Saturday, November 29, 2014

*Presenting - Darkstar November*


An Imperial Stout aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels with Molasses and Rye by Bottle Logic in Anaheim, CA.

Talk about impressive. This massive Stout tips the scales at 13.7% ABV. Pours opaque black with a creamy mocha-colored cap on top.

Aromas come off with notes of rich chocolate, molasses, vanilla, almonds, cigar-box, and booze.

The taste follows the nose perfectly. Starts off with dark chocolate, sweet caramel, coffee grounds, and stone fruits. The middle is akin to the flavors of the spirit which once graced the barrels: Buffalo Trace Bourbon. The finish is where this beer shows off its true elegance. Notes of alcohol, chocolate, slight wood indicators, sweet tobacco leaves, and a nutty, almond-like back-palate brings this tasting experience to a wonderful conclusion.

Silky and creamy structure on the tongue. As the beer warms up, the flavors and aromas are even more impressive. Serve only about 8oz at a time in a proper snifter (or similar glassware) and take your time.

Although it can be enjoyed now, this beer will age gracefully for many years and the additional port and sherry notes will contribute to the complexity. For an even more tantalizing flavor adventure, pair with a "Flor de las Antillas" cigar by My Father Cigars and let the good times roll.

Darkstar November is as black as the vacuum of space, yet the aromas and flavors shine brighter than a Type 1-A Supernova.

Cheers!

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Monday, November 10, 2014

Presenting: Galaxy Hopper

American-Style Strong Pale Ale by Tustin Brewing Company
(Photos - Left: Taken at beer release. Right: Found on TBC's FB Page)

Not all American-Style Strong Pale Ales are created equal. This creation by Jarrod Larsen, award-winning brewer at Tustin Brewing Company, is an aromatic experience for your senses.

Chinook, Amarillo, and Galaxy hops in the boil and dry-hopped with a blend of Galaxy, Amarillo, and Citra... Twice! And it shows.

Gold in color, a rich white cap, and a slight veil over it.

The nose is where the spirit shines. Aromas of underripe melon and peaches, some orange rind, white grape, and a grassy character to hold it all together.

The palate resembles the nose with the addition of an earthy character and a slight bready note in the background. Bitter from beginning to end with all the fruit layers lingering on the finish.

The structure is medium-light bodied, fairly well attenuated, and medium carbonation. 6%ABV, 50 IBU's, and tasty. Get some while it lasts!




Cheers,

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Presenting: Rocco Red

An American Amber/Red Ale
by Bootlegger's Brewery in Fullerton, CA


Since its pilot release back in 2011, I fell in love with this beer and quickly rose to become one of my favorite Bootlegger's offerings. I immediately described it as "Baby Knuckle" for it's similarity in flavor their DIPA, Knuckle Sandwich. I'm not the only one that thinks highly of Rocco Red; It recently brought back a Bronze Medal from GABF!

This beer is a dark ruby red, slight chill haze on the presentation topped off with a creamy, off-white head.

Aromas come out as orange marmalade, citrus sweet candy, pine, burnt sugar, and toasted bread.

Flavors of rich malt and American hops. Mouthfeel is medium-full with a semi-silky texture. At 7.1%ABV, it's a dangerously easy and satisfying drink. Pace yourself!

Check out this award winning beer for yourself at their tasting room located in famous Downtown Fullerton. Also available in bottles.



Cheers,

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Märzen/Oktoberfest

The Bavarian Crest and flag colors adorn this
Oktoberfest banner.


"O'zapft is!"

And with that loud cry, the ceremonial first keg is tapped; the world’s biggest party is underway ('O'zapft is!' means It’s tapped! in German, Bavarian dialect).

The Oktoberfest celebration in Munich is quite attractive to many Americans because of the giant mugs of beers and mass consumption of the golden liquid contained within them. That’s not saying the proud Bavarians won’t indulge and intake their fair share of beer, there is more to this festival than beer drinking. How did this celebration become a tradition in the first place? And, more importantly, why is there a beer named after the festival? Why is it held on grounds which used to be a meadow and is named after a princess? Let’s dive into the past as I explain the interesting (and sometimes convoluted) beginnings of not only the festival, but also the beer that bares its name.

