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..
Greetings travel companions. I am happy to have you with me on the journey to my becoming a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certified judge. This week the journey continues by water. Water makes up a vast majority of our planet and only a small portion of that is drinkable. Water is of the utmost importance to us; life on our planet would not exist without it. No creatures, plants, nor people could survive without water and one should note that there would be no beer without it. No beer! That’s frightening.
We met yet again at my local homebrew supply shop, Brew Ferment Distill (BFD). It is downright neighborly of Tim to allow us to use his space. I think that we owe him another beer. Tracy Bethune, a prominent local beer judge and avid brewer, took the helm of the class this week. She has been involved in beer brewing and wine making since she was a small child and is very knowledgeable. I would like to thank Tracy for sharing her knowledge with the class. We probably owe her a beer too.
Week 5: Water You Saying?
The focus of this week’s class was water and its importance in beer. Water tastes different in different areas of the world and partly because of this fact, beer does as well. Every region of our earth has a specific beer to claim as its own. Ireland, for example, is known for its Dry Stout, not only because the people love it, but because their water is well suited to making stouts. The mineral composition of the water is of the right alkalinity to balance with the acidity of the darker grains needed to produce a rich, stout beer. The Czech Republic has fairly neutral water which is ideal for making Pilsners. In many areas of the U.S., there have been chlorides added to our water supply. Chlorides are detrimental to beer flavor and should be removed prior to brewing. This can be achieved in numerous ways: the use of a carbon filter, the addition of Campden Tablets or allowing the water to “gas out” (letting it sit in an open container for 24 hours). One could go on and on about the mineral compositions of regional water supplies, but I shall not as it would be too much for this post. Learning in depth about this and understanding which minerals play what part in making a beer authentic, allows one to better understand styles of beer and therefore be a better judge. Better judges make for better beer and better beer makes for happier people.
Water tastes different in different areas of the world and partly because of this fact, beer does as well.
This week all of our samples were on the darker side, and with reason; it helped to showcase the importance and difference that water has in beer. We had a few different styles of stouts ranging from Milk Stout to American Stout. We also had two English Brown Ales and couple of one my favorite styles, Porter. The beer that I found most intriguing was the Robust Porter from Anchor Brewing. Its aroma was of dried stone fruits and dark chocolate with a hint of roasted coffee. The near black hue of this beer had subtle ruby edges and a light coffee colored head that faded, but remnants hung to the side of the glass. The flavor reminded me of a burnt currant scone and a dark roasted coffee. I was not at all surprised by this beer as it is one of the reasons I enjoy Porters. It is a great beer for fall drinking and pairs wonderfully with rich, chocolaty deserts, or as a dessert itself. My mouth is watering as I type, mmm…Porter.
If beer is proof that God loves us, then the role of water is proof that we need to do for ourselves and not rely on fate, but shape it. In that regard, great beer styles of the world can be recreated with the understanding of a region’s water and can be enjoyed as they should be, close to the source. For a thirst quenching example of water turned beer, head to Bike Dog Brewing and try their Milk Stout. Its aroma is reminiscent of a creamy mocha and has an opaque black hue that is crowned by a persistent tan head. The flavor follows the aroma with roasted coffee and dark chocolate balanced by a malty sweetness. This beer has a creamy texture that lingers on the pallet and would be fantastic paired with vanilla ice cream. I dream of stout floats.