Pairing Passion

Avant Garde

Gwen Conley is teaching the Food Pairings and Beer Dinners class in UCSD Extension’s Brewing Program and she is helping students find their “paring passion.”  Paring passion is that moment when food and beer meet to create something unexpected, enhancing elements of both food and beer. Gwen led us on an exploration of paring, packing the three lectures that make up this one-unit elective with food and wonderful beer.

The Food Pairing class is a perfect complement to the Sensory Evaluation class also taught by Gwen. While Sensory Evaluation goes deeply into the flavor profile of beer styles, Food Pairing and Beer Dinners draws on that knowledge of how to break down the basic elements of a beer’s flavor profile to match the beer’s tastes and aromas with food. I am not a chef and much prefer fermenting things to cooking them so I felt intimidated at the thought of pairing a beer with an entire meal, but Gwen focused on simple pairings that showed how basic tastes interact.  During our first lecture we reviewed the basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami – and their potential interactions. We learned how to create a relationship between beer and food using the concepts of cut, complement, and contrast. We discussed how the texture, sound, and temperature of food can affect our perceptions of the beer pairing.  Beer was paired with carrot juice and a raw carrot to see how our perceptions of flavor change with different textures. We looked at how the fat and sourness of a lemon cookie complemented the biscuit malt characteristic of The Lost Abbey’s Avant Guarde.  Although these pairings are not a glamorous multicourse dinner – and believe me, the carrot juice one was a little rough – they taught us how basic flavors interact and helped us to the build a foundation of pairing knowledge.

My favorite piece of information from this class is that carbon dioxide, bitterness, and high alcohol can intensify spiciness by spreading the capsaicin around the mouth and opening up the pores. Using this new pairing knowledge, I invited some of my spicy food loving friends over and served a jalapeño burger with a double IPA, matching the intensity of the burger with an incredibly hoppy beer.  My friends were shocked at the increased spiciness. I did have a sweet porter on hand for those who didn’t like the pairing because we also learned that “sweet kills heat.”

The final class was an experience I wish every beer lover could have: it involved eight different cheeses, eight different types of chocolate, and thirteen different beers.  Gwen talked us through the pairings and left the class to play in the beer and food sensory playground. Some people exclaimed with joy when they found their pairing passion while others groaned when they found a pairing “train wreck.”  Although there are basic guidelines to pairing everyone is different and no pairing will reach 100% of the people in the audience, so have fun and find your pairing passion and experiment.  If you are interested in reading more about beer and food pairing Gwen recommend the book “The Brewmaster’s Table”  by Garrett Oliver.  Here are three beer and cheese pairings from the class I would suggest trying:

  • Asiago Cheese with The Lost Abbey’s Inferno (Belgian Strong Ale)
  • English Cheddar with Chiles and Spices with The Lost Abbey’s Judgment Day (Quad)
  • Manchego with the Lost Abbey’s Lost and Found (Abbey Dubbel)Cheese

 

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How Much for that Pint?

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In Financial Management for Breweries we are going over how to calculate what it costs to make a pint of beer. Our class is taught by Matt Dolman, a financial consultant for breweries. So far we have gone over basic financial statements: Statements of Operations, Income Statements, and Cash Flow Statements. Our first homework assignment was to fill out a mock Statement of Operations for a brewery. Having never taken a finance class in my life I was able to complete the homework after a good two hours at a local Barnes & Noble reading Finance for Dummies.

I often wonder when paying six dollars for my favorite pint, how much does it actually cost to make the beer before distribution and retail mark ups. I am learning that there are quite a few factors that go into calculating the cost of the beer other than just raw materials.  The cost of direct labor, direct labor overhead (PR taxes, bonus, workers’ compensation, health insurance), indirect labor, indirect labor overhead, rent, utilities, cleaning chemicals, and the cost of kegging or bottling are all a part of the equation.  I felt overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to break down the calculations, but Matt walked us through it step-by-step. For example, to calculate the cost of cleaning chemicals needed to produce a barrel of beer, we would take the amount of money spent on cleaning chemicals each month multiplied by 12 months and divided by the number of barrels produced by the brewery in a year. Most things are calculated in cost per barrel which can later be converted to gallons, kegs, or pints. Here is a simplified example of how to calculate the cost of a pint of beer. (I have made up all the numbers in this example and they do not necessary reflect industry standards.)