The best place to start is, well, the beginning. Technology, brewing ingenuity, and key events have an important role in the following timeline. It's quite a ride.

Ready? Here we go...

In the 1550’s, the Bavarian government outlawed brewing in the summer months due to the inconsistent beers being produced during this time of year. They didn't understand why, yet they knew fermentation and cold storage (lager) done in the colder months of the year resulted in higher quality beers.

Brewers stepped up production during March (give or take) and brewed plenty of beer to be stored away. These beers were quite strong, dark, and well hopped. Kept in cool caves, they eventually mellowed out. They eventually became known as Märzenbier (March beer).

In congruent with the new harvest, brewing would begin again in late September or early October. Evidence shows that the remaining Märzenbiers were consumed in mass quantities to free-up the casks for the upcoming brewing season. Not exactly a party or celebration, yet still a good time as you could imagine.

Fast-forward to 1807. Gabriel Sedlmayr, Master Brewer to the royal court of Bavaria, obtains a small brewery in Munich... Spaten. Sedlmayr would spend the rest of his life perfecting the bottom-fermenting (lager) practice and teaching his sons (Gabriel -the younger- and Joseph) the trade. 

Before we get further into the Sedlmayr’s timeline, one key event took place on October 12, 1810. The Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. A grand wedding party was held just outside of the city gates on a meadow. Over 40,000 Bavarians came to party and they stayed for several days. Of all things, the main attraction to the commoners was a horse race during the last day of festivities. The celebration continued year after year, eventually evolving and merging with the celebration of agriculture, harvest, and clearing out the casks for the new brewing season (and as mentioned before, these older casked beers were in their prime condition with the extended aging). Horse racing eventually was dropped from the celebrations. To honor the princess, the grounds that continue to hold this party is named Theresienwiese, Therese’s Meadow in German, Bavarian dialect.

The first Oktoberfest was a wedding celebration that lasted more than a few days... and there was no focus beer, mainly because there might not have been any available. By 1814, there is literature mentioning generous amounts of beer. Now, we have the world’s biggest party where about 30% of all Munich brewery production is accounted for!

Let us rejoin our brewers in their timeline and find out how we arrived with a beer style named after the festival.

In 1833, brewers Gabriel Sedlmayr (the younger) of the Spaten Brewery his good friend, Anton Dreher of the Dreher Brewery in Vienna made a research trip to England. Their goal was to witness and study a revolutionary hot air kiln, which kilned green malt to a relatively pale consistency. They returned and immediately got to work creating paler malts and incorporating them at their respective breweries.

Sedlmayr released an amber lager during the 1841 Oktoberfest known simply as a Märzen made with his pale grain dubbed Munich malt (although this Märzen was paler in comparison to Märzenbiers prior). Likewise, a few months later Dreher released an even paler amber lager made with his own pale grain dubbed Vienna malt. These two beers were the precursors to what we know as the Oktoberfest/Märzen and Vienna Lagers today.

Following Sedlmayr’s death in 1839, his two sons -Gabriel and Joseph- assume the ownership responsibilities.

Joseph would later (in 1842) withdraw from Spaten to pursue his own brewing venture and would acquire the Leist Brewery. Joseph after a while attains the Franziskaner and shuts down the Leist Brewry. By 1865, Joseph’s only focus is brewing operations at Franziskaner.

While all this is happening, a brewer by the name Josef Groll released his pale golden lager to the unsuspecting public of Pilsen, Bohemia (modern-day Czech) on November 11, 1842. It did not take long for this beer to gain footing with beer drinkers. Virtually all other breweries in the world, including Germany, would follow suit in creating paler beers. No market was unaffected, not even the traditional Märzenbiers.

