Saturday, July 14, 2007

Malt varieties and terroir

Stan Hieronymous has written a couple of really interesting blog postings that I find particularly interesting. He draws lines between what the wine industry call terroir and the fact that the malts used by breweries have individual characteristics.

There is something to be said about the characteristics of a beer and what kinds of ingredients were used and where they were grown. The malt characteristics both depend on where it was grown and what malt variety it is. For beer's sake, at least for now, I think it is most to be said about the distinctions between malt varieties than than in which field it was grown. It is just too much of an unexplored field for anybody to say anything about terroir. The distinctions between malt varieties are much greater than between the same variety being grown in different locations.

The individualities in flavour of malt varieties is something that has not been considered by breweries and their marketing departments as something of interest. Great flavour has not been the primary reason for growing a malt variety -- economy has. A combination of how much barley could be produced per acre, the brewing efficiency, and the consistency of the malts have been the primary drivers.

Few people have thought that there have been any relationship between what malt varieties have been used to brew a beer and what the actual end result was. There are actually a lot of families of barley out there, most of them almost distinct and others grown on a very small scale. Large breweries have been mostly concerned about consistency and efficiency -- all for economic reasons. This has led to a reduced diversity of mass-produced malt varieties grown on a larger scale.

Fortunately, with the craft brewing revival, there is a new interest in traditional barley varieties. Traditional barley varieties like Maris Otter and Golden Promise are now being considered to be malt varieties that add an extra dimension to a beer.

I think that there is a lot of more things that is to be said about this subject.

Read what Stan said here:

Not all barleys are born equal
Malt (and barley) matters: Part II

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Balancing draft beer systems

So far I have been very satisfied with the kegerator I built at the end of last year. It has been performing really well.

I am happy about the fact that the line balancing worked that well. There has been no problems balancing the CO2 pressure in the draft system. It seemed to me like rocket science when I started out, but in the end it was actually quite straightforward as long as I kept track of the various parameters involved. Most of the insights I got from this article. If you are planning on building your own draft beer system I highly recommend the article as it helped me a lot when designing the draft lines in the kegerator.

The fact that the beer line is only 3/16" ID, and relatively long, makes it possible to have quite a bit of pressure in the keg without excessive foaming. There is also about 60 cm of height difference between the center of the kegs and the faucets and this increases the friction in the beer lines and reduces the foaming.

I keep my CO2 regulator at a pressure of 1 bar and there does not seem to be much of a problem adjusting the pressure so that the whole system with four kegs is balanced.