From the HBD Archive
From: lbr@gatech.edu
Subject: extract brews, stirring, aging, etc.
Date: 1989-02-24 18:58:36 GMT

[In #84 ...!cs.utexas.edu!raven!rcd (Dick Dunn) writes on several
issues.]

= For the complaint about lack of extract recipes, all I can say is: take
= heart. There are a few people who insist that you can't make good beer
= without doing your own mashing. They're snobs; they're also wrong...and
= fortunately, they're also in the tiny minority among homebrewers. Mashing
= gives you more control and a lot more possibilities, but the Holy Grail it
= ain't. For what it's worth, I've been brewing off and on for a decade--
= no mashing. (I've done extract brews and meads.) I've had a couple of
= very successful barley wines made with extracts.

Well, I suppose I'm a snob. I watch PBS; I listen to "classical" music.
But honestly, we're all beer snobs. After all, if we thought that
Bud Light was the apotheosis of seven thousand years of brewing art
we'd hardly be likely to brew our own. (Exception: those kit
brewers, especially in the U.K., who are expressly trying to save money.)

I don't believe that snobbery affected my decision to brew from grain.
I was simply unhappy with the results I got using extracts. I tried for
three years using various techniques and products. I got an immediate
improvement when I switched to grain.

When making a standard beer, say Pilsner or Pale Ale, I compare my
beer directly to quality commercial brew. I don't attempt to duplicate
the commercial beer, but I hope to show that differences are matters
of taste and not quality. For example, my standard Pilsner is slightly
less hopped that P.U. Beer can be considered good without being able
to withstand such scrutiny.

If I could brew great--not just good--beer from extract, beer that would
withstand comparison to the great imports, I would. I'm not about to
spend an hour holding a mash with 2 degF of the ideal temperature for
snobbery. I would gladly go back to extracts if I could get great
beer from them; they are far easier.

As to mashing giving you more control: it does. It also gives you far
better opportunities to mess up. Extracts give better consistency.
But it's a McDonald's kind of consistency: a Big Mac is a Big Mac the
world over, but it's never haute cuisine.

As to the fact that most homebrewers brew from extract, so what? More
persons read People than The New York Review of Books.
(Snobbery rears its ugly head again.) I suspect, though I have no
statistics, that there is a high turnover rate in this hobby. Persons
are brought into it by advertisements that claim hopped extract, lots
of sugar, and freeze-dried yeast can make superior beer in ten days.
Surely many of these folks give up in frustration.

In fairness, I now use better boiling and fermentation techniques
and better hops than when I brewed from extracts. If I were to
apply these methods to extract brewing I'd get better beer than
I used to with extracts. Nevertheless, the biggest leap my brewing
ever took was when I switched to grain. Using first-rate nitrogen
sealed hops was second. Maybe I'll give extracts another try. Do you
have a favorite ale recipe?

There is one other item. All-grain brewing forces you to boil all the
wort, force cool it, and get rid of the trub. I never did this with
extracts. There is the slight possibility that this, rather that mashing,
is the key. I doubt it, though, as there are brewers whom I trust who
have moved from all-wort-boil extract brewing to grain.

[ On aging....]

= Let me talk about ales in particular, since lagers obviously have some
= aging in the brewing process. After an ale is brewed, fermented, and
= bottled (or kegged), the only time it needs is enough to carbonate and
= clear. This is a matter of days. As soon as it's ready, serve it!! There
= are tastes which are going off from the minute it's done. If your beer
= takes a long time to be "ready" to drink, it means that you're getting rid
= of some off taste, since there are other things going downhill (unless you
= happen to like stale beer:-). In this case, you probably need to find out
= what you're doing in the brewing that is keeping your beer from being
= drinkable young. I think the homebrew books want to get you to the point
= where you can make a beer that you can enjoy while it's still fresh, alive,
= and young--something you can rarely do with a commercial beer. I suggest
= (in my eternal optimism) that it is the prospect of fresh beer, and not the
= promise of instant gratification, that makes homebrew texts recommend
= little aging. Since most homebrewers start with ales (for simplicity and
= better chance of success), there is no reason to age.

Homebrew books attempt to make the process simpler than it should be,
and certainly aim for instant gratification. Told that they won't have
beer for three months, many persons won't ever brew.

Aging depends upon malt and alcohol content. There is no doubt that
my all malt OG 1.047 pale ale improves for two months or more. It is
nicely drinkable after one week, though, so I do agree that beer that
tastes terrible after clearing but better two months later probably has
serious flaws.

= I made a beer for a party last year. I got a late start on it, so it was
= served just 16 days after brewing...and it was a very good beer (IMHO!:-).
= It was racked at day 4 and bottled at day 8, so it was in bottle for 8
= days when it was served! I have a few bottles left, and I tasted one this
= evening as a check. It is still a good beer after almost a year (it was
= brewed 3/2/88), sound, tasty and all, but it's not fresh the way it was at
= the party.

This makes sense. I should be better 8 days in the bottle than a year
later. In my experience ale peaks at 2-3 months, and then begins
to deteriorate. After a year, especially if it spent the summer at
70+ degF, it will be stale.

= >...The point is, an IPA I brewed on New Year's
= > day was very bitter and still yeasty two or three weeks after
= > bottling...
=
= Hmmm..."yeasty" is a wrong term. Yeast does not impart a taste to beer; if
= you have a taste you want to call yeasty, that's just power of suggestion.

Yeast do taste bitter. Have a spoonful off the bottom of a bottle
sometime. But this is not the yeasty flavor in beer. Yeastiness in
beer is more in the aroma, similar to freshly baked bread. Yeast taste
and aroma should be almost entirely gone after two weeks in the bottle.
Strong bitterness after just four days in the bottle is due to overhopping,
failure to get rid of trub, or some other failure--not to yeast.

Many novice brewers mistakenly attribute bitter flavors to yeast. If the
flavor is objectionable it's something else. But even aged, excellent
beer can have a slight yeast taste or aroma. This is not a defect,
and is certainly not objectionable.

= > What is the general consensus on aging?
=
= I don't think there is one...but there are lots of opinions, and mine is
= that for ales, you shouldn't need to age.

I agree with your statement that there is no consensus. I agree that
ales don't "need" aging, and should be tasty when the bottle clears. This
should happen in less than a week. But ale tastes "green" to me for two
weeks, and high gravity all-malt ales do improve up to at least two months.
My ales exhibit poor head formation until they are two weeks old.

- Len Reed

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