October 27, 2011

2011 Barley crop report

A post on alerted me to the state of the 2011 malting barley harvest and prompted me to do some more digging.
The American Malting Barley Association issued a report in September citing an alarming drop in the 2011 harvest. The 2011 crop year is predicted to produce 115,050,000 bushels, this is down 14% from the 2010 harvest (180,268,000 bushels) and down approximately 18% from the 2009 harvest (227,323,000 bushels).  These are the lowest harvest/ production levels since 1936. Additionally the planted acreage in the 2011 crop year was 2,559,000 acres, this is down from 2,872,000 acres in 2010.
Barley is an important crop for the U.S. From 2000-2009 the barley growing industry employed 1,885,175 people and contributed $25,029,000.00 to state and local taxes.
As the chart shows the use of most of the domestic barley crop goes towards the beer industry, however, a significant portion of the crop goes towards feed for livestock. The beer/ brewing industry generates many billions of tax dollars and pays several billion dollars in wages as the chart below shows.

The money invested in planting malting and brewing with domestic barley keeps money in the U.S economy. A shortage of barley will drive up the cost of malt for many small brewers, potentially exponentially.(Anhauser-Busch/ INBev as well as SABMiller own their own malt houses) These small brewers are generally running on lower margins than the mega milti-national brewers and in many cases rely on lower prices for raw materials to male payroll.
During the hop shortage of 2006-2007 brewers were able to make substitutions for the hops they were unable to source, however if malts are too expensive for small brewers to source they are unlikely to make substitutions to other sources to fermentable material. Perhaps these brewers will produce foreign produced malt from Canada or even China, draining money from the U.S economy.
Any way you cut it the decrease in production of malting barley needs to stop, brewers large and small rely on malt to make their product. If less barley is available the largest brewers will undoubtedly receive their raw and malted barley first spelling nothing but trouble for the smallest of breweries.

October 25, 2011

Oktoberfest Tasting

This year I'm trying to be more on top of my seasonal beers. So far I'm running a little bit behind but not as bad as I have been in the past. I finished up The lagering period of my oktoberfest and quickly got it into bottles.
I Have had several commercial Oktoberfest's (unlike me professional breweries are way ahead of the curve many were released in mid-september) so i had that experience to fall back on. As usual designing great beers was vital in the formulation of the recipe. 
Also for the evaluation of this beer (and all others from now on) I began using the BJCP evaluation sheet and scoring my beers on a point scale. 
Aroma(10/12): Rich malt, slightly sweet finish, hints of sulfur compounds/esters, no hop aroma present. Could be improved with more mall aroma or a heavier malt aroma. An added presence of hops in the aroma would make things more interesting too. 
Appearance(3/3): Brilliantly clear, long lasting white head, bright copper color
Flavor(18/20): Malty complexity, clean fermentation character, slightly sweet finish, could use more hop flavor 
Mouthfeel(5/5): slightly watery, appropriate carbonation level
Overall Impression(9/10): Great drinking beer, goes down easy without blowing out pallet, could use more malt character/body (addition of melanoidin malt or cara pils) additional nobel hop aroma would add complexity at the risk of making the beer rougher on the pallet. 
Total Score(45/50): Outstanding range 

October 13, 2011

Colossal deal ?

There has been talk all over the internet financial and brewing sites lately of Anheuser-Busch Inbev (currently the worlds largest brewing company) making a mover to acquire SABMiller.
This deal would be huge, it would create a brewing juggernaut with sales on every continent (even Antarctica).
The acquisition is rumored to be priced somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 billion, and would become a reality somewhere around 2013. SABMiller's recent takeover of Australian brewer Foster's for $10 billion slowed down the acquisition.
The merger could spell trouble for ABInbev though, anti trust lawyers are rubbing their palms together in the U.S and China. The new company would likely have to sell off its recently acquired U.S holdings in Miller and Coors brewing companies as well as its control of Chinas CR Snow. ABInbev already has very large holdings in these markets so the selloff would only help.
Some think this deal is highly unlikely to end up going down due to the high price of the takeover. However, when Inbev acquired Anheuser-Busch that was the largest merger to ever take place so the company has shown that they are not afraid of large dollar takeovers.
The craft brewing community does not seem too worried about the impending acquisition. Ours in somewhat of a niche market and many people who drink craft beer are aware of who owns what and actively decide not to drink products owned by large multi national companies. It's not necessarily to say that all brands owned by these companies are producing sub par beer (ABInbev recently acquired Chicago craft brewery Goose Island) but many people working in the craft beer industry and supporting the craft beer industry would rather support their local brewery or a brewery that remains independent.
The numbers don't lie. The brewers association reports that in 2010 the craft brewing industry grew 11% by volume and 12% by dollars with 1,716 operating breweries, compare this to the U.S domestic beer industry which in 2010 was down 1% by volume. The craft brewing industry is rapidly approaching a 10% market share with the increase in a knowledgeable consumer who is looking for something more than a multi-national brewing conglomerate.

