The January Meeting
By Lucy Zachman
Honorary club member Mathais Neidhart of B. United was the featured speaker at our January meeting. Mathais has often appeared at our meetings, usually on the night of a snowstorm or a Nor'Easter when we have few in attendance. So he was a bit unprepared for the large crowd we had gathered this month. Nevertheless, Mathais managed to share at least a taste with us of some new and not-yet-on-the-market imports.
First up were a trio of Saison style beers from Wallonia, the southeastern region of Belgium. These beers are distinguished by the wild assortment of spices used to give them their unique flavors, including pepper, roasted chicory, orange peel and cumin. (I'm not sure which spice went with which beer.) Saison Pripaix, Petite Vapeur Cochonnette (the smelly little pig) and Vapeur en Folie each will be available in March. Also look for vintage versions, which we were told are among the best beers produced in this region.
Next, we tried some lambics that were the epitome of horsy! Hanssen's Kriek had a heavy cherry flavor but a nice tart sting to go with it. Their Gueuze was a feast for nose -- barnyard in a bottle! While some found the intense scent off-putting, this beer had a nice woodsy character and a zippy sourness.
Hanssen's, Mathais told us, was ready to call it quits as a family business. But with a bit of financial backing and encouragement from B. United, the brewer's daughter decided to take over the Beersal brewery and keep it going for a while longer.
The third featured brewery was Pripp's of Sweden. Back in the 6th Century, a Scottish brewer, Dave Carnage, headed North, took over the ancient brewery and began producing his Carnage Porter. The version we tried this evening was quite dry with deep coffee flavors and a hint of toffee. Pripp's used to allow this beer to mature for six months. It was aged like wine instead of bottle conditioning. Today, they forego the aging. B. United, however, has decided to age it for us. Mathais said that B. United is now puts a portion of its supply in storage to age it the way the brewery used to. Look for the vintage date on these bottles when they purchase yours.
Now we move on to Finland. Sinebrychoff Porter is somewhat of a misnomer. This is really one of the few imperial-style stouts brewed today. It's much stronger than a porter at 7.5% alcohol by volume, with a rich, malty, coffee flavor.
Finally, on our tour of northern Europe, we head back to Belgium, for a limited edition N'ice Chouffe, then to England for a JW Lees Moonraker -- both barleywines. The N'ice Chouffe was a limited edition, bottled in 1993. It had a spicy, fruity flavor derived solely from malts and yeast; no spices were used. The Moonraker was labeled a strong ale, but the intense sherry flavor and winey nose gave it away.
Thanks again, Mathais, for that interesting array of samples!
And finally, I can't finish without announcing that Dave Maida won the third club contest in a row! His American Pale Ale took first in our pale ale contest making him our extract expert! Congratulations, Dave, and everyone who entered our Best of Brooklyn contest.
By Bob Weyersberg
The first BEST OF BROOKLYN homebrew contest is now history and we are very happy to announce that it was a great success for our club and that you'll be seeing the contest again next year!
Among all of those deserving thanks, we place YOU, the homebrewer, at the top of the list. Your participation in the contest is genuinely appreciated by our club and we hope that the contest met your expectations. We judged 261 entries, which, as far as we can tell, makes it the largest homebrew contest in New York City history! We would welcome any feedback from you about the contest so that we may make next year's BEST OF BROOKLYN even better.
Second on the list of thanks are the extremely generous sponsors who donated a truck-load of great prizes, and especially Steve Hindy and the Brooklyn brewery for hosting the contest. Our sponsors provided nearly $2,000 worth of prizes for the contest winners. A prize went to each 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winner of every category. That made the BEST OF BROOKLYN a truly rewarding contest in which to place!
The sponsors listed below obviously care about the homebrewing community and are willing to show it by directly supporting our efforts. I, for one, will always be glad to patronize a business that takes care of its customers, and I hope you'll do the same and support those that support homebrewing! We did it! It's over! Thank God! Congratulations to the whole club for pulling off a difficult task.