Joseph was quite aware of the growing popularity of pale-colored beers and he applied it to a modified Vienna Lager formula and released it during the 1872 Oktoberfest. This beer was Franziskaner’s Ur- Märzen. The copper colored, toasty, crisp Oktoberfest beer we know and love was finally born!

The development of refrigeration by Carl von Linde in 1873 encouraged breweries to slowly move into year round production (ironically enough, the first refrigeration system was developed for the Spaten Brewery). The Märzen style beers evolved into specialty products specially made for the festival. Märzen as a “March” beer slowly became a style designation associated with the festival. Naturally, they are now known as one and the same, Märzen/Oktoberfest. With this mash-up, the need to create a special, darker, stronger beer in March eventually dissipated. There was simply no need for it any longer.

Spaten and Franziskaner would join in 1922 bringing the Sedlmayr’s back under one umbrella of influential brewers.

In recent times, since 1990 to be exact, the Oktoberfest style has split into two distinct versions: Bright gold to deep gold Festbier and the traditional densely gold to coppery-orange Märzen.

Deep-Golden Festbier
(Photo Credit: Paulaner.com)
The traditional Märzen/Oktoberfest beers are copper colored and very bright with a dense cap of creamy foam. Rich malty aromas with toasty notes. Sweet yet pleasantly bitter on the palate with complex malt backbone, medium bodied, and clean, dry finish. These are the versions we commonly see here in the United States as they are now produced mainly for export. As mentioned above, the need to create this version as a necessity is no longer valid due to the development of refrigeration. That’s not to say traditional Märzen/Oktoberfest beers are not available in Bavaria because they are (just not as common as before).

In Munich, the Oktoberfest style beer is golden in color. As other lessons in beer anthropology has taught us, the popularity of the Pilsner forced brewers to get with the program to keep their thirsty customers happy. Spaten introduced a Helles Lager to the Munich locals in 1895 in response to the growing demand for the golden beer. This slowly carried over to Oktoberfest by the 1990's. The most popular beer served in the modern Oktoberfest is either a Helles or a supercharged version of Helles (slightly stronger in ABV and a deeper shade of gold, resembling a Dortmunder Export/German Helles Export) and is what is served as Oktoberfest-bier.

The official golden beer (Oktoberfest-bier) described above also goes by the following style names: Festbier, Wiesn, or Wiesnbier. These beers are gold in color, brilliant clarity with a creamy white head. Pilsner malt dominates the aroma with notes of grain-like sweetness. Not as much toasty flavors or aroma. Low bitterness in flavor and finish, with a well-rounded and soft malt character.

Whew!

That was intense. The Oktoberfest beer style history is quite expansive. Short of simply saying, “Oktoberfest is the celebration of beers, harvest, and agriculture that began with a royal wedding,” which is fairly accurate, understanding the significant historical events and timeline brings even more depth to this already amazing beer style.

Regardless of the version you are drinking, serve in a traditional dimpled 'masskrug' and enjoy with a Bratwursts or other local eats for the best experience. It’s even better if you are ‘mit Freunden, bei Oktoberfest.'

Ich liebe dieses Bier. One of my favorite styles, indeed.

Prost!

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®


Thursday, September 4, 2014

"What the Hell(es)?!"

Weihenstephaner Original served at
The Bräustüberl’s ("Brewery Parlour") Beer Garden
Visit any traditional "bierstube" (beer hall) in Munich and you'll be treated to the testament of Bavarian brewing tradition. Centuries of brewing expertise, science, and beer history come together to bring us this tantalizing style: the Munich Helles.

"Helles" in German means "bright" or "light." Similar to a number of beer styles in Germany, a Munich Helles is also named after its appearance.

To understand how this beer came into fruition, a bit of brewing history should be looked at. 

In 1833, brewers Gabriel Sedlmayr of the Spaten Brewery and Anton Dreher of the Dreher Brewery in Vienna made a research trip to England. Their goal was to witness and study a revolutionary hot air kiln, which kilned green malt to a relatively pale consistency. They might have had a hunch this would forever changed malt production. 

