Tag Archives: hops

It’s pronounced “Rine-hites-ge-boat”

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-Casey Klekas

In case you missed it, April 23 was German Beer Day—well, the official one, anyway. It is a day to celebrate the 497th anniversary of the German Beer Purity Law, known as the Reinheitsgebot. Besides appreciating the oldest food-quality regulation in the world, it is a day to celebrate the German character in its fantastic, meticulous, compulsive rigidity.

On April 23, 1516, the Duke of Bavaria, William IV, signed the Reinheitsgebot, or “purity order,” into effect. Among other things, the law contained a list of ingredients that could be used in the production of beer, a list three words long—barley, hops, water. Violation would be met with the swift punishment of confiscation of the accused kegs without monetary or sudsy compensation.

The idea was to discourage brewers from using grains that were needed for food, such as rye and wheat, thus making barley a brewing staple. Hops were found to prevent early spoilage of beer, acting as a sort of natural preservative. Their antibacterial effect also helped make beer a safe (and swell) alternative to questionable drinking water. This decree also partially reflected the German’s insatiable thirst for purity.

In 1871, Germany was born. Before the wars of unification, Germany was only a loose configuration of kingdoms. The Kingdom of Bavaria demanded that their ancient Reinheitsgebot be adopted by all of Germany, which meant bye-bye to Belgian style beers, fruit beers, spiced beers, and even the Hefeweizen (no wheat!). This also meant that Bavarian-style lagers and pilsners would forever define what we think of as German beers.

The reign of the Reinheitsgebot endured two world wars and the partition of Germany. Tragically, it didn’t live to see Germany’s reunification, having been declared illegitimate by the European Union as an interference with a free-market.

Thankfully, in 1993, the Provisional German Beer Law, or Biergesetz, reinstated the Reinheitsgebot with only minor changes. Wheat was now OK, as the Germans were no longer dealing with medieval fears of famine. Yeast was officially included, although it had really been there all along. Before the 1800s, no one knew those microorganisms existed, nor their vital role in the brewing process. They normally just scooped some germy sediment out of the last batch of beer or else hoped for some sort of natural fermentation. Cane sugar was also allowed in the production of ales (top-down fermentation), but still not in the treasured German lager (bottom-up).

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To this day breweries will label their beer as being in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot. This mark of quality has lasted nearly 500 years. So, next time you are in the German beer section, check the bottles for the little golden words that read something like, “Brewed under the purity law of 1516.” Tip your hat to the German people in all their meticulousness and enjoy half a millennium of beautiful tradition. Prost to the Reinheitsgebot!

Bizarre Beers

-Elliott Kennedy

Before my twenty-first birthday, I didn’t know the difference between “hops” as a noun and “hops” as a verb. Just a few short months ago, I thought beer was a drink saved strictly for football games and pool halls.

So when I told my best friend/boyfriend/beer-connoisseur-to-the-extreme that I was going to sample a variety of quirky beers for a blog post, I was not surprised that he responded with hearty laughter. Quickly followed by, “Wait… seriously?”

Seriously.

I started with a beer that my bonkers-for-brewing beau had purchased in October after weeks of hype and anticipation: Rogue Brewery’s Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Porter. At $13 per bottle plus $9 shipping and handling, this Portland-exclusive beer is a pricey gamble for anyone on the fence about unusual foods. Hit or miss? Which will it be? The hot pink bottle was an alarming start, but as I poured the light red liquid into a tilted pint glass, I was taken in by the warm smell of maple. But after just one sip, I knew it was a miss. A slight hint of sweetness was instantly overpowered by the taste of artificial bacon. That was all it took for me to immediately switch to a glass of water.

But this beer blooper didn’t deter me from trying some of Rogue’s more established specialty brews. Guided by my sweet tooth, I tried Rogue’s Chocolate Stout. Released for Valentine’s Day in 2001, this beer is not as quirky as the Maple Bacon Porter, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill dark beer either. The head is creamy and sweet and the beer is a perfect balance of hoppy bitterness and savory chocolate.  BeerAdvocate.com gives it an A rating, and I have to agree.

Soon, however, I started to run out of quirky beers to sample. Some of the most outrageous brews aren’t available on this coast or in this country. In Illinois, Tom and Athena Seefurth have seen great success with their Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer. A Dutch pet shop owner offers a meat-flavored beer for dogs called Kwispelbier. In Japan, a nonalcoholic brew called Kidsbeer is marketed toward—can you guess from the name? —children. But I wasn’t going to be able to get my hands on any of these.

So instead, I developed a list of beers with some of the most bizarre names out there: Arrogant Bastard (Stone Brewing), Moose Drool (Big Sky Brewing Co.), Hoptimus Prime (Legacy Brewing Co.), Santa’s Butt (Ridgeway Brewery), Old Leghumper (Thirsty Dog Brewing Company), and Yellow Snow (Rogue Brewery). As for the taste of these colorfully titled brews, you’ll have to sample them yourself. Most of them are available at local grocery stores and specialty shops like 16 Tons and The Bier Stein. But don’t forget your ID and a healthy dose of courage.

Cheers!

Getting Beer-ducated

-Jessica Ridgway

Before I tasted my first sip of alcohol (at the legal age of 21, of course) I was told that my first drink should be a beer. Inevitably, my new-to-alcohol self ignored that suggestion and reached for the harder stuff. I learned that gin, vodka, and rum are fun. Tequila and Jaegermeister are not. Beer was never my drink of choice because I never wanted it to be.

Time passed, however, and my palate changed. I decided to give beer a chance, starting with the cheap, canned beer and later moving to the nicer bottles. I started to enjoy the taste of beer so much that I went to my first Beer Festival and gave as many beers as I could a try. After sampling a few flavors I realized that I could drink as much beer as I wanted, but without some background education of the beverage I might as well be drinking PBR for the rest of my life.

So, if you’re clueless about beer and you’re about to grab some “brewskis” with beer connoisseurs, here’s a few basic things to know so you’re not a total newbie.

There are four main ingredients to beer: water, yeast, fermentable sugars, and hops. Other ingredients, like spices, sugars, syrups, grains, chocolate, fruits, vegetables, and even coffee can be added for taste.

According to my best friend, Wikipedia, hops are the female flower clusters of the species Humulus lupulus. Brandon Walcott-Ayers, who brews his own beer at home, explains that hops “give a beer its floral qualities and bitterness.”

All beers (with a few exceptions) fall into two categories: ales or lagers. The main differences between the two are the type of yeast and the process used to ferment the brew.

  • Ales are fermented with yeast that first gathers at the top of the brew. They are fermented at warmer temperatures between 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also brewed for a shorter duration, no more than a few weeks.
  • Lagers are fermented with yeast that gathers at the bottom of the brew. They are fermented at colder temperatures between 32 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Lagers are brewed for long durations, sometimes more than several months.

Pretty simple, right? Well, here is where beer gets tricky. There are several “styles” of beer, and style is used loosely to categorize beers based on various factors like appearance, flavor, ingredients, origin, history, brewing method, etcetera, etcetera. There is no definitive guide to beer styles and the ratings vary from person to person. Fortunately, the only way to learn the different styles is to give them all a try! Cheers to education! I’ll always drink to that.

Follow Jessica at @jcridgway