Beers In Sacramento reached out to Mike Ungerbuhler to post about his journey to become a certified beer judge. Mike will post every Sunday for the next three months to share his experiences. Mike has his own blog, Insatiable Thirst, make sure to check it out. Here's Mike..

Salutations fellow travelers, I am happy to have you with me on this journey.  Our journey thus far has taken us through beer's characteristics, the use of hops in beer, off flavors (phew, that was a rough one), an intro to judging, the importance of water to beer styles as, well as touching upon on what yeast can contribute to beer.  The last remaining ingredient to the beautiful beverage know as beer is one that contributes a substantial amount to the flavor and mouthfeel; that being grain.  We are but a few classes away from the end of the quest.  Fret not, for if you'd like to continue with me on other beerventures, you can at Insatiable Thirst.  

This week's class was held in the brewing space of Bob Horst, a local BJCP judge and homebrewer of 24 years.  He took this same class some 10 years ago with the goal of bettering his craft.  While I cannot attest for the beer he was brewing back then, I can say that the beers that he shared with the class were all very tasty.  Thanks Bob for allowing us in your brew house and for sharing your knowledge and beer with the class.

 Our host, Bob Horst

Our host, Bob Horst

 A portions of Bob's brewing space and bottle collection

A portions of Bob's brewing space and bottle collection

Week 8: Grist Opportunities

Our focus this week was on a variety of malted grains, known to brewers simply as malt.  The mixture of different malts used in brewing is known as the grain bill, or grist.  The primary grain used in brewing beer is barley.  Wheat, rye, rice, corn and other grains can also be used in conjunction with barley.  In order to efficiently obtain fermentable sugars from barley or other grains, they must be malted.  Malting is done by steeping the grains in warm water, allowing them to germinate and then drying them.  At this point they are known as base malts and will make up the majority or at times the total of the grist.  From there, malts can be roasted to certain levels creating subtle caramel like sweetness at low levels to rich coffee like flavors at higher levels.  In this week’s class, we discussed the flavor components that malts provide to beer and touched on how malts can define beer styles.  This can vary from the light grainy sweetness of the pilsner malt used in Pilsners to the rich and roasty flavors of roasted barley used in Stouts.

Our samples this week were geared toward the medium to darker malts which are more observable than the subtleness of lighter malts.  They ranged from an American version of a Schwarzbier to Bob's homebrewed Doppelbock.  The Schwarzbier displayed the chocolate and rich coffee characteristics of malts roasted to a higher level, while Bob's Doppelbock displayed the caramel sweetness of a slightly higher than mid-range roast.  Its aroma was that of golden raisins and pleasant alcohol sweetness.  The color was a copper that verged upon red.  The flavor was akin to the aroma with the addition of slight dark fruit and caramel.  Its light carbonation, full body and almost port like mouthfeel make it, in my opinion, a great desert beer.  While you can't get Bob's delicious Doppelbock in stores you can find Paulaner Salvator, which is the classic example of the style.

 Class in Bob's place

Class in Bob's place

Malt is the backbone of beer that hops and yeast characteristics are balanced toward or away from. The regional water supplies, or water additions, help to showcase or minimize the flavors that malts contribute.  A beer that showcases the malty side of that balance is Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel.  The aroma is prevalent of Munich malt, with bread crust and plums.  It is a clear deep copper with a persistent off white head.  Pair these characteristics with the medium body and moderate carbonation and you have one thirst and hunger quencher perfect for early fall.

Cheers!