Armed with their new found knowledge, Sedlmayr and Dreher went to work at their respected breweries. Sedlmayr released an amber lager during the 1841 Oktoberfest known simply as a Märzen made with his pale grain dubbed Munich malt. Likewise, a few months later Dreher released an even paler amber lager made with his own pale grain, dubbed Vienna malt. These two beers were the precursors to what we know as the Oktoberfest/Märzen and Vienna Lagers. 

Then, the world would change forever...

On November 11th, 1842, a Bavarian brewer, Josef Groll, released his pale golden lager to the unsuspecting public of Pilsen, Bohemia (modern-day Czech). It did not take long for this beer to dominate the world. Virtually all other breweries in the world, including those in Germany, had to fallow with their own version of this crowed-pleasing favorite.

On March 21st, 1894, the Spaten brewery (now operated by Sedlmayr's three sons) sent a test-cask of their creation to the port city of Hamburg. Over a short time, this golden brew gained more and more footing on the testing grounds. Spaten decided it was time to release their creation to the citizens of Munich. The Munich Helles was released on its home turf on June 20th, 1895 and it has never lost traction.

To this day, Helles remains one of the most consumed styles in Bavaria. Even most of the beer consumed during Oktoberfest is either Helles or a modified, slightly stronger version (slowly, but surely replacing the very beer that bares the festival's name: the traditional amber colored Oktoberfest). 

Pale gold in color, brilliant clarity with a creamy white head. Pilsner malt dominates the aroma with notes of grain-like sweetness. Balanced flavor where malt and hops do not overpower each other, rather keep one another in perfect harmony, with slightly sweet finished and just enough balanced bitterness. Medium-bodied brew that is sure to keep your mouth watering for another sip.

Elegant, subtle, and clean are some of the most common -and appropriate- descriptors used to identify a Helles. Usually brewed using only a single type of malt (generally Pilsner malt) and one noble hop verity, creating such a balanced and delicate beer is the crown achievement of Bavarian brewmasters.

Serve in a traditional mug at 40°F and enjoy. Go ahead, have another. At a range of 4.7 to 5.4 ABV, you'll find difficult not to order "noch eins" (one more).



Prost! 

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Friday, August 8, 2014

Beer Education: IBU – The “Bitter” Truth

The IBU Contributor - Hops
Shown Dried and in Whole-Leaf Form
Beer has many values quantified by a numbered scale of some kind. The common ones are: color, ABV, and bitterness. Because bitterness is an important characteristic in most beer styles, it is only natural it has its own term. This value is identified by International Bittering Units, or simply IBU. This term, IBU, is often used in pub conversation and are usually found on the description on the beer on a beer board or packaging. If you are unfamiliar with what an IBU is, continue-on and I will demystify things.

IBU values are good indicators on how bitter a particular beer will be. The short answer is the simplest way of explaining this: On average, the higher the IBU’s a beer has, the higher the perceived bitterness will be on your palate (and vice-versa, the lower the IBU’s, the less bitterness perceived). This is a good rule-of-thumb to go by.

Here are a couple of examples to further explain that concept: a Belgian Wit might have IBU’s of around 12 while an American Pale will proudly boast 40 IBU’s. A German Dunkel could have IBU’s around 20 while an Imperial/Double India Pale Ale could tip the scales at 100+ IBU’s! (FYI, Budweiser has about 5 IBU’s)

What causes bitteness in beer? ...Hops! Without crumbling open a hop cone to study the anatomy, there are two basic components you need to be aware of: the Essential Oils and Alpha Acids (AA). Essential Oils contribute aroma and flavor characteristics and we will tackle that at a later time. The Alpha Acids are what add bitterness. The AA’s are quantified by percentage with the higher percentage meaning higher bittering properties. For instance, the German hop Hallertau will have about 4%AA with a pleasant bittering contribution while the American verity Simcoe will average at around 13%AA.