 First we will calculate the cost of raw materials needed for 15 barrels of beer. Examples of raw materials would include yeast, hops, additives, water, and utilities. Let’s say to produce 15 barrels of a fictional Coffee Porter the total raw material cost is $1,000.

Now we need to calculate the cost of labor in producing the 15 barrels of Coffee Porter.  If it takes 15 hours to brew, monitor, rack and filter the beer that would break down to be one hour of labor per barrel. Assuming a $20.00 per hour pay rate for a brewer it would cost $20.00 in labor per barrel.

Rent must also be included in the cost of the beer.  If a brewery is 1800 square feet and pays $1.00 per square foot and brews 200 barrels per month the cost of rent per barrel is $9.00.

Let’s say we are going to keg the fictional Coffee Porter so we need to calculate the cost of kegging per barrel. That cost will include the keg rental, cap and collar on the keg, labor, utilities, and rent for kegging area.  I am estimating the cost of kegging to be $20.00/barrel including all of the factors above.

Assuming a 100% brewing efficiency rate :) the cost to produce one barrel of the Coffee Porter  including raw materials, rent, labor, and kegging would be $115.66 so the final cost of a half barrel with 15.5 gallons will be $57.83. There are 124 pints in a half barrel so the cost of one of our pints is $0.46.

So how does that pint still cost $6.00?

Not included in the raw calculations so far is the cost of distribution and retail. The brewery sells the beer at a higher price to the distributor in order to make a profit. The brewery can also choose to self-distribute and must factor in the distribution costs of around 26%. The distributor sells the beer at a higher price to the retailer, who in turn marks up the final price. I recently read this article discussing how retailers decide to price a beer.

In class we have also been going over some critical forms that must be filled out by breweries such as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau excise tax form and the State of California Board of Equalization tax form as well as the TTB Brewer’s Report of Operations. Quite a few people working in breweries commented on how helpful it was to go over the Brewer’s Report of Operations in such detail.  Our group project was to fill out a Brewer’s Report of Operations given numbers from a mock brewery. Next week we will be going over how to fill out a Distribution and Beverage Manufacturer Report for the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Who knew filling out tax forms could be so fun when you are working with mock numbers and don’t actually have to pay anything. :)

Financial Forms

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Toronto, Canada

RattleSnakePointI am very lucky that I have family located in some of the best beer tourism spots in the world. This year between Spring and Summer Quarter of the UCSD Extension Brewing Program I traveled to Toronto, Canada to visit my family and taste some beer!

I checked out a few beer tour/tasting options that were recommended to me before I started the trip (Craft Beer Passport and the Beer Lovers Tour Co.) but decided I love to explore breweries more organically and feel confined by tour groups and time schedules. Instead of the tours, we borrowed some bikes and mapped out a bike path to a few local breweries.

Weaving in and out of local shoppers on our bikes, our first stop was Kensington Brewery located in the vibrant Kensington Market. We rode up and down the five blocks that make up the market for an hour and could not find the brewery; we asked locals and were sent in many different directions. Eventually we gave up and turned our attention to finding some tacos, which we found at Seven Lives.  It turns out the Kensington Brewery is moving and the new location is under construction. Beer is brewed through contract sites. (We did get to try their canned Big Eye PA at the Toronto airport before the flight home.)KensingtonBrewingCo

