Tag Archives: hops

Beer – a World in a Glass

Beer - a world in a glass

Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

Kölsch, Smoked Marzen, Lambic, Saison, Witbier, Trippel, American IPA. What do these worldly creations have in common? They’re all beer styles, and they’re all delicious.

‘Write about what you love’, the saying goes. Which brings me to a frightful dilemma: how will I find enough paper to express my love for beer, without being toppled by deforestation activists? Luckily for me, I’m a digital child, and for the most part I can avoid the necessary evil of paper lust. It doesn’t stop the curious and insatiable appetite for craft beer I’ve been having lately, so I sit down to vent my enthusiasm on Vortext33.

There’s a wealth of artisan beers out there and, after spending some time researching last year, I began my own humble home brewing endeavours, admiring all the processes that enable malted grains to magically convert to liquid in a glass. Alas, it’s not magic in a theatrical sense; there is no sleight of hand or a clichéd rabbit in a hat, but it is a science, an art and a craft.

More than any phrase in the English language I despise the three words, ‘It’s just beer’. Just beer? Just beer!? How may one degrade this godly beverage in such a nonchalant manner?! My rage is stockpiled yet again. Ok, so I may have exaggerated my point, but you can catch my drift. I love beer and so should you!

Beer is one of the world’s most beloved beverages, made from malted grain, hops, yeast and water. Other ingredients may be added, although Germany’s beer purity law, Reinheitsgebot, a law ensuring that only these four ingredients are used, has become common practice from brewers across the world. It is both a simple and complex process of fermentation; that wondrous dance of yeast cells that transforms fermentable sugars into alcohol and CO2.

If you have read this far you might be nodding your head, thinking, ‘Yes, but I know all this. Beer is good’. You may also be thinking, ‘Why does he feel the need to hypothesise about what I’m thinking?’. Forgive me, but this is all to segue into my next suggestion: Why don’t you try making your own beer? I guarantee it’s easier to get started than you think. If you have a large pot and access to a store that sells fine-meshed fabric, you can brew your own recipes on your stove top using these four natural ingredients.

Brewing all-grain is fun, rewarding, and it’s just like the pros do it. It’s less expensive to get going than most assume as you can get started with some basic equipment and ingredients. If you have time, patience, some minor research skills and a passion to create, rest assured you’ll be rewarded. I recommend this purely because I have found it to be so enjoyable, and the sky is the limit when you have the raw materials.

Have an idea for a smoked porter or fruit beer? Make it. Love a palate-destroying hoppy ale but can’t afford the price tag? Make your own custom batch to share with your friends. If you’ve been looking for a new hobby and love a good brew, I say go for it. Good luck and happy brewing.

As a home brewer, below is a list of some tutorials and information I have found invaluable. I am in no way affiliated with the authors nor do I benefit from these recommendations.

Links

Easy to follow BIAB tutorial

A supportive community of brewing minions 🙂

BIABbrewer.com

The guys from Northern Brewer show us the ropes

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Founders Fervently Fight for Flavour

A hop beast
A hop beast

Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

Much like the alliterative title of this article, Michigan brewery Founders relied on a sense of constancy in their beginnings: a constancy of passion, tenacity and a communal will to uphold a vision.

While the word ‘craft’ may denote unnecessary notions of elitism, separating beer lovers from the common interest that unites them in the first place, Founders nonetheless take pride in being at the forefront of the American craft scene. They also have their hearts in the right place, having an impenetrable brewing integrity and a vision that has never been compromised. Their slogan, ‘Brewed For Us’, states in an unselfish way, that the brewery is doing everything they want to do and is true to their vision. It also implies that if you’re interested in joining them on their passionate journey, you’ll inevitably be rewarded.

Founders embody the value, pride and substance of what brewing should be all about; they face up to the detached, impersonal commodification of beer. They push away the bullying brewing juggernauts that churn out the blandest of beers and rely on demographical indifference and a sense of complacent mediocrity to thrive. All in all, it’s not a war grounded in hostility or separation – it’s simply a matter of taste, but in a growing empire of beer choices and innovative, forward thinking marketing, isn’t life too short to drink mediocre beer?

Facing financial hardships in their early days, the spirit of Founders can only provide a positive feeling from such throttling persistence and determination. Mike Stevens, Founders front man, said that there is a kind of universality to their vision that extends far beyond beer.

‘Ultimately we want other people to grab life, embrace everything that you do. Founders is more than just beer. It’s that feeling’, he said.

When confronted by a wall of beer choices, let’s all face it, IPA’s are by no means an endangered or rare breed of beer; there seems to be a new one being created every day with increasing regularity. Despite this, the All Day IPA is certainly a unique beer. One may argue that it is hard to ‘stand out’ amidst the ubiquity of such a style, but Founders make their mark.