I won’t bore you with the math behind this, but the concept is straightforward. The AA’s must be boiled in the wort (pre-beer) to add the bitterness properties. Depending on how long the hops are boiled in the kettle, the sugar content of the wort, and the amount of hops used will determine the total IBU’s in the finished beer.

One internal factor contributes to the bitterness (or lake thereof) we actually perceive. Although we can use the IBU’s provided gives us as a good base-point, the beer ingredients can hinder the actual amount of bitterness that comes though. For example, heavily roasted malts will subdue some of the bitterness perceived. Another way bitterness can be subdued depends on how the beer is dispensed. A casked-conditioned or nitor beer will have significantly less bitterness than the same beer served with average volumes of CO2, regardless of having identical IBU’s.

Before I sign off, here are two interesting notes on IBU’s. Humans have a limit to the amount of bitterness we can perceive. It’s still an on-going debate in the scientific community, but the common numbers given out are usually around 80-100 IBU’s before we max out. Another item to ponder about is the limit of IBU’s that can physically be dissolved into a particular beer depending on the sugar content. I still need to research this item further, but it’s an interesting topic. Homebrewer might find this especially appealing.

Well, there you have it. If you did not know what an IBU was before and had a tough time following a conversation or reading a beer description, this should give you some solid ground to stand on. If you don’t like bitter, stay away from high IBU’s. If you do, then seek out the highest IBU beer you can. At the end of the day, it’s as simple as that.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two.

Until next time!

Cheers,

-Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Beer Education: Leipziger Gose - Who put salt in my beer!?

*Source Below*
Gose (pronounced like “rose” with an “uh” at the end; Go-zuh) beers are amazing. They have been around for about 1000 years, believe it or not. The tangy, crisp, somewhat salty, and dry wheat beer that calls Leipzig home originated over 100 miles away.

This style is named after the Gose River that runs through the city of Goslar. Around the 11th century, Goslar was a thriving industrial town supported by mining and brewing. The water used for brewing logically came from the Gose River. This water is naturally salty. By the early 18th century as Goslar’s mining declined, brewing somehow made its way to Leipzig. By early the 1900’s, Gose had found its new home and Leipzig became the largest producer of the style.

This reign did not last long, however. Wars nearly sent this style into oblivion. It wasn't until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 that this precious style could make a return in the brewhouse.

Gose is brewed with malted barley and malted wheat (historically, oats and unmalted wheat were also used), lightly hopped, and some coriander added for spice. The water profile is true to its origin: slightly salty. Yeast along with lactic bacteria or Brettanomyces are used to add some tart characteristics.

The end result is a straw to golden colored beer with a thick, creamy head and slight veil to it. Lemony, tangy, some spice character from the coriander and yeast, and the saline quality only enhances the thirst quenching, refreshing allure of the Gose. Similar to Berliner Weisse, these beers are sometimes offered with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrups to ease the sourness. At about 4.5% ABV average, go ahead and have another! So, who’s thirsty?

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two. Until next time!



Cheers, 

-Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®



Source of Picture: Click Here

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beer Education: The Beers of Flanders - Red and Brown/Oud Bruin

*Source Below*

Pucker up!

No, I’m not asking for a kiss (unless you want to give me one... I might not be opposed to it.). I’m referring to the tart, tangy, and fruity ales from Northern Belgium: Flanders Red Ales and Flanders Browns. Let’s take a trip to this Flemish region of the world.

The northern part of Belgium, known as Flanders, is where these complex ales call home. Flanders Red and Browns were once closely related to Lambics, in terms of linage, as they were spontaneously fermented (allowed to ferment naturally with yeast and bacteria found in the air). Over time, the influence of neighboring countries and brewing technologies swayed the Flemish beers to what they are today.

Just as the blending of old and young beer was commonplace in England around the 17th century, the Flemish brewers did the same with their creations. Where blending beers happened first (England or Belgium) is still up for debate. Eventually, blending in England was phased out but it remains an antiquate part of crafting Flanders Reds and Browns. The blends consist of one brew that has been aged for up to two –plus- years and a young, fresh batch.

