Novice’s Beer Guide

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HOW BEER IS MADE?

Beer- both the one you make at home, as well as the one brewed in a brewery- are made from the same ingredients: water, malt, hop ands yeast.

Water. It’s the biggest and most crucial ingredient of beer. Every type of water has different properties, which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on what type of beer we are making. For example, for a fruity kind of beer, like an APA or IPA, we should choose a sulfur based water, but for a stout type dark beer choose a carbon based water. Another important factor when choosing water is its acidity, meaning its pH level.

* Malt. A slightly germinated (a seed that has started growing, but was swiftly dried when it produced enzymes needed for beer making) grain, usually barley, but sometimes wheat or even spelt. Before adding water it should be kibbled (broken in half) in a grinder, that breaks grain in a way that doesn’t remove a lot of husk, but exposes the sugar in it.

* Hops. Beer does not contain much hops compared to the amount of water and malt- it’s a seasoning. It’s responsible for the bitterness and aroma of beer, but it also preserves it. Hops is grown around the world, but the most popular recently are American types of hops, where the first new wave types of hops where grown. Hops like Cascade, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic, Citra or Equanot give a specific fruity or woodsy aroma. There are also Polish types of hops, the most popular are Marynka and Lubelski, but the new wave types of hops are successfully adapted on Polish soil, like a Polish type of Cascade.

* Yeast. It multiplies quickly and is responsible for the fermentation process a.k.a. the process of changing sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are many types of yeast and they give different types of results. For example, the ones used for wheat beer give an aroma of bananas and cloves, others give citrus notes etc. The most important thing when working with yeast is keeping a steady fermentation temperature appropriate for different types of yeast and the effects we want to get. For bottom fermentation beer  (pils, Czech type beers, Baltic porters) it’s around 8-12 degrees. In the case of high fermentation beers (APA, IPA, stouts, weisens) it’s around 16-21 degrees.

BEER STYLES

Beers can be divided into pale and dark, heavy and light, sweet and bitter… We have bad news (or maybe good news): the one and only way to categorize beer is by top and bottom fermentation. We will show you selected, most popular types of beers  and their descriptions.

Bottom fermentation beer:

* Lager (Pils, Ležák) –is the beer most commonly found on supermarket shelves.  On the other hand finding a good pils is not easy and it can be challenging beer to make. It’s a fairly bitter, dry type of beer, pale and light (4-6% alc.) decidedly malty with an aroma of hops (like a classic Czech Saaz). Lately, American lager have been rising in popularity. They are lagers made using American types of hops, which mean a more citrusy or resinous aroma.

* Baltic Porter – is the beer treasure of Poland. It’s a strong  (even 10% alc.), dark (brown, dark copper, russet) and dignified drink. It tastes of caramel, chocolate, licorice and some dark fruits.

* Koźlak (Bock) – slightly paler and lighter than a Baltic Porter (6-7% alc.), but still a dark and strong beer. Its primary aroma is that of malt and it tastes like a slightly underdone toast.

You should try: Browar Amber – Koźlak.

Top fermentation beer:

* IPA – it’s the calling card of the beer revolution, it started it all. It smells like a fruit orchard or a pine forest in late spring. A pale, full, fresh, bitter beer with a kick (8-10% alc.). It may be dry or even slightly sweet depending on the type of malt. Sometimes it can smell of peat which is caused by Mosaic hops.

You should try: Browar Pinta – Atak Chmielu (the first craft beer in Poland)

Black IPA – a dark type of IPA. Black, opaque, but fruity and bitter. IPA with a smoky side, generally woodsy in aroma, sometimes fruity.

You should try: Browar Solipiwko – Black Bicz

* APA – a toned down IPA. It has less alcohol and is less bitter. It’s a good way to start your craft beer adventure. It may taste fruity or woodsy but also of peat or onion. A pale, drinkable beer that makes you want to take another sip.

