer is often measured in how efficiently and effectively they perform the same tasks.” 94

“… internalizing the techniques and processes so that thoughts and desires are more directly translated into actions and outcomes.” 94

“Some of this mastery comes through simple repetition and understanding of processes and techniques we’ve previously discussed, while executed on your particular system. However, other parts involve changing the way you think and plan your brewing, and how you approach tasks.” 94

Planning Your Brew Calendar under Optimizing your Brewing

Provides several reasons why to plan out your brew calendar, including the most obvious … have a beer available for a certain date but there are others. 95

Planning Your Brew Day, also under Optimizing your Brewing, provides reassuring ways to think about planning out your brew day, even if you’ve never done it on your own before.

  • Think like a chef; do the prep work before cooking. Mise en place, having all that you need to cook ready and waiting. 96
  • Start with breaking down all of the steps. Think about order, equipment needed, ingredients needed, time required.
  • What consumes the most time? If can start longest task first you may shorten the brew day.
  • “Critical path,” from project management : the sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed to get the job done on time. ID the minimum time needed to complete a complex project involving multiple tasks.”
  • Checklists help to not forget certain tasks 97
  • Have extra consumables on hand in case run out : extra propane, DME or LME, …
  • Pay attention during brewing sessions and take notes of things to improve in future; sticking points, etc.
  • Prioritize tasks also; where do I need to focus my energy and attention? 98
  • Avoid wasted effort by understanding the end-to-end process of brewing, and what decisions drive the quality of my final beer.
  • Now, how can I extend this critical path planning if add a 2nd or 3rd batch?
  • “Finally, remember that brewing is often a series of small course corrections.” 98

Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients

“I’m going to focus on how you categorize, characterize, differentiate, and select each of these types of ingredients.” 103

“The goal is for you to be able to choose ingredients that allow you to brew what you want, to be able to understand cause and effect and how ingredient choices affect the finished beer, and to be able to evaluate new products …” 103

“For each of the types of ingredients I’m discussing, I provide some background on the key points you need to know to properly work with them. I’ll also share the selections I’ve made, and how I approach using these ingredients.”103 His selections are in the So What Do I Do? sections under all of the individual ingredients.

  • Assessing Ingredients
  • Malt
  • Adjuncts
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Water

Part III: Applying Your Knowledge

Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer

  • Understanding Beer Styles
  • Developing Your Palate
  • Critically Assessing Your Own Beer

Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer

  • Basic Beer Math
  • Recipe Formulation
  • Adjusting Balance
  • Avoid Clashing Flavors
  • Recipe Formulation Examples
  • Conceptualizing New Styles

Chapter 7. Troubleshooting

  • Detecting Beer Faults
  • Technical Brewing Faults
  • Style-Related Faults

Chapter 8. Finishing Beer

  • Factors Affecting Beer Stability
  • Conditioning
  • Lagering
  • Clarifying
  • Carbonation and Packaging
  • Final Adjustments
  • Blending

Chapter 9. Competition Brewing

  • Brewing for Quality
  • Brewing for Quantity
    • Three Beers From One Base Beer by Steeping Specialty Grains
    • Two Beers From One Mash, Using Different Yeast
    • Making a Fruit Beer Using Mead
  • Winning BJCP Competitions

Chapter 10. Conclusion

  • Expanding Your Knowledge
  • Staying Current
  • Final Advice
  • Staying Alive

My conclusion

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing. I have already gained immense benefit from this book and intend to get even more from it. It has been a blessing in planning out my brewing system and processes.

You know? This may be all you’re getting review-wise for this book. I would much rather spend time making this book useful to me than telling you about it. As you can probably tell, my notes aren’t even fully typed up as I decided to invest in the reading first.

You ought have enough to go on to decide if it is of use to you. You can also attempt to look at it at a bookstore–new or used–or see if your library can get it for you, which I deem as highly likely. Then buy a copy! Or buy your library a copy, if you can.

This was actually the 11th finished nonfiction book I finished this year but it is the 14th review written and posted.

This is the 14th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Announcing the next Session #109: Porter

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

What is The Session?

“The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry” (The Sessions at Brookston Beer Bulletin).

It takes place on the first Friday of every month, so 4 March 2016 for this one.

Porter

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances” (Foster, Porter, 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on.

With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.]

I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

Possibilities include:

  • Contrast and/or compare two or more of the styles
  • Contrast and/or compare two or more beers within/across porter styles
  • The history and development of the style
  • Your love/hate relationship with any porter style
  • Baltic porter – ale or Lager or a mixed fermentation?
  • Is hopping the only difference between English and American styles?
  • Food pairings with your favorite porter or style of porter
  • Review the porter(s) you are using as a creative springboard
  • Construct a resource along the lines of Jay Brooks’ Typology style pages, see for example American Barley Wine or Bock [I’ve already collected some of the information below for you.]
  • Recipe and procedures for brewing your version of a great porter

How to Participate in this month’s The Session

On Friday 4 March, you may comment on this post and leave the URL to your Session post in your comment, or you may email me with your URL at mark . r . lindner @gmail . com, or you may tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession and it wouldn’t hurt to @ me too @bythebbl.