Belgium holds no distinction between the two styles. Occasionally, some producers will even identify both styles on the same label! Both brews consist of other micro-organisms to metabolize anything left over from normal brewer’s yeast. This leads to some of the most complex, unique, and exciting beers on the market.

The grains used to produce these beers differ quite a bit. Reds are produced using Vienna and Munich malts as a base with some cara-malts and Special B. Browns conversely use Pils malt as a base with a copius amount of dark cara-malts and some roasted malts for color. Both can employ the use of maize, with the Reds usually incorporating about 20% of it to the grain bill.

The main difference between the two styles boils down to two things: Brettanomyces (Brett for short) and aging method. Brett, a form of yeast that produces a mousy, funky character, is not found in the Oud Bruin variation. Traditional Flanders Reds are aged in giant wood casks, called "foeders," for an extended period of time while the Oud Bruins are aged in steel tanks. Wood is a porous material. This allows for more bacteria to enter the aging Flanders Reds.

On the senses, Flanders Reds and Flanders Browns are similar yet so different. Flanders Browns or Oud Bruins are tart, tangy dark ale with some residual malt flavors and light fruitiness. Perfect examples would be New Belgium’s La Folie (part of their Lips of Faith) or Leifmans Goudenband. Flanders Reds tend to be downright sour, impose a bit a funky character, and even have some tart fruit-like sweetness. Flanders Red Ales are also the most vinous (wine-like) of all beer styles. Prime examples of Flanders Reds include Rodenbach Grand Cru and Verhaeghe’s Duchess de Bourgogne (Duchess is not intensely sour, however).

Pair these beers with shellfish (lobster and Flanders Red is simply magical!), ham dishes or even some duck. Try them with some herb goat cheeses before a meal. Or for dessert, indulge with some chocolate cake and let its sweetness embrace the sourness of the beer for a superb pairing.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two. Until next time!

Cheers,

-Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®




*Picture Source: Brouwerij Verhaeghe website

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beer Education: Kölsch - The Pale Ale of Germany

(Picture source below)

It is no secret that the Germans love their lager beers. Be it a crisp and clean Pilsener, a balanced Helles, a semi-sweet Dunkel, or even a malty and bready Doppelbock, lagers are Germany’s call to fame. But, Lagers weren’t always the norm as it is now in most of the country; ales used to be the standard in beer production. Let’s take a look at Kölsch as it is one of the lesser known surviving examples.

This beer style gets its name from the city it originated from: Köln (Cologne). As a style, Kölsch was not always as we know it today. Before modern refrigeration, northern Germany brewed dark ales that we now refer to as “Alt” (“Old” in German). This is designated to beers produced in the old way or traditional way. In other words, beers fermented using ale yeast (top-fermenting yeast). In the early 1600’s, an ordinance was placed to outlaw bottom-fermenting yeast from being used in Köln and thus ensuring the Alt style would remain intact. In contrast, the state of Bavaria had outlawed summer brewing about 50 years earlier, laying down the groundwork for lager brewing eventually taking over.

In the late 18th century, Napoleon took over the Rheineland for 20 years. During the durration of his occupation, the French tried to bring lager brewing to the land. Thankfully for us, the climate was not suitable for bottom-fermenting yeast (lager yeast) and the beers never gained any traction. The “old” ale survived!

Fast forward to modern times (late 19th century/early 20th century) and we see technological advancements in yeast cultivation, sanitation, and malt production. While the brewers in Düsseldorf decided to perfect the Munich Malt based dark ale we now know as Altbier, Köln implemented the use of newer, paler malts such as Pils. Basically following the same path the British Bitters (Pale Ales to us Americans) took when they evolve from the use of pale malts in various Brown Ales. Although both Altbier and Kölsch are brewed with top-fermenting ale yeast (each style now having its own distinct strain!), both beers are lagered after fermentation to ensure a clean tasting beer.