Next stop on our bike tour was Steam Whistle Brewery. We made it through all the downtown rush hour traffic and emerged at one of the most picturesque breweries I have ever seen. Steam Whistle is located in the historic John Street Roundhouse, which once functioned as a Canadian Pacific Rail steam locomotive repair facility; the CN Tower hovers in the background. Steam Whistle Brewery only makes Pilsner. Their slogan is “Do one thing well.” I enjoyed the free sample of beer and jumped in with a tour group for a look around the brewery. Feeling energized by the refreshing Pilsner, we hopped on our bikes to finish our day in the Distillery District.Steam_Whistle

Mill St. Brewery is located in the famous Distillery District which was once the site of The Gooderham and Worts Distillery, also known to be the largest and best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America. Again, we were offered free samples of the beer upon entering the brewery. I would recommend the Cobblestone Stout, and I also enjoyed their Lemon Tea Beer, a wheat beer infused with tea; it tasted fantastic after a long bike ride. After a quick snack and a stop at the Mill St. store to stock up on beer for dinner, we were back on the road joining the biking commuters on their way home from work. I held up about twenty commuters as I tried to keep the beers from wobbling in my bike basket – precious cargo!MillStreet_DistilleryDistrict

Although we only dedicated one day to exploring breweries, great local beer punctuated each day. We enjoyed some Amsterdam Big Wheel Amber while attending The Urban Roots Music Festival. We spent a day in the beautiful Bellwoods Park and walked to the Bellwoods Brewery where we got to try some farmhouse ale called Farmageddon, a 100% brettanomyces fermented ale.Farmageddon

This was our first trip trying AirB&B and we loved it! We booked a private room in a whimsical cottage about two blocks from Kensington Market and our host was amazing. She showed us great local coffee shops and even put me in contact with a local brewery owner. The art, the tastes, and the sounds of this trip are unforgettable. Toronto is definitely one of my favorite beer tourism spots.

 

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You can quote me…

Mill St. Brewery wallpaper

Recently, I wrote an article about the different beer education opportunities available in San Diego for the West Coaster Magazine. I elicited the help of a lot of my friends/students in the UCSD Extension Brewing Program for quotes to use in the article, asking why they chose the UCSD Extension Brewing Program and what has been their favorite part of the program. I only had room for a few quotes for the article, but I wanted to share all of the quotes here. Hopefully the quotes will provide some perspective and insight into the program from other students.

Quotes:

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I had been on the waiting list for UC Davis for the last 3 years when I heard about the UCSD Brewing Certificate program and applied.  I was accepted into the UCSD program right away to become part of the first class of students.  Because of the shorter waiting list, lower costs, and night schedule of classes, I chose to attend UCSD’s program rather than the UC Davis program.  I was able to get through the UCSD program while working.  The program has even helped me land my dream position as a Quality Lab Assistant.

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It has been an amazing experience learning from the top brewing professions in the industry.  Within San Diego, and perhaps the world, names like Chris White, Yuseff Cherney, Peter Zien, Patrick Rue, Tomme Aurthur…etc are well known.   There is no other program that offers such a diverse group of teachers that are active professionals within the brewing industry.

I have also met a great group of students from diverse backgrounds.  It has been a great source of networking and meeting new friends.

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I decided on the UCSD Extension Brewing Program because of the balanced curriculum and unique opportunity to learn from the founders of the San Diego craft beer scene. I am looking forward to the required internship which I believe will be very helpful before applying for jobs in the industry.

The best thing about the program so far has been making new friends who share the same passion for craft beer.  I am grateful for starting these relationships and hope to one day work alongside these future professionals.

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For me, one look at the list of instructors and proposed curriculum was enough to convince me that the program would have the breadth and depth to cover what an aspiring nano-brewer would need to know.  There is a large gap between homebrewing and the technical and quality-focused aspects – not to mention the business aspects – of scaling-up to even a small commercial operation, and I hoped that the program would be able to bridge that gap.  It certainly has.  

