There are multiple variables that contribute to the overall taste of beer, obviously the choice of ingredients has a large say. Mash temperature, duration, duration of fermentation and heat conditions are a few others. Since we are still learning, we have been experimenting with different combinations of the core ingredients: grain, yeast and hops.
For the time being we are trying to brew an Ale. Ales and Lagers are distinguished by the type of fermenting yeast used. Within an ale, there are even further variations. For example, when the hops are most exaggerated, this will give us something similar to that of an American pale ale or IPA. The malt is what gives beer its rich colour, and if this is most prominent you might get a stout, and when the yeast brings the greatest flavour, this might give us something similar to a Belgian style beer. We have been changing one ingredient or measurement per brew in order to better understand how these changes effect the flavour…
Usually beer is made from malted barley or malted wheat grains. We have recently been using a basic barley ale grain from a maltery called De Swaen. Since our beer brewing process has the dual objective of using the spent grain as a substrate to grow mycelium onto to make our insulation panels, as well as creating some delicious beers, we need to create the best possible conditions for this, and to nurture the growth of our mycelium spawn. Barley is far more fibrous than wheat, which we believe will enhance the quality and speed of the mycelium growth. We hope to soon start looking into varieties of malt, perhaps the addition of some caramel malts will help improve the flavour.
The addition of hops to the wort during cooking is what gives the beer its bitterness. Particularly with the earlier hop addition - the flavour is cooked away and you are left with a bitter flavour. If you were to imagine how food changes its taste from its raw state to the flavour after having been cooked, the same goes for cooking hops. You can add as many or as little hops as you would for your beer - it is all a matter of taste… quite literally! You might want to make one, two or three different additions with different quantities. We have generally been doing two to three separate additions – typically adding lower quantities in the first few minutes after the Brauwmeister reaches boiling point, and five minutes before the end before we start the sparging process.
You can also do something called ‘dry hopping’, which takes place after primary fermentation. Dry hopping often adds to a beers fresh aroma. This is something we are hoping to test out before too long. ‘Citra’ hops are our most used hop choice at the moment. It is a popular use for ales, and, is known for its interesting citrus, fruity flavours and strong aroma. Other hops that we have tested include Saaz, Fuggles, Cascade and Amarillo.
The yeast is responsible for not only converting the sugar from the wort into alcohol, but also heavily effects the flavour. There is a plethora choice of different yeast strains that can be used. Until recently we have been using Newcastle Dark Ale, but we recently started using Danstar Windsor Ale yeast after being recommended it. These English Ale strains are supposed to have a lot of flavour and sweetness, whilst also enhancing the character of the malt.
…watch this space for results!