By the way, my blog’s comments are moderated for first-time commenters but it will be quickly approved as long as it doesn’t look like spam.

Within a day or two of the first Friday (March 4th) I will post a round-up of all of the submissions with links.

Further Resources

To give you some food for thought I am providing some resources below:

I took some inspiration from Jay Brooks’ new Typology Tuesday [see this for example] but being inclusive of all the porter variants precludes doing anything close. There’s no way I am copying and pasting all of the descriptions from all of the style guides I can find for all of the versions.

Style References

BJCP

  • Baltic Porter BJCP 9C [Strong Euro Beer]
  • English Porter 13C [Brown British Beer]
  • American Porter 20A [American Porter and Stout]

The only mention of Imperial Porter in the 2015 BJCP is in a comment under Baltic Porter.

Comments: May also be described today as an Imperial Porter, although heavily roasted or hopped versions are not appropriate for this style. Most versions are in the 7–8.5% ABV range. Danish breweries often refer to them as Stouts, which indicates their historic lineage from the days when Porter was used as a generic name for Porter and Stout” [9C, p. 17).

Brewers Association 2015

  • Brown Porter : British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Robust Porter :British Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • American-Style Imperial Porter : North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Smoke Porter :  North American Origin Ale Styles : Ale Styles
  • Baltic-Style Porter : Other Origin Lager Styles : Lager Styles

World Beer Cup 2016 or PDF  

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 31F Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Beer Styles
  • 34 Baltic-Style Porter : Styles of European and German Origin : Lager Beer Styles
  • 74 Brown Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles
  • 75 Robust Porter : Styles of British Origin : Ale Beer Styles

GABF 2015 or PDF   

  • 17B American-Style Imperial Porter : : Other Strong Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 31E Smoke Porter : Smoke Beer : Hybrid/Mixed Lagers or Ales
  • 47 Baltic-Style Porter : Lager Beer Styles
  • 82 Brown Porter : Ale Beer Styles
  • 83 Robust Porter : Ale Beer Styles

BreweryDB

This looks a lot like the Brewers Association style breakdown. I wonder if they’re using an older version of the guidelines. Seeing as the schema is the same as BA above,  I am just going to list and link these.

Periodic Table of Beer Styles

  • Brown Porter 34
  • Robust Porter 48

UnTappd

UnTappd lists the following styles of porter: American, Baltic, English, Imperial/Double, Other

Other References

Foster (2014) – Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today

I consider this to be a significant update to Foster’s Porter below. My reasoning is included in my reviews [the links].

Foster (1992) – Porter (Classic Beer Styles 5) [Publisher’s page]

Pattinson (2012*) – Porter! [see here for a bit of info on author]

Eckhardt (1989) – The Essentials of Beer Styles

Alworth (2015) – The Beer Bible pp. 140-165

Daniels (1996) – Designing Great Beers chap 23, pp. 263-282

Klemp – “BIG BALTIC PORTER” (Stylistically Speaking column), All About Beer, 29:1, March 2008 [There may be others.]

Fodor – “Robust Porter: Style of the Month” Brew Your Own, December 1997.

Dornbusch – “Robust Porter: Style Profile” Brew Your Own, September 2006.

Zainasheff – “Robust Porter: Style ProfileBrew Your Own, September 2012 [May be others.]

Michael Jackson – Beer Styles: Porter

Oliver, ed. (2012) – The Oxford Companion to Beer 

Baltic porter, 82. See also porter

porter, 27, 30, 84, 107, 166, 179-80, 195, 356-7, 422, 439, 479, 483, 485, 494, 587-88, 638, 660-64, 770-1, 792-93, 824, 841; Americanized porters, 663; Baltic porter, 663; comeback of, 663; craft brewers, 663-64, decline of, 663; origins of, 661; robust porter, 663; smoked porter, 688; stout porters, 663. See also stout (index)

[Main entry for porter by Horst Dornbusch and Garrett Oliver]

Oliver (2005) – The Brewmaster’s Table 

porter beer, 30, 43, 137

American, 47, 313-25

British, 135-38, 145-52

food with, 138-39, 314-16

producers of, 145-52, 316-25 (index)

And, to leave you with some potential choices although I suggest going further afield than some of these, according to Men’s Journal on Yahoo the “15 Best Porter Beers From Across the Globe

For more history, see Cornell (2003) – Beer: The Story of the Pint and for recipes see, among many others, Lutzen & Stevens (1994) – Homebrew Favorites chap. 5, pp. 97-116 or Zainasheff and Palmer (2007) – Brewing Classic Styles which contains recipes for Baltic, brown and robust porters, including smoked and vanilla porters.

See you and your thoughts on porter—whatever that is for you—on Friday, March 4th.

Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts

Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today by Terry Foster

Date read: 31 January – 04 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Foster's Brewing Porters & Stouts

Paperback, 211 pages
Published 2014 by Skyhorse
Source: Own

I loved this book! It was everything I was hoping it would be as an update to the author’s 1992 entry in the Brewers Association Classic Beer Styles Series, 5, Porter, which I reviewed here.