You should try: Browar Profesja – Bard

* Weizen – a wheat, highly gassed German beer. It’s barely bitter and tastes of bananas and cloves. Very pale, sometimes resembles banana juice with some other fruits mixed in. Beer experts advise to take your second sip with a pinched nose, that will let you taste the sour freshness of the weizen.

Warto spróbować: Browar Probus – Ryczyn

* Stout – the most popular dark beer. Black and opaque, slightly resembling tar, sometimes smoked and heavy (but not always). There are many types of stouts, a couple of the most popular we list below:

– Dry Stout – dry, light (4-6% alc.), smoked (Warsztat Piwowarski – Noc na Tarnogaju)

– Milk Stout – with lactose. Mostly sweet and milky, light (4-6% alc.) (Browar Łąkomin – Rzeka Pełna Mleka)

– American Stout – dry, citrusy due to the use of American hops.

– Coffee Stout –  with coffee, dry or sweet (PiwoWarownia – Kawko i Mlekosz).

– Oyster Stout – oyster based, but the oysters are barely recognizable, because the only part of them used are powdered shells which help with the clarity of the beer and affects its body.

 

* Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) – a special, very strong type of stout (+10% alc.). It originated in England, but was exported to Russia. It’s thick and oily, has a very dark (even brown) foam and a chocolate aroma. Often comes with a BA annotation which means it was Barrel Aged in a barrel that had previously contained a different, strong alcohol. This gives it aromas of vanilla, coconut and wood.

You should try : Browar Stu Mostów – Rye RIS, Browar Łańcut – Zawisza Czarny,

* Witbier – the trick to witbiers are phenols a.k.a. seasoning aromas. It’s most commonly made using coriander and orange peel. It’s pale, light and not very bitter. It’s a good start into the world of craft beer.

You should try: Browar Kormoran – Podróże Kormorana, Browar Profesja – Przekupka (imperial version)

* Sour – very sour since it’s made using lactic acid bacteria. Sometimes it may appear to be off, but that is how it’s supposed to taste. In general they tend to be pale and fresh, a good choice for hot weather. We divide sours into different styles such as:  Berliner Weisse, Flanders, Lambic. The two latter ones are made by spontaneous fermentation of wild yeast and may take even a couple of years to make.

You should try: Browar Probus – Curari (with blackcurrant ), Rasberi (with raspberry), Hopsberi (with raspberry and American hops)

* Gose – a sour beer with salt. Often with the addition of fruit (like gooseberry).

* Wild –a sweaty horse in the rain, a leather bag with straw after a log time in the sun- seriously this is how wild beer tastes. Of course it’s a complicated aroma and varies in different types of beer. The entity responsible are the  Brettanomyces yeast. Lambic is a type of wild beer, made with spontaneous fermentation. Tip: if you see a “wild” beer- ask for a sample.

You should try: Olimp – Hades Gone Wild (wild RIS), Russian River – Beatification,

* Smoked – here you can taste smoked plum, sometimes smoked ham or bunt wood. A special type of smoked beer is beer smoked with peat, which gives it the aroma of burnt cables or whiskey. It’s a difficult type of beer that more experienced beer lovers recommend to try in a small amount first.

You should try: a German beer from the Schlenkerl brewery (the so called “king of smoked”), Browar Golem – Gehenna

Grodziskie – a special type of smoked beer and the second typically Polish style of beer. It originated in Grodzisk Wielkopolski, smells of kielbasa and tastes a bit like lemonade. It’s also known as drivers champagne since it’s very light in alcohol (2-3% alc.)

You should try: beer from the brewery in Grodzisk Wielkopolski

* Session/Summer/Light (most commonly ALE, IPA) –  if you see his type of prefix it means that the beer is lighter and more „drinkable”, it’s less bitter and most of the time has less alcohol. In short: you can drink a fair amount and still be in good shape.