Somewhat surprisingly, I found that the local industry is mature enough to provide opportunities for students to get involved by putting their professional backgrounds to use.  As these companies grow, the need for professionals – accountants, engineers, scientists – will increase.  Having a technical understanding of the science of brewing will better prepare these professionals to find a place in the industry.  Turns out, we don’t all need to open our own brewery.

And if all I took away from the program were the tips that I learned from Mitch’s, Chris’ and Gwen’s classes, it still would have been worthwhile.  I think my own brewing has improved as a result of putting their advice into practice.

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I chose the brewing program because I wanted guided assistance with transitioning to a new industry and education from the brewing industry’s experts.  I see a lot of my own values overlapping with the industry: strong work/business ethics, community outreach/support, collaborative, and a strong sense of entrepreneurial spirit.  This program offers a focus on the science and technology of brewing, which appealed to me because I’m looking for technical knowledge and experience, even if I’m planning on supporting the business side of the industry.  The best way to make business decisions is to understand all the parts that make the whole and how they each impact each other.  I felt that this program would be a perfect blend of learning for what I’m interested in pursuing.  

My favorite part has been the passion and accessibility of the professors and guest lecturers.  I’ve seen a genuine desire to teach and develop the industry’s future brewers, scientists, and business people by building a foundation for a lifelong path of learning.  The connections made within our cohort and professors has been invaluable in my life and I’m extremely thankful for the experience.

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 Thanks to my friends for taking the time to write these quotes! My article about beer education comes out in the West Coaster in August. I hope you will check it out!

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Internship List

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Last week UCSD Extension announced the local breweries participating in the internship portion of the UCSD Extension’s Brewing Certificate Program.  Students who have completed their course requirements can apply for an internship at one of fifteen breweries. Smaller breweries will take on one student, while larger breweries will be taking on one or two students per quarter.  The first internships will begin Fall Quarter 2014.

Breweries offering internships to UCSD Extension Brewing Certificate Students:

  • Stone Brewing Co.
  • AleSmith Brewing Co.
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Co.
  • Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits
  • ChuckAlek Independent Brewers 
  • Council Brewing Co.
  • Culture Brewing Co.
  • Dos Desperados
  • Hess Brewing
  • O’Sullivan Bros. Brewing Co.
  • Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey
  • Rip Current Brewing Co. 
  • Rough Draft Brewing Co.
  • Twisted Manzanita Ales
  • White Labs
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Internship

Sunset_LaJollaShores

The final step in completing UCSD Extension’s Brewing Certificate Program is a ten week internship at a local brewery. The internship portion is what initially attracted me to the UCSD Extension’s program. It is important to me to have hands on experience in the industry, and this internship provides the perfect opportunity. My experience in the program has broadened my horizons as to the different types of careers available in the brewing industry. I started the program with the intention of going into a quality control position since it fits well with my background and experience as a scientist, but I have found that I love writing and the business side of the industry. An internship will provide me with a perfect opportunity to explore these interests further.

Students are eligible to enroll in the internship portion of the program when they have completed their course work (electives may be taken concurrently with the internship). Internships will be offered in two areas: Science and Technology of Brewing and The Business of Brewing. Internships will be offered for the first time Fall Quarter 2014.

UCSD Extension is currently working on creating contracts with local breweries who will be participating in the program. Students nearing completion of the program will be emailed a list of participating breweries during the summer and it will be our responsibility to contact the brewery. We were advised to be prepared for an interview process and to have our resumes ready. Once we have an internship in place, we will contact the internship coordinator at UCSD Extension to let her know where we will be doing our internship. The internship will be 120 hours over a 10 week period. We will report to a supervisor at the brewery weekly and will fulfill all of the objectives from an Objective Checklist provided by UCSD Extension.

Here is a list of the course work that needs to be completed before the internship portion of the program:

Part 1: The Science and Technology of Brewing

Part 2: The Business of Brewing

Electives (2 units required)

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Wanted: Sales Representative

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Where am I?