These beers are served in specific glassware called “Stange” (Stick in German). These Stange only hold about 6oz of the stuff to ensure you finish your beer before it gets to warm. This must keep the bartenders busy in the beer halls.

A Kölsch is brilliantly clear, clean, and pale gold in color resembling the likes of a Munich Helles. High carbonation shows off a frothy, white head. Subtle Pils malt and some fruit character derived from the yeast are usually found, but not overpowering. Light hop character on the nose. The flavor is soft, delicate, and subtle in dryness, flavor and bitterness with an underlying vinous trait. Pair with light salads or soft shellfish for a unique meal. An outstanding and pleasant beer!

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Till next time. 



Prost!!

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®




Mor info/resource/picture source:
http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/K%F6lsch.html

Friday, January 3, 2014

Beer Science: Skunk!

"This beer tastes like a skunk!!!"

Do I have your attention? It should because this is possibly the only recognizable off-flavor and aroma that's easily identified by the novice beer drinker and expert alike.

I’m sure a lot of us don’t really care if a beer is in a clear growler or a green bottle. That’s fine. But, in case you want to know why you get the whiff of an overly in-love cartoon character, then read on for some clarification.

How does a beer become skunked, anyways? Well, I’ll explain this in two ways: the simple way and the scientific way (between the sets of ** below).

The short answer is as follows: Your beer will be Light-Struck, or “skunked,” when visible blue or UV light comes in contact with the hop acids in the beer. The acids are broken down, rearranged, and transform into something called 3-MBT. In other words, the hop acids become skunk spray! Well, something very close to it.

When exposed to light, this process begins to take place instantaneously. If you’re drinking your beer outside, it may not be perceived until the end of your pint, if at all, but it WILL happen.

**

Warning: Chemistry explanation begins here. Scroll down to the past the ** below to skip.

Ok, here we go. I hope you’re sitting down for this one.

First, let’s start by identifying what is needed to skunk a beer:

1. Isomerized Humulone Alpha Acids,

2. Riboflavin.

3. Light, including the Visible Spectrum and Ultraviolet.

1. Hops contain Alpha Acids (known as Humulone(s) communally) that need to be Isomerized (transformation of a molecule into another while keeping the same number of atoms) in order to provide the necessary bittering properties to beer. This is accomplished when hops are boiled in the brewing process. These Isomerized Alpha Acids become Isohumulones. On a side note, Isohumulones add antibacterial properties to beer.

2. Riboflavin is a B-Vitamin naturally produced by the vast majority of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Ale Brewing Yeast) strains during fermentation. The higher the malt content, the higher the Riboflavin present in beer.

3. Visible light and UV with wave lengths between about 350 and 500nm is of concern here.

Now that we have the suspects in custody, let’s recreate the crime.

When visible light strikes beer, the Riboflavin is agitated and takes an electron from the Isohumulone, changing the chemical structure of the molecule. The Riboflavin then reacts with an amino acid containing sulfur to create a sulfhydryl radical. This radical then combines back to the already modified Isohumulone molecule to create “3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol,” or 3-MBT. This is what gives the “skunky” flavor to the beer. Its structure is basically the same to that of skunk spay. Yum!

The threshold of human detection for 3-MBT is surprisingly low (easily perceived at about 4PPT in beer) and is one of the most recognizable off-flavors in beer. We've all had beers out of clear or green bottles at some point, right?

**

I’m not taking sides or trying to prove anyone right or wrong, I’m simply stating the facts. You have a clear growler of fresh beer? Fine, just keep it away from light as much as you can. We can’t help the marketing decisions some establishments make. All we can do, as craft beer enthusiasts, is do OUR best to enjoy the beer as the brewer intended.

Obviously, clear or green bottles/growlers allow for easy formation of 3-MBT while brown bottles provide just about enough protections. Kegs and cans (yes, cans!) are the way to go since they block 100% of light, preventing this issue all together... Until you pop it open and pour it out under the sun. You’re on your own, there.