You should try: Browar Profesja – Ratownik, Kopyra & Browar Widawa – Shark

* Kölsch, Bitter, Lichtenhainer, Strong Ale, Brown Porter… – There are over a 100 types of beer, but we have chosen the ones that you are most likely to come across in a pub or restaurant. If you want to learn more about beer visit us at www.piwnyklub.pl or www.festiwaldobregopiwa.pl

VOCABULARY YOU SHOULD KNOW

The beer world has a specific language that is very handy to know when trying to navigate the beer scene or read beer labels. Here we will explain the most important phrases.

International Bittering Units (IBU) – an international unit that describes the bitterness of beer. Lately breweries have taken to describing bitterness not in IBU but for example in the amount of coloredhops cones (e.g. 2 out of 6). The generally used IBU scale look something like this:

* 0-20 IBU – low bitterness, might not even register. Usually found in weizens and sour beers, sometimes in light, session beers.

* 21-40 IBU – slight but noticeable bitterness. It will not make you wince, but it’s also not boring. Found in APAs, Stousts, Baltic Porters, Pils

* 41-60 IBU – here it gets interesting. You might sweat a little, but you should be able to handle the taste. Found in IPAs and stronger beers (e.g. RIS)

* 61-80 IBU – the bitterness is starting to be very strong, your third sip might even be a little much. Found in hoppy IPAs, some RISes and other strong beers.

* 80+ IBU – not for the faint of heart. Your friends might not recognize you after the first sip. Found in very strong and very hoppy beers like double and triple IPAs.

Extract (BLG)  It describes the amount of sugar in the wort. Generally the higher the BLG the stronger, heavier and sweeter the beer (though not always). The sugar in the wort is later converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide in the fermentation process, but some of it stays in the beer and gives it body and sweetness. BLG determines how much sugar was in the beer before fermentation. Dark beers (FES, RIS, Baltic Porter) and heavily hopped beers (double IPA) have a high BLG.

EBC (or SRM, though they are not the same thing)   describes the colour of beer and malt, the higher the EBC (or SRM) factor the marker the beer. EBC are European units whereas SRM are used in the US. To simplify SRM=EBC/2. The scale is as follows:

* 1-10 EBC (1-4 SRM) –pale, e.g. lager, wheat, berliner weisse.

* 11-30 EBC (5-15 SRM) – from saffron to copper (for the gents: yellow to light brown), e.g. pale ale, alt.

* 31-60 EBC (16-30 SRM) – brown e.g bocks, dunkelweizens, barley wine, porters.

* 60+ EBC (30+ SRM) – black, looks like tar e.g. Stouts, RIS.

GLASSWARE

A mug is not the only glass you can drink beer out of. A lot of the types of glassware we are going to present is dedicated to a specific style of beer. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy different beers in your favorite type of glass- the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself. But the general rule for a beer glass is narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. It helps to concentrate the aroma of beer, which can escape easily if the top is wide.So for tasting purposes a mug is not a good choice, but a white wine glass on the other hand…

Glass – glassware without a stem or a handle. Sometimes wrongly called „pokal” ( which is a glass with a stem). Most commonly found in restaurants and bars, usually filled with a lager or a wheat beer.

Mug – it’s any type of glass that has a handle. Most commonly found in establishments not focused on craft beer. They are cumbersome and do not posses any sensory value.

Snifter – a type of pokal. It gathers aromas well. Elegant, shapely, great for complex beers that you want to savour. It was designed for heavier alcohols, like cognac, so it’s great for Baltic porters or imperial stouts.

Teku – it’s narrow at the top, on a log stem. Very popular among people who like to drink good beer out of fine glassware. Makes for a beautiful presentation and is appropriate for virtually any type of beer.Perfect for a romantic candlelit evening, can also double as a wine glass.

IPA Glass – a slightly wonky glass with a rippled bottom section and a tapering bowl. It cumulates aromas and shows of the colour of beer. As the name suggests, it’s great for IPA and APA beers. Its close cousin is the Stout Glass, which has a straight bottom half and is used for stouts.

Hamburg, Nonic, Shaker, Craft Master One, Goblet, Tumbler… – there are many types of beer glasses. When choosing one you should remember that the glass should give you the chance to experience beer with as many senses as possible, taste, smell, sight and even touch.