A Southern California Costco! Ok, so that’s not all that exciting and I don’t always photo document my trips to big box stores, but I wanted to highlight the amount of local craft beer that is available at Costco. I had to search quite awhile to find any other beer; it was stacked along a back wall between the baby diapers and toilet paper. Due to the local sales reps in the San Diego craft brewing industry and insightful purchasing managers at Costco, our favorite local brews are available while we stock up on other supplies.

In our final class of Marketing and Distribution, Arlan Arnsten focused on the fourth “P” of marketing: People. He specifically focused on sales people. As the former Sr. VP of Sales at Stone Brewing Company he provided incredible insight into the world of sales and practical knowledge of how to be a successful sales representative for a brewery. If you have any interest in going into sales in the brewing industry I highly recommend this class!

I am constantly seeing job postings in the brewing industry for brewery sales representatives, and I have wondered what it takes to be a sales rep. In class we went over the qualities that are often possessed by great sales people. A sales person is outgoing, interesting, presentable, hardworking, tenacious, empathetic, fearless, and honest. Not all sales people have every single one of these qualities, but it is likely they possess a majority of these qualities. Below is a video of Zig Ziglar, a famous motivational speaker and salesman, which highlights the qualities of a great sales person and would make anyone proud to call sales their profession.

We went over the role of the sales department in a brewery. The structure of the sales team is often: sales manager, sales representatives, and merchandisers. When breweries are small the owner may be the entire sales team. :)   The sales team is responsible for setting up accounts, finding prospects, making cold calls, giving presentations, introducing new products to accounts, and following up with accounts. If a brewery is not working with a distributor, the sales team will deliver / pick up empty kegs and do the invoicing. If a brewery is working with a distributor, the sales team will do ride-alongs, presentations to the distributor, and prospect accounts. The brewery’s sales team will work closely with a “brand manager” at the distributor. The role of the brand manager is to communicate the brewery’s message and product to the distributor’s sales team. Distributors may have large portfolios, so it is critical that a brewery be able to effectively communicate with the brand manager. I found it interesting that working with a distributor does not necessarily replace the need for a brewery’s sales team.

Arlan walked us through a successful day of a sales representative, with twenty different visits / interactions within the day. He talked about assigning geographical channels to sales reps to minimize driving time and how it can be beneficial to specify sales reps to work solely on different types of accounts such as “on premises” accounts, large box store accounts, or grocery chain accounts. He demonstrated conversations between the sales rep and the retailer and outlined the best times to visit accounts. Arlan stressed that it is important to listen, to do more than expected, to care about the customer’s business, and to keep moving in order to succeed in sales!

 

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Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

BottleCraft

The photo above illustrates the great dilemma of the craft beer consumer… what beer to choose? My trips to the grocery store often take about 30 minutes longer than they should when I get side tracked and stand in front of the beer section. A store employee often taps me on the shoulder and asks if I need help picking out a beer, which I politely decline and continue my process of staring at the bottle-and-can eye candy in front of me. How do we as consumers decide what beer we want to drink? Which beer would you decide to buy from the photo above?

We dove into this topic in our Marketing and Distribution class in UCSD Extension’s Brewing Program. For one class we had guest lecturer Todd Colburn, the Director of Marketing for Stone Brewing Company. His lecture provided great insight into how quality, naming, branding, packaging, and public relations all play into how a consumer decides – while standing in a grocery store, bar, or bottle shop – which beer they are going to buy.

We talked about how branding starts with the name of the brewery and how important it is to choose a great name. Todd highlighted three common categories of names for a brewery: location, iconic image or character, and style of beer. Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Deschutes are examples of breweries named after a location. Breweries named after locations provide the consumer with a sense of place and the ‘feeling’ of that place. We discussed what happens if a brewery grows and expands beyond the location they are named after and if that name would still be relevant. A friend of mine from the program forwarded this interesting article about breweries with location-based names and how they foster a “sense of place and of connection with a locale.” Jolly Pumpkin and Rogue are examples of breweries with iconic names that are whimsical and memorable. These names are easy to recall for the consumer and are often image-based. The Lost Abbey, Hopworks Urban Brewery, New Belgium, and The Rare Barrel are examples of breweries named after the type/style of beer produced. This naming strategy allows the consumer to easily identify the type of beer they will get from that brewery, but it can also be limiting. The importance of naming extends beyond just the name of the brewery to the naming of the beer produced. We did a case study on Stone’s Enjoy by –/–/—- beer series to illustrate how marketing strategies can revolve around the name of a beer. Names are a large part of  a brewery’s brand identity, and it is important to check trademarks, Untappd, and RateBeer to make sure the names are not already taken.

