From the HBD Archive
From: (Jeff Frane)
Subject: wort chiller, lager/ale
Date: 1992-03-30 18:22:17 GMT

First of all, thank you to the hordes who sent responses to my wort
chiller questionnaire. It was definitely a poor idea to post that and
go away for three days! So I will post some concrete responses after I
get back from going away again. A number of people provided very long
and helpful responses, including some specifics about construction.
Thanks particularly for those.

The one obvious comment that can be made from scanning quickly through
the responses is that immersion coolers are favored overwhelmingly by
the HBD and rcb crowd, mostly because of convenience, cost and concern
over sanitizing counterflow chillers. I was also pleasantly surprised
to see that a number of people were using wort chillers even though they
weren't doing all-grain beers. I was also pleased (intimidated) to see
how many people were planning on showing up in Milwaukee and will no dou
doubt heckle my talk/demonstration. Oh boy.

> From: (Jack Schmidling)
> >Do you mean to say that trying to tell the difference between ale
> characteristics and lager characteristics based on tasting commercial beers
> is pointless because of stylistic differences (ie the recipes are so
> different that you won't be able to isolate taste differences due to the
> yeast)??
> No. I said not a word about yeast. This is not a discussion about yeast.
> It is a discussion about the difference between the taste of ale and lager.
> How the producer achieves the difference is irrelevant.
> I was told to go buy a few bottles of commercial ale and lager to determine
> the difference myself.
> The technical comments lead one to the conclusion that there is enough
> variability in technique and recipes that it would be very difficult for an
> unsophisticated taster to learn anything in that way.
> When all of the opinions are sorted out we are left with nothing more that "a
> cleaner taste" and a lack of certain esoteric esterish remnants. Even the
> almost universally agreed to "fruitiness" of ale leaves me in the cold.
> The only fruit I have ever tasted in my ale was bananas and apples resulting
> from contaminated yeast and the use of sugar.

Now without getting into too much friction, let me suggest that
there seems to be some stubbornness here. First of all, it's not
possible to talk about the difference between ale and lager _without_
discussing yeast. "How the producer achieves the difference" _is_ the
yeast, and the way the fermentation is controlled.

I was probably the person who suggested you try drinking ale and lager
side by side; I reiterate and continue to protest that that's the only
way to learn the distinction. But I'm admittedly stymied by the fact
that you don't taste the fruitiness in ales. I guess the real solution
is to deal with what you refer to as the "unsophisticated taster" by
doing some reading on taste profiles and terminology (the material from
the Beer Judge Certification Program is very helpful) and perhaps by
attending a beer tasting "class" either at an AHA conference or held by
your local club. Beer descriptors aren't necessarily to be taken
literally; they are merely the closest means of defining something that
is necessarily different in everyone's mouth. The idea of training in a
class is to develop a common understanding of _when_ those terms apply.

I also believe it's relatively simple to see the difference with a
side-by-side brewing test. Make a very simple beer, all malt and
lightly hopped. Pitch a pure ale yeast in half and ferment at 65F;
pitch a pure lager yeast in the other half, ferment at 45F, lager for 4
weeks and taste side by side.

- --Jeff

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