Bottom line, know what to expect and the real possibilities of some off flavors if you have a beer in a clear glass or in sunlight. The odds are you will have a skunked beer at some point. However, the hop content may be low enough that you might not even notice or you’ll finish your beer before it becomes really noticeable. Take the proper, simple precautions and you’ll be fine.

In the end, it's all about enjoying your beer. So do just that, however that may be.

Cheers!!

-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best of 2013

Now that 2014 is here, we reflect on all the delightful events and/or memories this past year brought us. For me, all the great moments from 2013 revolved around beer. I co-hosted a beer dinner, converted a few non-beer-drinkers or helped kick-start a love for the craft, explored the German state of Bavaria and its many breweries, and it has even brought my father and I closer together. Beer has an awesome power in my life and I’m lucky enough to have had some remarkable beers with some of the best people in the world that I’m proud to call friends and family. If you’re reading this, you are one of them.

Now that the mushy stuff is out I the way, I have made a list of my top 10 beers from this past year. These beers are not necessarily top-rated or highly sought after, rather beers that impressed and/or had a moving effect on me this year in one form or another. Enjoy!
10. Stone Brewing Co.Dayman Coffee IPA

*In collaboration with Aleman and Two Brothers, Stone created a remarkable beer where hops and coffee had a tug-o-war on your tastebuds.


9. Russian RiverPliny the Younger

*I had Younger for the first time at Russian River and the experience alone was awesome. It’s not the best beer in the world, nor the best IPA style. It was the experience alone that put this beer on my list.

8. Southern Tier Brewing - Crème Brûlée

*Wow! A high ABV sweet stout that actually has flavor notes similar to a Crème Brûlée. I don’t even want to know the calories in one glass of this potent brew...


7. Tustin Brewing Co./Stone Brewing Co. – The Mothership Connection DIPA

*Tustin and Stone collaboration!? Yes, and it was incredible. Mosaic hops took center stage on this clean, crisp, fruity DIPA.


6. Bootlegger’s BrewerySour #3

*This Wild Ale was available during the Bootlegger’s 5th Anniversary celebration. I love sours and this one is one of the most puckering beverages I've ever had and I absolutely loved it!


5. Brauerei Spezial - Spezial Rauchbier Märzen

*A hidden gem while visiting the Germany earlier this year. Walking down a common looking street in Bamberg, I stumbled upon the Brauerei Spezial Bierstube. I loved all the Rauchbiers they offered but the Spezial Rauchbier Märzen stood out as one of my favorites of the entire trip!

4. Bottle LogicLeche M’olé

*A milk stout with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, coffee, and Ancho/Anaheim chilies. What a medley of flavors!! And they all worked so well together.


3. The BrueryMelange #1

*A blend of Black Tuesday and Oude Tart. The strong, assertive flavors of the bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Russian Stout (Black Tuesday) are in flawless harmony with the funky, sour, fruity flavors of Oude Tart. The blend sounds strange, but it works. The perfect marriage of strength and finesse.


2. Brouwerij VerhaegheEcht Kriekenbire

*Coming from the same producer of Duchesse de Bourgogne (the best Flanders Red, in my opinion), this tart, tangy, funky brew is forever imbedded in my mind as a one of the best I’ve ever had!! Duchesse de Bourgogne is easily interchangeable with this Echt.

1. Noble Ale Works - Naughty Sauce (includes the casked variations such as Naughty Island and White Russian)

*If you have not had this yet, you need to! This beer is almost indescribable and the masses that turn out for each release is quite impressive. Naughty Sauce takes creativity to a new level by creating a coffee milk stout that is golden in color (What?!) that is sweet and flavorful. Arguably, Naughty Sauce was the best beer in Orange County this year.

I'd love to hear what you beers made the most impact on you. Feel free to comment and share. Cheers to all and happy New Year!




-Gilbert "Charlie" Perez, Certified Cicerone®