Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Extracts -- good or bad?

Is the use of extracts in beer brewing a good thing?

It is actually quite common for commercial breweries to use hop extracts. Even Belgian Trappist breweries do it(!). And their beers are considered among the best in the world.

In my opinion it is not necessarily a detriment to good beer. Same thing with malt extract, from which you can actually make some damn good beer. But it won't give you the same flexibility as all-grain would.

The reason the big commercial breweries use them is because they strive for consistency -- and hop extract give them just that. It is very predictable. That said they do also put a lot of effort into making beer cost-efficiently. On a larger scale the little things have a big influence on cost. Note that the reason they aren't using malt extract is that it is much more expensive than all-grain, which lets them squeeze the last drop of malt sugars out themselves.

This shouldn't stop them from making good beer though, as there is no defense against making bad beer.


Travis said...

I could not agree more. As a recent member of the all-grain party, I was driven not by the ability to custom and craft brew, but by the cost.

When I was extract brewing I was spending in the ballpark of $40 US for my supplies (extract is about $12-$15 a can and most recipes call for 2 cans). However now, even as I buy what I make (instead of buying in bulk), I spending under $20.

I know it sounds like I am being tight, but the reality is that was one of the things that drove me to homebrew.

Plus with supplies being so inexpensive in the all-grain brewing, I feel a lot more motivated to try different things because after all, it's so damn inexpensive!

Extract is a great way to get started and if you are pinched for time or space, it makes great beer, but there comes a time in every homebrewers life when they want to "shake things up".

Thats just my opinion, I could be wrong.

grove said...

I agree.

Because of malt extract it was much easier for me to get started with homebrewing. This mainly because of me not having to get hold of all the all-grain equipment and not to mention understand the then seemingly inpenetrable mashing process. In retrospect I find that extract brewing was at the right level of complexity to get started. Once I had gotten my mind around the extract brewing process the step up to all-grain was quite straightforward.

So, I feel that malt extracts are good because it lowers the barrier to entry -- which is definitely a good thing.