From the HBD Archive
From: Darryl Richman <darryl@ism780c.isc.com>
Subject: extract brews, stirring, aging, etc.
Date: 1989-02-26 14:42:44 GMT

In the Feb 26 digest, lbr@gatech.edu writes:
"[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.
"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.

I certainly hope I'm not the grain brewer that gave Dick that notion. I
believe that the advantage of grain over extract has more to do with
information than control. For example, my local shop stocks perhaps half
a dozen brands of extract, not counting kits. None of them is labelled
in any way except to say light or dark, hopped or unhopped. At $9 a
pop, this is expesnive experimentation.

But control has a lot to do with my decision to do grain also. When you
do the mashing, you get to decide what goes in. Most of what extract
brewers do to imitate mashing to get some additional grain flavors is
way off. If they tried to follow a mash schedule instead of boiling
grains, they'd be a lot happier. (As an aside, at the last Falcons'
meeting, we had a fellow bring in a beer he had made from a kit--the
kit included grains in the extract which he dutifullly boiled for an
hour. :-b).

The thing is, each time I have moved onto another step in the homebrewing
path, my beers got much better. For me, the step that showed me the
worth of pursuing the hobby in more detail was using pure culture yeast.
After I tasted my first Sierra Nevada yeasted beer, I know that I would
have to try out mashing. I have not been disappointed.

Besides, I enjoy using my gram balance measuring out salts, noting
down iodine reaction times in my log book, stirring my giant vat.
Amazing friends as the magic enzymes turns grainy, starchy, flour
into syrup. It satisfies the mad scientist in me.

"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.

The Falcons' operate on a membership calendar system--everyone's
membership comes up in July. Every year the membership that
renews from the previous year falls back by 60% or more. New
brewers join because the shop offers a 20% discount on meeting
weekends, but they aren't there next year. We are trying to add
more features and provide more feedback to help brewers out. The
shop owner is conscientous, but there's only so much you can tell
a beginner all at once.

"= 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

Here, here! When I make my house bitter or house mild, they take about a
week to clear in the Cornelius keg (those things are relatively tall and
the yeast &c has a long way to fall out). Fresh ale is one of the joys
of visiting the UK.

But as with the use of sugar, there are valid examples of aging beers.
I have a case (well, half a case now ;-) of Rodenbach Belgian ale. This
stuff is aged for over two years, and we're not talking about an
exceptionally big beer. It's just the style that has grown up there, and
it is as valid as the fresh ale in Britain.

--Darryl Richman
(The Falcons Nest homebrewer's BBS sysop 818 349 5891)

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