There is more history, a great update on the proliferation of ingredients available to the homebrewer, far more recipes, and I love the inclusion of the stouts. There are also more opinions and they are awesome. Dr. Foster is full of opinions and he tells you why and then it is up to you to choose where you stand. Most are well-reasoned and I generally agree with him.

Highly recommended!

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended
  • Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions
  • Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials
  • Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients
  • Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes
  • Selected Bibliography

Introduction

“I started brewing my own beer in Britain, just as the craft of homebrewing was beginning to be revived, then moved to the United States just as homebrewing was legalized here. I have therefore lived through two homebrewing revolutions, and of course through the great craft brewing revolution here. The quality of beer I can now produce at home, and that of those craft beers I can buy, has improved dramatically. Proudly numbered among all these new beers are many porters, stouts, and their sub-styles, and new variations on these are appearing almost daily. Therefore, it seemed that this was a good time to review those styles, their histories, and their brewing methodologies” (2).

Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended

“Since this book is essentially about brewing porters and stouts, I needed to condense this history, and have chosen to do so in a fairly loose chronological manner. That means there may be some omissions of material that other brewing historians consider to be significant enough to be included. I have limited the number of references in the text for reasons of brevity, and have instead appended a list of some of my sources. Note that some of the points I make are purely of my opinion, although I have endeavored to base them on as much fact and general brewing knowledge as possible. I make no apology for this; rather, I hope I might stimulate some intriguing debates on them!” (7-8).

The history of porter and stout is broken into sections by century, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first.

There are a couple times here and elsewhere, and I have seen it in other books, where he writes something like, “And in 1875, Whitbread, for the first time, brewed more ale than porter or stout” (33). What?! They are ales. Were they not thought of that way earlier? And I do believe this sort of thing crops up historically or when writing about beer history so perhaps so. Or is this simply an ‘ales other than stouts and porters’ thing? I believe I got the point in this case and often do when this kind of reference crops up but it seems disconcerting. If it is the case that they were definitely not considered ales in, say, the eighteenth century I think making that explicit would go a long way towards educating the reader. Very small point, I concede.

Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions

This section discusses the style parameters, from the perspective of the Brewers Association, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and his own. He discusses where they overlap and where they disagree. For instance, he does not consider smoked porter to be its own substyle but merely a variant (53). From this he narrows down the styles/substyles he will be discussing in the rest of the book and providing recipes for.

“I am therefore going to stick to considering the nine designations of brown, robust, and Baltic porters, along with dry, sweet, oatmeal, foreign extra, American, and Imperial stouts. Since most of them have demonstrable historical pedigrees (even the American stout), these categories are useful as a way of looking at these beers. However, they do not include every variety of porter available commercially (let alone those brewed at home)” (53).

From this he goes on to provide sections on each of these nine, plus a couple page discussion of flavored porters and stouts.

Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials

This chapter covers malt (and other grist products) primarily, with a small diversion into a few flavorings (lactose, licorice, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, and ‘barrels’). Hops, water and yeast are covered in the next chapter.

The ‘malts’ covered go from the general to the very specific, while he covers how much of what to use in all of the assorted styles he is discussing. They include: base malts (including Vienna and Munich), malt extract, specialty malts (caramel/crystal, Special B, two particular biscuit malts, Special roast malt, Melanoidin, amber, brown, chocolate, black, roasted barley, flaked barley, oat malt/flakes, rye malt, and smoked malts. Foster also includes a section on making your own amber and brown malt.

Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients

Hops, yeast, water, and finings get the Foster treatment here.

Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes

For many this will be the gist of the book and I do look forward to making use of it but, so far, I believe I have and will get the most value from his thoughts in chapter 3 on malts and other grist ingredients.

For each style/substyle he discusses he has included several recipes. These include a couple of all-grain ones and a couple extract and extract plus partial mash recipes per style. After that is a section he entitles, “My Ten Most Interesting Recipes.” Five of these are historical recreations (as best as possible) and the other five he says “are based on modern craft-brewed beers” (189).

At the end of this chapter is his addendum to recipes where he discusses carbonation, kegging, bottling, and stout dispense and nitrogen gas.

One thing not included, unlike in his previous work, are recipes for one-barrel batches. Craft brewers (and homebrewers wanting more than 5-gallon batches) would be on their own to scale up the recipes. Personally, I find that a fair tradeoff for all of the new and updated information, the additional recipes, and the inclusions of the stouts. Recipe scaling information can be found elsewhere.    

Selected Bibliography

This bibliography is much more extensive than the one in the Classic Beer Styles Series from 1992 but he also cites a fair few works in the text that are not listed in the back. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor does he intend it to be. Nonetheless, it is several times longer than the one in the 1992 work.

Final comments

Again, I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the brewing of stouts and porters. I will be visiting and revisiting it, no doubt.

This is my favorite book of 2015 so far. It may seem a tad early to make this claim but I did write “so far.” I have also completed 25 books so far this year so not a completely absurd statement.

This is the 6th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader