Oconee Brewing of Greensboro, Ga. recently announced the release of Bacon & Kegs beer, a 6.5% ABV red beer brewed in conjunction with the beloved and deplored, but still popular restaurant chain, Waffle House (image shown above Facebook). Understandably, predictable and most likely by design, the story of this beer receives a lot of media attention across the country, even in parts of the country where beer is not, and probably never will be, available. .
Yeah, I'm guilty. I also share the story. Around here the only thing we know about the Waffle House restaurant chain is that Waffle restaurant is often part of a title for a story involving things like nighttime drunkenness, guns, and a shirtless guy from a town called Somethingsberg. So yeah, you make a “Waffle House beer” and people are going to pay attention, even to hell with it here in Washington.
Everything is fine. I have no problem designing a beer to attract attention, assuming the beer is good. Marketing is half the game in the beer business. At least that's part of the game and should never be ignored.
Oconee Brewing's Bacon & Kegs beer is described as having a malty character enhanced with "Salted, Salted and Smoked Bacon Extract". Depending on the brewery, beer pairs well with breakfast foods or can be enjoyed on its own. According to this description, it looks like bacon itself: excellent with breakfast but also stands on its own.
I'm a breakfast meat lover, make no mistake about it. Bacon has a special place in my heart. Ask my doctor. Still, I'm not entirely convinced that bacon should have a place in my beer, or that I really need a beer that pairs well with breakfast.
Whether or not I'm ready to embrace the concept, the craft beer world today is teeming with pastry stouts and breakfast beers. I can think of a brewery here in the Northwest that has basically gained considerable fame among beer lovers because of its culinary-inspired beers.
The style itself is not at all new or even new, but the sudden and increased popularity and visibility is new. It's a trend, not unlike many others we've seen in craft beer. Some stick, some fade. We'll see what happens to these breakfast beers, pastry stouts and other culinary-inspired creations.
I have a few thoughts on how this current trend fits into the overall American craft beer narrative. In some ways, it's harmless and new, but in others, it can be a sign that something is brewing.
And on the shark we go!
For many years, beer enthusiasts have wondered when the craft beer bubble will burst. We anticipated a thinning of the herd. As much as we enjoyed the skyrocketing growth of the craft brewing industry, so much did we endure an uneasy feeling in our guts, the feeling that at some point things would change, that this level of exuberance of craft beer was not sustainable.
Either way, as we all waited for things like market saturation, battling the industry, and consumer choice fatigue to quell the boom, something else might have happened. product: maybe craft beer skipped the shark.
I really hope not. Lord, how tragic would it be if the craft beer industry were destroyed by a ginger-blackberry, rosemary-chive imperial stout strudel?
Good is good. Bad is not
At their best, breakfast beers, pastry stouts and other culinary-inspired creations are well-crafted and expertly executed - delicious beers that push the boundaries of taste we think of beer. At worst, they're whimsical and disgusting - head shakers, palace wreckers, dump trucks.
It's nothing new, right? Craft beer enthusiasts have always sought to find new and unexpected flavors in their beers. Flavor has long been the allure of the beloved elixir. The long-standing popularity of IPA and the subsequent focus of misty and juicy IPA is a case in point.
Since the birth of modern craft beer, flavor has been the driving force. Good flavor. Beer flavor. The breakfast beer etc. can be a bit too much. Maybe we are trying a little too hard to be smart and creative.
Consider how Oconee Brewing describes their Bacon & Kegs red beer bacon beer: “The beloved smell of bacon stands out from the typical, average hop aroma of a red beer. The malty sweetness of the base beer goes perfectly with the salty, salty and [smokey] bacon extract to create a delicious and unique beer.
I don't mean to denigrate this particular beer. For all I know, Bacon & Kegs is an amazing beer.
I don't mean to denigrate this type of beer. The truth is, I have enjoyed a lot of brewed beers for breakfast and baking themed and will probably enjoy a lot more. Beers that excited my palate and challenged my mind.
At the same time, I threw in more than my share. Some of them are just unnecessary. Not only undrinkable, but uninteresting and predictable. It's not enough to make a beer that tastes like a pineapple upside-down cake, the real trick is to make a beer that tastes good and tastes like a pineapple cake. the reverse. Otherwise it's like listening to a long, endless, really bad joke that's so boring you know the punchline long before it comes.