BEER MYTHS AND FUN FACTS

* “Beer is gold in colour”. This can be disproved at any shop where we can find more than lagers like porters that are almost black in colour or white wheat beers. If we delve deeper into the craft beer world, we can see that the “golden colour” is actually a minority. We can find a whole palette of coloursfrom yellows, oranges, through pinks and reds to browns and blacks, with even the odd green mixed in.

*”Hop soup”. Hops is a seasoning, so it can be added, but doesn’t have to be. It can determine the aroma and taste of beer, but can also be omitted in the beer making process. There are beer types like Gruit Ale which is seasoned only with spices or the Finnish Sahti which is made without any hops or spices. So hops is important but not necessary. The base components of beer are: water, malt and yeast. Full stop.

* “Beer should be cheap”. This is a question of scale. The cost of mass made beer is quite low, below 1 zł for a litre.However in the case of craft beer the cost can be even over ten times higher. The smaller production, the costs of maintaining a smaller installation and more selective components make for the higher price tag.

* “Good beer is chilled beer”. Not every beer. Lighter beers should be served at lest slightly chilled whereas heavier and stronger beers reveal their taste and aroma at a temperature of around 14-15 degres Celsius. Some beer lovers even consider overcooling a RIS a sacralige and wasting a good beer.

*“Cattle bile and spirits in beer”. Everything started in 2013 when a tabloid misinterpreted the results of an inspection made by the authorities in multiple breweries. Many beers where mislabelled which gave birth to a theory that cattle bile was used instead of hops to achieve the desired colour of beer. In the case of spirits the matter is even simpler. Adding spirits to beer is not only financially unprofitable, but also just plain illegal (because of the regulations concerning strong alcohol). Beer can have a strong alcohol aftertaste, but it is the result of a high level of fermentation or a too high fermentation temperature.

* A popular way to rise the alcohol content in beer as well as improve its body is freezing a beer out. The strongest beer in the world has 67,5% alc. and is called Snake Venom.

*  Throughout the years many different things have been used to season beers. Among the most interesting are: forest mushrooms, tomatoes, herring, oysters and even pizza or money.

HOW ABOUT A BEER OF YOUR OWN?

What about brewing your own beer? It’s simple. What will you need? Among other things, a large bucket with a hole and a tap (a fermenter) with a filter or two large buckets, one of them with a sieve like bottom and a large cooking pot, around 50l. You will also need an exact scale, a fridge or other climate controlled at 8-21 degrees area, bottles and caps or some sort of keg, a balingometer or refractometer(to check the level of sugar in your wort) and a silicone hose. That’s not all you may need, but these are the bare essentials of a homebrewing kit. You can find them easily in brewing shops.

First you combine malt and water and mash it. This process is conducted in a variety of temperatures, it depends on the type of beer you want to make, sweet or dry. This allows the enzymes (alfa and beta- amylases) to break down the starch in the grain to simple sugars for the yeast. The mash is usually made in 67 degrees Celsius. Next we filter it using the husk as our filter. Now we can start adding the hops into your boiling wort. This step will determine the bitterness and flavor of our beer. After that we chill our wort by dunking it in a bath of cold water or some other kind of immersion cooler. Next we add yeast. Dry yeast is most commonly used due to its convenience. Dry yeast should be submerged in water and left for half an hour before use. We add the yeast to the wort and we place the chilled wort to the fermentor. We leave the mixture for two weeks in a certain temperature (varies for different beers). After that we can decant the new beer into a fresh fermentor removing the yeast for the purpose of quiet fermentation (not required but advised). After another two weeks we pour the beer into a keg or into bottles, we add sugar and leave it in the same temperature that it was fermenting in for it to carbonate. Another two weeks and we can enjoy our own beer.

WARNING: this is a very shortened version of the process. But the devil is in the details so before brewing your first batch consult an experienced homebrewer or attend a class to get a good idea of the process.