Here are some relevant links
Brands owned by SABMiller
Brands owned by ABInbev
Where I got my info

October 10, 2011

Making Spice Tinctures

After a very bad experience with a holiday spiced ale and a heavy had with some cloves early in my brewing career i started making spice tinctures in order to control the amount of spice i was adding to my beer.

The process is pretty simple. Weigh out the spices and add a measured amount of vodka. Note the measurements mix together, shake and leave the mixture in a sunny window for at least a week.

This method works for adding pretty much any flavor to your final beer, i have done grapefruit zest, sumac and tons of different spices. If you get spices fresh or from your garden they need to be dried first but thats pretty simple. I like to use dry spices because I don't want to add water to my beer, even though the amount would be next to nothing. I have yet to try making a tincture with hops or coffee beans but maybe when i do my next brew with coffee(coffee porter, watch for the post) i will give it a shot.

This was the preparation for the spice addition to my pumpkin ale, I made seperate tinctures of all spice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Once the tinctures have sat for about a week (sometimes i go more, sometimes much more) its time to filter them. I get a clean mason jar set a funnel in it and run the mixture through a coffee filter. I like to let the vodka run through the spices one last time at this point.

Once the mixture is run through a filter Its pretty much good to go. The mixture is extremely strong so it does not take much to flavor the final beer.

When adding the spice mixture to the final beer I will use 100ml samples of beer and experiment with adding various amounts of the individual spices until I get the flavor profile i want. Once I'm happy with the flavor I scale up the amount of tincture used and add them to the keg and carbonate.

Additionally I'm almost always left with some extra tincture so this thanksgiving I'm planning on making some pumpkin pie martinis for the ladies in my family with some whip cream flavored vodka and spice tinctures, possibly topped of with some of that whip cream that has boose in it.

October 2, 2011

Book Review: Tasting Beer- Randy Mosher

In an effort to advance my tasting skills in order to take the cicerone exam I picked up a few books that I figured could help me.
Tasting Beer was an enjoyable read The beginning follows the same pattern any beer book does it follows the history of beer in 20 or so pages going from the ancient Sumerians & ancient Egyptians to the modern brewing industry, stopping to talk about porters in England along the way. Still Tasting Beer is more than just a general beer book.
The second chapter starts the tasting portion sensory evaluation, judging tips, presentation of beer, pairing beer with food. This is the portion of the book thats most useful. Tasting beer can be a difficult subject to broach in print but The book gives you a method to efficiently communicate whats going on in your glass and mouth. The book discusses some of the common flavors found in beers (intentional and off flavors) mouthfeel, carbonation, and how the brewing ingredients and process effect the final product. The book has several charts showing the differences in color, alcohol, and bitterness relative to styles.
The last half of the book is a discussion of styles. They are separated by country of origin and go briefly into the history of the given styles. This part was a bit tedious at times (reading about 15 styles and their original gravities/ IBU's can be boring at times) as it reads somewhat like a list.
Randy Mosher is part of the faculty at the sibel institute, he teaches courses in sensory panel management among otheres. He is a well respected author and lecturer in the beer world.
Overall i really enjoyed the book. I feel it started me on the road to really tasting and evaluating beer rather than just drinking it, however, reading a book is no substitute for experience when it comes to tasting and judging beer but thats the fun part. This book comes highly recommended