These types of culinary-inspired beers are best served occasionally. It is one thing that they are enjoying a day in the sun, but God help us if this trend continues to persist. Many of the consumers that the craft beer industry hopes to attract are stepping aside while waiting to get into the game. This kind of nonsense could make them turn their backs, lift their middle fingers up and go back in. the cheap beer aisle.
Make. Well. Beer.
At all breweries, I have a few tips. Make a beer because it's good. Remember what Dr Ian Malcolm said in the movie jurassic park, “Your scientists were so concerned whether they could, they did not stop to think if they should."
Make good beer. I know many, many of you, and you are perfectly capable of mastering the food and beer thing. Far be it from me to challenge your creativity, that is not my intention. Just keep an eye on the price. Make. Well. Beer.
Just because you can making a beer that tastes like a casserole for breakfast doesn't mean you should make a beer that tastes like a casserole for breakfast. If you have a concept for a beer that tastes like a cherry-almond Danish and you think it's actually going to be a great beer, go for it, but don't just do it because it's trendy. these days.
Do it because you are inspired. Do it because it will be a good beer. Otherwise, don't worry. Well, unless that gets you a ton of free publicity. In that case, go ahead.
Extract packs have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.
If you’re making beer, then you need to be rigorous about cleanliness during the brew. VWP is an absolutely no-nonsense cleaner and steriliser for getting everything ready beforehand. During the brew, a no-rinse sanitiser is invaluable. Between the two, spoilt and infected beer shouldn’t be a problem. You can buy cleaning products online from Brew Store and The Malt Miller.
Invest in some airtight plastic conteneurs. Malt, kept dry and cool, should be fine for six months, but get rid of it after that – you’re only going to get stale flavours if you use stale malt. Likewise, dried yeast will keep, if sealed and chilled, but it will lose potency and reliability. Hops do not improve with age. Be doubtful of any before last year’s harvest, however cheap.
While a good book is an invaluable reference, there will be a time you come across something that flummoxes you. It’s very unlikely you will be the first, and just as unlikely someone else hasn’t discussed it. From the magisterial, if dense, How tera Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable cercles d'entraides and blogs discussing minutiae, such as Brewer’s Friend, there’ll be something to help.
Avoid large amounts of table sugar, cane sugar or dextrose as fermentable sugars in your homebrew. They will ferment out completely and leave a very dry, almost ‘cidery’ flavour to your beer. This is what is recognized by many as the ‘homebrew’ taste. If you are looking for an easy way to improve this, swap these sugars with dry malt extract.
Most pack beers are designed to appeal to a wide range of people and therefore have a fairly simple flavour that it not very bitter. They are also generally bittered by using hop extract that adds bitterness but little hop flavour or aroma. Boil some water and add ½ an ounce ( 14 grams ) of any hop variety known for their flavour and aroma characteristics for 20 minutes. This will add a much improved change to the flavour of the beer. Add another ½ ounce ( 14g ) for the last 5 minutes of the boil to add a pleasant hoppy aroma. Simply strain the ‘hop soup’ into your fermenter with the rest of the top-up water. These simple hops additions will make a remarkable difference to your kit beers.
tera wake a packet of dry yeast up and ensure that it is ready to start work as soon as it is pitched, try rehydrating it. Boil a cup ( 250mls ) of water for 5 minutes and then pour it into a sterilized container. Wait for the water to cool down to at least 80°F/27°C and sprinkle your packet of yeast over the top. Leave this for about 15-30 minutes, when you should start to see it get nice and foamy. Once your wort has cooled enough, pitch this and it will start fermentation much earlier.
If you would really like to get things started, follow the process above but add a tablespoon of dry malt extract to the water before boiling it. After pouring the water to a jar, add your yeast when cool enough and place cling wrap over the top to protect from the environment. Leave for at least 45 minutes at room temperature and you should start to see fermentation activity.
The length of time for fermentation on the side of your coffret beer can is almost definitely not long enough. The manufacturers are in the business of selling product and these instructions will make beer, but it won’t be great beer. This should be extended out to 10-14 days.
