|Brewsearch & Development -
|Did you ever hear of green beer? No, not the kind you might see on St. Patrick's Day.
Brewers use the term to mean a beer that has undergone primary fermentation but has not
yet undergone a period of conditioning. Although it may be "drinkable," the beer is not
particularly ready to drink. Before leaving a brewery, beer undergoes a period of
maturation which, oftentimes, is the longest part of the brewing process.
It can range from days (cask conditioned ales) or months (traditional, well crafted lagers).
This is to allow the yeast to continue working to removes some off-flavors that may be
by-products of primary fermentation. The beer often appears cloudy in this stage due to
unsettled yeast and may undergo some filtration once it has reached full maturity,
unless of course it is meant to be consumed hazy.
In addition to "green beer" brewers are also concerned with tannins. They protects fruits and
seeds of plants throughout colder months. Occurring naturally in the bark of trees and
bushes, in grain husks and in hops, tannins are capable of binding and precipitating proteins
and have been used for thousands of years as an organic preservative, most notably used in
the tanning of leather. The tannins serve to keep plants healthy and capable of sprouting
new shoots in the spring. While the plants are dormant, the bitter, stringing sensation caused
by tannings wards of plant-eating creature and protects against mold and mildew.
When it comes to beer, if tannin concentration is extreme, it causes mouth-picking
astringency which is not an actual flavor, but rather a tactile sensation. When consumed,
tannings react with proteins in human saliva causing them to coagulate and cease to
be a lubricant for the mouth, giving you an almost leathery dryness. This is usually a prized
attribute in red wines but in beer it clashes with hop bitterness and is generally avoided.
This is because high levels can cause colloidal haze in finished beers. Brewers sometimes
use tannins, however, to help stabilize finished beer against the formation of haze due
to their ability to link up with other proteins.
Lastly a few words about hops. American hops first began in the New England colonies
after the first English settlers arrived in the early 1600s. Starting as cultivated varieties of
English origin, they quickly became supplement by New World hops which eventually
led to cross-cultivation of new hop breeds.
By the early 1800s, northwestern New York, Wisconsin and the Northern Midwest were the
leading hop producing areas. Due to the high humidity and cold weather months in these
regions, the hop vines were prone to mildew disease. Because of that, the American hop
industry moved and became firmly centered in the Pacific Northwest by the early 1900s.
Currently, the Yakima Valley in Washington and the Willamette Valley in Oregon
are the two foremost growers of hops in the United States.
|More From Matt:
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|To all my readers and friends, I want to thank you for all your support during my time at Nik's
Wunderbar and at the Northside Lounge. I'm moving back to the enviromental/ecological field so
the next time you see me at a pub it will likely be on a stool next to you. I'll continue to write my
column here on BeerNexus giving you my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry. Cheers!