Just how sour

Edit: This story was awarded 2nd place in the Technical Writing category at the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) awards. While I’m extremely grateful to the judges, it’s humbling yet a li’l embarrassing that the estimable technical beer writer Randy Mosher placed 3rd for this cool story, “Hot Process: Exploring the role of heat in brewing” in All About Beer. Stan Heironymus took 1st place with his story on brewing with honey, also in AAB.

Remember Top Secret? Remember that great song in it, How Silly Can You Get? That’s how I think of a lot of beers. How alcoholic can you get? Brewmeister’s Snake Charmer has an ABV of 67.5% How bitter can you get? Flying Monkey’s Alpha-fornication packs 2,500 IBU. From OG/FG to SRM, brewers have a lot of measurements and acronyms to tell the consumer just how something something is. For sour heads, ours may come in the form of TA. Titratable Acidity. Firestone Walker Brewing isn’t the first to use TA in their lab, but they are the first to put how quantifiably sour their beer is right on the label of their funky Barrelworks offerings.

Now, a quick word about this story on Titratable Acidity just published in the November issue of BeerAdvocate: it’s crazy heavy on the chemistry-spiel, and I barely passed high school chemistry. I do this from time to time–I really challenge myself to wrap my head around a story. I had never heard the word “titratable” or “titration/titrating” before pitching this. I bludgeoned these poor master brewers, master blenders, and folks with Ph.D.s in food and brewing science with questions first so I could begin to understand what’s going on with the acidity in certain beers–specifically what types of acids are present and how they got there–and once I felt semi-comfortable with that, I had to write it up for the readers who didn’t have the same access I got. SO… if you think this story is “TL;DR” just imagine poor little me for whom it was nearly TL;DW. (And here I massively applaud my editor at BA, Ben Keene, for whom this must’ve been challenging to no end but did a masterful job, even if he originally assigned me 1,800 words, then caved and gave me 2,000, and somehow got it way, way down to 2,300!)

Brewets: Brewer-Musician Collaborations

Brewers are musicians who compose songs made of beer. Put these brewing and musical artists together and the ensuing duets (bruets? brewets?) and the results can be music to your mouth.

Many bands are comprised of a guitar, bass, drums and a singer. Beer is made from hops, malted barley, water and yeast. The similarities between those four instruments and ingredients truly rock!

Think of a beer’s malt bill as the bass, providing the foundation by laying down the rhythm. Hops are analogous to guitars, as top notes keep everything in harmony and are usually flashier. Tempo is the crucial element of any given piece—yet rarely gets the glory—so water plays the role of drums. Finally, what’s a song without a melody, so think of the voice as yeast. Coincidence? Find out in this CraftBeer.com post from Sept 2012.

Birth of a beer

To kick off 2011 in All About Beer (Vol. 32, Iss. 1) I looked at how beers today are conceived quite differently than when beer itself was still being created. Many generations and scientific breakthroughs later, some brewers strive to recreate traditional styles while others run shrieking from them. Authenticity versus innovation (or authenticity plus innovation) are factors allowing so deep a field of brewers to give birth to new beers.

Kids in the Brewhouse

Kids in the Brewhouse is the first story I wrote for this magazine in 2008 (Vol. 30, Iss. 2, 2009) about the second generation of craft brewers. Not the men and women who opened the second-wave of craft breweries, mind you, but the first wave’s founders’ kids.