Although your beer will be carbonated after about a week in the bottle, leave it for a few more to allow for the flavors to settle. This is especially relevant for beer made from kits as it will help remove some of the biroute found in young/’green’ beer.
In order to efficiently multiply and get to the business of converting sugar to alcohol, yeast needs a sufficient amount of oxygen in your wort. If brewing using malt extract this can be reached a few ways including by shaking the water you are using to top up your wort, or by pouring it from a great height into your fermenter.
Don’t be too worried about removing your beer from the primary fermenter as soon as fermentation has finished. The Autolysis that you are seeking to avoid will take well over a month and in most cases a solo stage fermentation is fine.
If you are looking to control fermentation temperature, place the fermenter in a large conteneur of water to cool it and prevent temperature fluctuations. Wrapping a wet towel around it and pointing a amateur ou amatrice at it cools it even more through evaporative cooling. A few frozen plastic bottles of water are also perfect for cooling the water and your fermenting beer.
If you insist on using a two stage fermentation, use a bottling bucket ( or something else with a spigot ) for a primary. That way you only need a length of hose to rack into the secondary. The spigot will also be far enough off the bottom that the trub will get left in the primary with little extra effort – just tilt the fermenter forward at the end.
The activity of your airlock should only be seen as one indication that something is happening. There are many others indications and a faulty seal on your fermenter could stop anything from happening in the airlock.
The starting cell count is usually quite low with liquid yeast d'environnement. If you make a yeast starter about a day before brewing, you can avoid some potential issues from under-pitching the yeast.
If you are trying to cool a partial boil, place the whole brew récipient into a sink or tub of cold water. You may need to change this water a few times but it is far easier to cool a small bocal of wort in a temperature conductive container ( i. e. your brew pot ) than a large amount of liquid in a fermenter. Adding your cooled wort to even colder water ( or ice ) in the fermenter will serve to cool it even further and should hopefully get you close to yeast pitching temperatures.
Dry yeast packets are perfect for new homebrewers. They have a nice high cell count and are very easy to use. Hydrating these takes very little time and will help get fermentation working earlier.
Get into the habit of sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your wort or beer after the boil.
Extract kits have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.
Use a no-rinse sanitiser… This shouldn’t need an explanation and I am yet to hear of a real reason not to
Following on from above – Don’t use bleach as a sanitizer…ever. It is to rinse out and if any comes in contact with the maltose in your wort it has the potential to completely ruin your batch. There are so many better products available that this shouldn’t even be a consideration
Whatever sanitizer you use, put some of it in a spray bottle for quick sanitation during brew time.
Make sure you read and understand the recipe before you start brewing. Also make sure that you have all the ingredients handy before you start. These seem like simple things but the last 15 minutes can get a little crazy… especially if you started drinking while sanitizing
Beer is very resilient so don’t be too worried if you make a mistake while brewing. Although it may not be exactly the beer you were after, you will probably still have something tasty and worth drinking.
Leave the lid off your brew récipient while it is boiling. The process of boiling actually vaporises chemicals that are not wanted in the beer and they evaporate out. The lid doesn’t need to be completely off if you are having trouble maintaining a rolling boil but should at least be enough for the steam to escape.
Keep a record of every beer that you make, no matter how simple the recipe. This record will allow you to recall and tweak your brews when all that remains in the future is a couple of stray bottles and a desire for more
Especially when starting out, keep your ingredients and brews as simple as possible. It is much easier to add to a simple recipe that is missing something than it is to remove from something complex
Start by getting a solid grasp of the sanitization, fermentation and bottling processes and work from there.
If you have a choice, choose a fermenter or bottling bucket with a spigot/tap over one without. The siphoning required otherwise isn’t hard but it is still one more unnecessary step.
Bulk priming your beer is a simple addition to your bottling process that will add much greater control and consistency in the amount of priming sugar in your bottles.
The quality of your beer will be relative to the quality of the ingredients used. Always go for the freshest and best quality possible. Always make sure that extract is within any specified dates, yeast is fresh and that hops are nice and green
But most importantly… just relax and remember that you probably aren’t going to ruin your beer – It isn’t as delicate as you think