Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gruit: Or, the problem with bitters

NGIEWSASDASDAGHK:LJELSAKRJER.
So. Corey hates bitter. I’m trying to find him a beer that he’ll enjoy so we can find a beer to make and the only things that I can find are mild ale, Gruit (flavored with not-hops) or developing some bastard brew technique that doesn’t leave the hops in long enough to make the brew bitter, but does leave the hops in long enough to sanitize.
Ugh, okay, let me explain.
As opposed to making wine or mead, beer classically has way less alcohol content. While wine classically has enough alcohol in it to “keep” indefinitely (the alcohol acts as a preservative) beer normally does not. When you smell stale, sour beer, it’s because the sugars that are leftover from the fermenting process (and what has all those delicious, empty calories) can spoil as the alcohol content isn’t high enough to keep the drink from going bad.
Enter hops. The essential oils and whatnot in the humble little hop-flower and its associated parts not only act as a flavoring agent (yum) but also as a botanical preservative. Add in the fact that the other job that this plant performs is to add a little bitter to counterbalance the sweet of the malted barley (or whatever grain) and you get a beverage which is complex and delicious on the palate.
So, let’s say you dislike hops, or (bless your poor soul) are allergic. What do you do? Well, there’s Gruit, which is beer made with the same principle as regular beer but instead of using hops, they use other botanical ingredients. There’s apparently some historical controversy involving the church but basically the facts are this: Once upon a time we got all our preservative for beer from botanicals other than hops. Sometime during the castle-and-peasant-burn-the-witch time period (Look, we’re not discussing the dark ages or the middle ages and what is what, we’re just not, okay? Let it go. It’s not going to happen.) somewhere in Germany (apparently, plz not to crucify, Mister Internet, thx) a movement came about and tadaa, we started using hops.
Lots of people these days prefer to make their homebrews with Gruit, which is all well and good! I’m totally down with that, but the problem is this: It’s not the hoppy flavor of flowers and grass and aromatics and citrus that Corey doesn’t like. It’s the bitter.
Fuck. Me.
Okay. Okay. We can do this. We can look at the math and sit down and figure out how long and in what stage to add what botanical, be it hops or fucking heather or whatever to make the beer just a little bitter. Just a little. Just enough to be clean, just enough to be sweet and light and balanced.
I am so swamped with halfassed information that I can’t begin to tell you guys where we’re going to start. So, for now, as is the truth with all beer brewing, we must start with beer drinking.
We need to get some good milk stouts and I dunno, a mild ale, or just say “fuck it” and do us up something he can’t possibly bitch about and devote some serious time to making a lambic. HAHA. IT WOULD BE EASIER TO MAKE FRUIT WINE BUT NO. NO.
Corey has the palate of a seven year old. And hey, he’s a lot of people. Lots of folks can’t take the bitter and honestly it’s something you have to let grow on you. An acquired taste.
But for the love of God, if he can come to terms with the nasty ass cheese he’s always buying (Look, cheese shouldn’t be runny and smell like something died in something else’s butt, okay?) and trying to foist on me he can come to term with something complicatedly simple and bitterly delicious.
Or, you, my dear readers, are going to be treated to a lot, lot, lot more swearing as time goes on.
Anyway, cats and kittens. Until then I shall get back to trudging through the muck and trying to find a resolution to this conundrum.

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