This beer pours a light amber colour, the lacing is substantial and there is some opacity in the appearance. Considering the aroma, there are huge pineapple notes which inform a tropical fruit profile, resonating with the flavours. Subtle passion fruit, lemon and a cheeky bit of peach are also evident. Taste-wise, this beer takes the delectable fruit characteristics of hops, and places them upfront – this is backed by a firm bitterness that taps you on the shoulder and confidently says ‘I’m here, I serve a purpose, and I won’t be an imposition’.

This is an amazing IPA if you like tropical/stone fruit characteristics in your beers. It’s on that tipping point of being robust or perhaps ostentatious, to being accessible and literally packed full of flavour. Hops are not abused in this beer, they are mindfully used. However, if you still want more hard hitting hops from an IPA, Founders have taken care of that too; their Double IPA, aptly named Double Trouble, is a colossal beer released from May-June, and is one to look out for.

One may appreciate the passion that goes into crafting this beer, and notice the intentional use of restraint with hops. It’s all blended together without being excessive or showing off (not that that is a bad thing) and the quality of flavours and aromas in Founders’ beers translates their vision in a language of its own.

The remaining question is, could we really drink this IPA all day? If we could evade the vague parameters of alcohol-related social acceptability, I’d say it’d be hard to say no to such a good thing.

Links

Founders history, beers and availability/

Beer Advocate ratings

Mikkeller Creates Hop Monster

Mikeller100ibu for wordpress
Words and photography by Darren TYNAN

It’s arguably one of the most bitter and intense Imperial IPA’s commercially available, and with a name like 1000 IBU – a theoretical figure which refers to the beer’s ‘international bittering units’, it’s a beer marketed at pure hop heads and beer geeks alike.

For those not familiar with beer styles, an IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a style of beer that you might think of as a variation of a Pale Ale, with an emphasis on hop character. While American and English style IPA’s can be vastly different, there has been a trend among some American brewers to truly push the envelope and cram as much hop flavour, bitterness and aroma into a beer as possible.

This is Danish microbrewery Mikkeller’s tribute to the power of the hop, carrying all the weight of a heavy-hitting boxer. It’s only brewed once a year and has strictly limited availability in WA, but I can assure you it isn’t a lacklustre affair in any way.

Sitting down to savour this 9.6% hop monster, I had a feeling I was some kind of hop-masochist, but who was I kidding? I knew exactly what I was in for. The beer pours a hazy amber/orange-red colour, has excellent head retention and lacing on the glass. The aroma does not fully inform the immense hop character this beer has, and implies a nice malty sweetness. This surprised me, considering that I was expecting a more ‘unbalanced’ beer without this kind of pleasant malty character.

Then the flavour comes in ruinous waves, like a hop avalanche that assaults the taste buds. The first sip is intensely bitter, but soon the palate becomes accustomed to the complexity of flavours and you crave for another sip. Pine, resin and citrus flavours are married perfectly with a big bold bitterness and a long aftertaste. But what really impressed me about this beer was how surprisingly balanced it was. There’s a lovely biscuit/caramel sweetness to this beer, which seems to shine in the aftertaste, lingering around and seducing the senses for another sip.

The bitterness is very firm but isn’t at all acrid. I found the alcohol to be blended very well and the hops ‘sizzle’ on the tongue with a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel. This beer isn’t as inaccessible as one may think either, although I may have the bias as a self-confessed hop lover.

This isn’t a beer for closed-minded drinkers; it’s a purely experimental creation, and one which coincides with Mikkeller’s vision: To brew beer that ‘challenges people’s taste buds – whether it’s in a bitter, spicy, sour or fruity manner’.

Don’t let the title fool you either; it’s pure novelty and aims to be controversial. Mikkel from Mikkeller even released a statement to enraged beer connoisseurs, stating that he intended for 1000 IBU to not just be a gimmick, but a beer that tests limits in brewing. ‘We do know about the difference in theory and actual measures and never stated to have brewed a beer with an actual IBU of 1000’, he also reminded.

Overall, this is a beer that’s as novel as it is exceptional. I’m glad I’ve ticked this one off my IPA bucket list, but is it worth the $22.99 price tag for a single 375ml stubby? There are plenty of intensely flavoured IPAs to try that are much cheaper than this one; Green Flash Brewing’s Palate Wrecker or Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum to name two. However, if you’re still searching for the final hop-frontier after those two and love big, bold and ‘in your face’ beers, this one is for you.

Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU is available to order online and in-store from the International Beer Shop in West Leederville, Western Australia.

Brewing ingenuity/