The contest worked and was a success because our members were involved. I am extremely thankful that everyone pitched in so generously. We are fortunate to have such enthusiastic members!
We ended up judging 261 entries, which was about 100 more than most of us expected. MBAS members made up 41% of the entries and 35.5% of the winners, plus the 2nd best of show. NYC area entrants won the first, second & third best of show.
(listed in order of category, with 1st, 2nd & 3rd place winners)
On Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 PM, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society will have our next monthly meeting. The guest for this month's meeting will be Dan Shelton of Shelton Broers, the importer of some amazing Belgian beers, including Cantillon. Dan will be bringing some of bottles of delicious Cantillon for the club to sample, as well as some yet-to-be-imported goodies that will be hitting American shores in the months ahead! In addition, many good homebrews should be available for the tasting. As usual, the meeting will be held at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. See you there!
Homebrew Quality Control: Forced Diacetyl Test
By George De Piro
Many homebrewers think of Quality Control as something that only the "big boys" can do. After all, most of us don't have access to laboratories or fancy equipment. The fact is, you don't need a lab full of stuff to perform some simple QC tests on your beer.
This is the first in a series of articles about simple tests that you can do at home to help monitor the quality of your brews. You'll be amazed at how easy it can be to improve and track your beer's quality. This first article will discuss the control of diacetyl.
Diacetyl is the organic compound that gives butter its characteristic aroma and flavor. In some beer styles a little diacetyl is acceptable, but it is regarded as a flaw in most brews. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to control.
Diacetyl is formed in beer from a precursor called alpha acetolactate (AAL). AAL is a normal by-product of yeast metabolism, and is tasteless. The reaction that converts AAL to diacetyl is accelerated by high temperature and acidity (pH < 4.5). At cool temperatures and higher pH it will still be converted to diacetyl, but more slowly.
This is the reason you may not perceive diacetyl in a fresh beer, but may find that the beer becomes buttery over time: the AAL is slowly being converted to diacetyl. How can the brewer prevent this?
You can't! What you can do is speed the reaction that converts AAL to diacetyl while the beer is still in contact with live yeast. The yeast will then absorb and metabolize the diacetyl. This is the idea behind doing a warm "diacetyl rest" at the end of a cold lager fermentation.
Since AAL is tasteless, how do you know if your beer is loaded with it? Simple: heat a sample of the young beer to accelerate the conversion of AAL to diacetyl! Take a sample of beer and split it into two aliquots. Heat one to 60C (140F) for a short time (30 min. or so) while keeping the other cool. It is probably wise to cover the heated sample to contain the volatiles. Cool the heated sample and smell/taste both.
This simple test takes very little effort, and can save you the bother of performing a needless diacetyl rest after a lager fermentation.
If the heated sample is buttery, and the cool sample isn't, then you have a substantial amount of AAL in your beer. If this is the case, you should do an extended diacetyl rest at 56F (for lagers; ales can be kept at their fermentation temperature). Repeat this test every 2 days until the heated sample remains neutral. At this point, the yeast have done their job and you can move on to lower temperature lagering for the purpose of removing chill haze and flavor maturation. It is also safe to remove the yeast from the beer at this point if you are filtering. They have finished their work.
If the heated sample does not reek of butter, yet your beer develops diacetyl as it ages, then you must look elsewhere to the source of your diacetyl. Pediococcus bacteria are excellent producers of diacetyl, and could be the culprits.
This simple test takes very little effort, and can save you the bother of performing a needless diacetyl rest after a lager fermentation. It can also save you the heartache of a beer becoming buttery as it ages.
There is one caveat, though: oxygen can inhibit the yeast's ability to absorb diacetyl, so be careful when racking your beer! Oxygen pick-up in finished beer greatly reduces its shelf life.
At next month's meeting we'll do a beer tasting with light beer that has been spiked with diacetyl. This will teach you exactly what it tastes like, and even tell you how low of a concentration you can detect.
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