beer column

From On the Coast on Tuesday:

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on craft beer, another brewery opens up, another style becomes popular or a new trend pops up. 

Mariner Brewing is poised to open on the Barnet Highway in Coquitlam in August.  I understand it will have a 50 person tasting room and a steam-powered brewery.  So watch social media for the opening announcement!

One potential new trend is hop powder.  I’m not hearing a lot about it in Vancouver yet, but there are some breweries in the US who are experimenting with it, including Georgetown Brewing in Seattle.

Hop powder is pretty much what it sounds like – it is a powdered form of hops.  The powder is an essential oil-rich concentrate made by extracting resin glands from the hops at very cold temperatures in a nitrogen atmosphere to preserve the quality of the oils.  The resulting powder contains twice the percentage of alpha acids – which is what bitters beer - as the original hops or the pellets they might otherwise have been converted into, twice as many essential oils, and it also costs twice as much.
For brewers, using hop powder means that less liquid is absorbed by the green matter during dry hopping, so there’s more beer in every batch, which may offset the extra price.  Those who have been experimenting with the powder say that it gives incredible aroma to the beers.  

For consumers though, it hasn’t been around long enough to know if can retain aroma stability as cans and bottles age on shelves.  

It will be interesting to watch this product develop – to see if it lives up to the early hype and changes the industry, or if it’s just too expensive for most breweries.

And then there’s raw ale.

Raw ale is the resulting beer when the wort is not boiled.  Most traditional farmhouse ales are raw and probably prehistoric beer was all raw ale.

In what is now the normal course of making beer, the wort, which is the sugary liquid extracted from the malted grains, is boiled.  Boiling has three purposes – 1. To sterilize the wort so that it doesn’t get infected with unwanted bacteria; 2.  extracting the acids in the hops to bitter the flavour (which also helps in protecting against infection) and 3.  removing protein from the beer, which improves flavour stability.

So if you’re not boiling the wort, how can you achieve those three things? 

The first issue is sterilization.  The mashing process pasteurizes the wort, so no worries there.  Mashing is the initial step in brewing where the starches in the grains are converted into fermentable sugars by being steeped in hot water.  So long as the steeping lasts long enough at a high enough temperature, the wort is pasteurized.

The second issue was extracting the hop oils.  There are several other ways to get hop bitterness than boiling the hops in the wort.  You can boil the hops into a tea and add that to the wort, or you could pour nearly boiling wort over the hops.
The third issue though, removal of protein, requires boiling.  So raw ales tend to have short shelf lives.

I’ve never knowingly had a raw ale before, and everything I’ve read on the subject just says you’ll have to taste the difference yourself.  I understand most of the difference is mouthfeel.

There is no one style of beer that is raw, it is the non-boiling brewing method that makes it raw, rather than a beer style.

Category 12 has made a raw ale, and I took one in to the studio to taste.

It is a Westcoast farmhouse ale - a Scandinavian inspired farmhouse ale, with the addition of west coast red cedar.  It is fermented for two months with Brettanomyces yeast, then refermented for a month in the bottle.

It is crisp, light, and complex.  It is also very hazy as all those proteins remain in the beer, and it hasn’t been filtered.

The flavours we can attribute to the Brettanomyces yeast are the funkiness, that bit of tartness, along with some spice, all that great stone-fruit, and acetic acid (the main ingredient in vinegar).

Gloria Macarenko and I both really enjoyed the beer.  I'm interested to try more raw ales so I can get a better handle on just how not boiling the beer changes the mouthfeel. 

This is a limited edition beer, so if you’re interested to try it, get out there right now and get some!  Available in 750 ml bottles at private liquor stores.

Beer Picks:

My beer picks this time are some very tasty summer beers:

Hoyne Brewing’s Carte Blanche White IPA – this is a well-balanced hazy white ipa with tropical fruit flavours and aromas.  Wheat, melon, passionfruit and grapefruit flavours mellow into a slightly bitter finish.  This is the first in a series of limited release beers where brewmaster Sean Hoyne passes the torch to the younger brewers to brew the beers they want to see in the world.

6%.  Available in 650ml bottles at specialty liquor stores – but hurry, this was a limited release!

Doan’s Craft Brewing Lucinda Cassis Kolsch – Part of their Fun Times series, this is a collaboration with Odd Society Distilling.  It is a blend of Doan’s kolsch beer and Odd Society’s cassis.  Very light, and berry-y!  The fruit, hint of wine and tartness from the cassis balance and play with the malt character of the kolsch.

5%.  Available on tap at Doan’s and Odd Society, and in 650 ml bottles.  Also a limited release, so get it now if you’re wanting to try it!

Off the Rail Passionfruit Hefeweisen – This is a hefeweisen for people who don’t normally like hefeweisen!  It begins its life as a traditional hefeweisen, with Bavarian wheat and hints of clove and banana.  Then it is infused with passionfruit.  Crisp and hazy, it’s a perfect summer sipper.

4.7%.  Available on tap at the tasting room.


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