Another important component of branding is packaging. In class we looked at photos of grocery store shelves and discussed what stood out. I found it very interesting that everyone in the class knew which beer was in the white bottle (see the white bottle in the photo at the top); that Delirium bottle with the pink elephant had caught everyone’s attention at some point. Could colored glass could be a new trend? The graphic design of labels is a big part of attracting consumer attention.  Oh, Beautiful Beer is a great blog that celebrates graphic design in the beer world. I love looking at the photos of beer labels and reading what graphic designers are trying to create with the label. We ended the class with a label review of Hess’s new can line and St. Archer’s can line. How do these labels appeal to you? What are your initial impressions? What changes would you make?

Hess_2Saint Archer_2

 

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Summer Quarter 2014

Tower_2Summer at La Jolla Shores

I am taking three classes this summer quarter, and it is the first time in my life I have ever looked forward to summer school. UCSD Extension’s Brewing Program will be offering the last two courses I need to complete the classroom portion of the program: Operations Management and Financial Management for Breweries. I will also be taking an extra elective because I am very interested in the Food Pairings and Beer Dinners class being taught by Gwen Conley. It will be a busy 6 weeks! I am looking forward to writing about these classes before I embark on the internship portion of the program.

Financial Management for Breweries

  • Instructor: Matt Dolman, Dolman & Associates
  • Days and Times: Tuesdays, July 29 – September 2, 6:30-9:30pm, 6 meetings
  • Units: 2
  • Description: Building a brewing business from the ground up requires strategic and thoughtful planning, as well as industry research and financial knowhow. Learn how to effectively research the industry, build accurate financial projections, and develop a full-fledged business plan for potential investors that are specific to the brewing industry. Case studies from the brewing industry are the focal point of the course.

Food Pairings and Beer Dinners

  • Instructor: Gwen Conley, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey
  • Days and Times: Thursdays, August 14 – August 28, 6:30 – 9:30pm, 3 meetings
  • Units: 1
  • Description: The craft brewer combines the connoisseurship of the gourmet, the scientific, technical and business sophistication of the tech entrepreneur, and the awareness of the value of a local, sustainable community. Focus on the development of a distinctly refined beer palate, and apply the skills and knowledge learned in the Sensory Evaluation and Beer Styles course to the matching of food and beer. Course focuses on sensory development rather than the analysis of the brewing process. Note: Need not be accepted into the Brewing certificate program to register for this course. Recommended prerequisite: Sensory Evaluation and Beer Styles.

 Operations Management

  • Instructor(s): Paul Segura, Karl Strauss
  • Days and Times: Wednesdays, August 6 – September 10, 6:30 – 9:30pm, 6 meetings
  • Units: 2
  • Description: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution nearly 300 years ago, the practice of finding the most efficient and effective ways to utilize materials and labor in the production of quality product has developed from an intuitive practice into a precise science. Study the key aspects of brewing operations management including plant management, equipment maintenance management, production control, skilled trade supervision, strategic manufacturing policy, systems analysis, productivity analysis and cost control, and materials planning.
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Funkytown : Sour Beers

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I am a big fan of sour beers. Whenever a friend of mine proclaims they do not like beer, I usually buy them a sour beer to see if I can change their mind. Sours defy the confines of perceived beer notions; they are a gateway beer for wine drinkers and fruity cocktail people. Whenever I feel burned out on IPAs and stouts, I reach for a sour beer to blow me away with new and wild flavors.

