Bar Tending & Beerspectives
by Matt Martinkovic
Brewsearch & Development -
Nik's Wunderbar - Whitehouse Station NJ
Beer gets its bitterness and a lot of its flavor from hops, one of the main ingredients needed
to make the delicious beverage. They're added to the wort, or not-yet-beer, during the
brewing process. When boiled, hops release iso-alpha acids into the liquid.
So far so good. But if beer is exposed to sunlight, the sun's power breaks down those
iso-alpha acids. The resulting compounds bind with proteins that contain sulfur.
This creates a new chemical — one that's almost exactly identical to the one released
by skunks. It's incredibly potent too.  People can taste this chemical in concentrations of
one part per billion. As the video explains, "if you filled an Olympic-sized swimming pool
with beer, one eyedropper of this stuff would change the way it tasted." Which would ruin
an otherwise delightful Olympic-sized swimming pool full of beer.

So when at home treat your beer with respect the way we do here at Nik's Wunderbar
and keep it out of the sun, especially if the beer is in a clear glass. And be aware that enough
light can get through a green bottle to skunk it, given enough time.

Some Beer Terms to Know

You don't have to have the vocabulary of a certified beer judge to know a good beer when
you taste one.  However it can't hurt to know a few terms regularly used in the trade.

Wort - It all starts with wort. Wort is the sweet liquid that brewers create by steeping malted
barley in hot water and boiling the resulting liquid with hops. It becomes beer once the yeast
is added and fermentation takes place.  Everything that’s called beer starts off as wort, s

Specific Gravity - The measure of density of a liquid, specific gravity uses all manner of
esoteric units (BRIX, degrees Plato, degrees Balling) to communicate how much sugar is
dissolved in the unfermented wort (called “original gravity”) or finished beer (“final,” or
“terminal gravity”). A brew with a higher original gravity — fittingly known as a “high gravity
beer” —ends up with a high alcohol content. The yeast had more dissolved sugars to eat,
which resulted in the production of more alcohol. The converse is also true, and “low gravity
beers” often also get called “session beers.” A brew with a very dry finish (also called
“well attenuated”) will usually also have a low final gravity — less dissolved sugar
in the final beer means a less sweet flavor.

For example, try a typical West Coast-style IPA (which we often have on tap). These beers
begin with a moderately high starting gravity that's well attenuated resulting in a moderate
7%-ABV and a dry finish. The “East coast IPAs” (think 60 Minute by Dogfish Head) typically
are not as well attenuated and feature a sweeter finish.

Session beer is typically a low-alcohol beer that’s flavorful enough to hold your interest
for several pints. Originally referring to the British pub styles like milds and bitter, session
beers have come to mean anything under about 5% alcohol.


And don't forget my friends at the  Northside Lounge,
100 Brooks Boulevard, Manville, NJ 08835     908-722-7712
Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but a well known ecological writer whose
work has appeared in the The American Midland Naturalist (University of Notre Dame) among other
industry publications.  He also has been an agricultural consultant on, of course, the growing of hops.
"Skunked" Beer
To all my readers and friends, please stop in and say hello to me at my new home, the great
Nik's Wunderbar,    It's an exclusive Bavarian beer hall and beer garden focusing on
German dishes and German brews. The staff wears traditional Bavarian dress too!  When you come in
be sure to sign up for my free newsletter.  And tell them you saw it here on BeerNexus!
454 Route 22 West Whitehouse Station, NJ 08888
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