I have to admit, before the UCSD Extension Barrel Aging class taught by Tomme Arthur and Patrick Rue, I wasn’t really sure what defined the style of sour beer.  Traditional sour beers are lambic, geuzeze (a mix of one, two, and three year old lambics), Berliner weisse, Flanders reds, and fruit beers. The sour taste is just a characteristic of these traditional styles, and you are sure to get a strange look if you try and order a “sour beer” in Europe. In the United States sour beers encompass a broad category of beer that is fermented with some form of wild yeast and bacteria.  Breweries can follow traditional methods of making sour beer by exposing the wort to air in a coolship, or they may inoculate their wort with a pure culture of wild yeast or Brettanomyces (available at White Labs). Some breweries may use a combination of these methods, exposing the wort to open air to collect wild yeast and bacteria from the environment and also inoculating with a known yeast or bacteria culture that will dominate the fermentation. Other breweries may add the wort to barrels and allow the natural yeast and bacteria in the wood to ferment the beer.  Russian River Brewery, for example, uses a coolship to make the 100% wild fermented beer Beatification.

We watched the following video in class which demonstrates the traditional method of making lambic in the Cantillon brewery.  I hope someday to visit this brewery; it is in Brussels, Belgium and was established in 1900.

Micro-organisms involved in sour beer production:

Yeast

  • Wild yeast – Saccromyces contribute most of the alcohol production for sour beers.
  • Brettanomyces – The name means “British Brewing Fungus” and is a type of yeast that produces a lot of acetic acid along with ethanol. It has the ability to ferment long chain sugars and cellulose. Some flavors associated with Brett fermentation include: band-aids, barnyard, and horse stable. If you want to try a 100% Brettanomyces fermented beer, try Crooked Staves Brewery in Colorado or The Lost Abbey in San Marcos.

Bacteria

  • Pediococcus – Produces lactic acid and diacetyl and can be identified by long oily strands on the top of the wort.
  • Lactobacillus – Produces lactic acid and ethyl lactate which contribute fruity and tart qualities to beer.
  • Enterobacter – Produces acetic acid, lactic acid, ethyl acetate, and dimethyl sulfide. Flavors associated with enterobacter include vegetal, smoky, moldy and “baby diaper.” This human pathogen can cause illness but does not survive in the final product due to decreasing pH and increasing alcohol concentration during fermentation.
  • Acetobacter – Aerobic bacteria that are responsible for the production of vinegar. These bacteria metabolize oxygen and alcohol to make acetic acid.

(Source: WildBrews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer’s Yeast, Jeff Sparrow)

Although these microorganisms may be considered contaminates in “clean” beer, they add acids and esters that create the desired sour flavor profile in sour beers.

Sour beers were on the verge of extinction due to Louis Pasture’s discovery of how to obtain pure yeast cultures and increased knowledge of sanitation, but they have been increasing in popularity over the past decade.  Sour beers can teeter on the edge of a quality control disaster; I don’t think many people want to drink straight vinegar.  They are often blended with other sour beers or “clean” (non-sour) beers to achieve the favor profile the brewer is looking to achieve. Blending sour beers is a true art form.

On a trip up to the Bay Area I had the chance to stop by a new sour beer brewery called The Rare Barrel. The Rare Barrel ferments their beer with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus and never uses standard brewer’s yeast. They brew offsite and transport the wort back to the warehouse for fermentation and blending.  Beer is stored in barrels for aging all around the warehouse and tasting room. I loved roaming amidst the barrels and trying to identify the origin of each barrel. I tried All Systems Go, Batch 2, which was a dark sour beer aged in oak with coffee beans.  My Mom even loved the Sourtooth Tiger, and she does not even like beer!

If you are interested in learning more about sour beers, I would recommend the books Wild Brews and Farmhouse Ales as well as this article on the history of sour beers.

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