Day 449

Commuting 65 km (40 mi) to the college has its disadvantages, of course: weather and road conditions, early mornings, late evenings… and if a class is cancelled, you can’t just head back home, watch some TV and then return to campus for your next class. Which is what happened yesterday morning–I arrived at 8:30 am to discover that our Brewhouse Calculations class had been cancelled due to teacher illness. Rather than waiting six hours until History of Beer, I decided to drive home and stay there to work on outstanding papers and projects for the rest of the day. So yes, I skipped class for the first time since high school. (But instead of hanging out at the Bar-Head Tavern like I might have done in high school, I actually got a lot of work done. <Sigh> Irresponsible youth was a lot more fun, I must say.)

Today, in History of Rock & Roll it was on to the terrible Eighties–the “Me Decade” of musical drivel that foisted Phil Collins, Madonna, Milli Vanilli and rap music on us. Oh yes, there were a few bright spots, such as AC/DC’s Back in Black, Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. But mainly it was just a bad time for rock. (The premiere of MTV didn’t help either–since they were in desperate need of music videos in the early days, a lot of bad bands with bad hair (such as A Flock of Seagulls) got a lot of airplay.)

On to Business Ethics for Round 2 of student-versus-student debate.

Beer cocktail

Our beer cocktail. Tune in next week for the recipe.

In between classes, it was time for more gin tasting as my partner and I strove to find a new recipe for a beer cocktail. This week, we came up with the perfect formulation that also looks very cool. Beer cocktail presentation day in Sensory Evaluation is next Wednesday, so I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet regarding the recipe, but I will give you a sneak peek.

On to FCF, where we finished up the semester with a look at waste management strategies, and an in-depth look at brewing with Brettanomyces  [pronounced breh-TAN-no-MY-sees], a rogue yeast that for most of the 20th century was greatly feared and loathed by all brewmasters.

There were several reasons for this emnity. Firstly, unlike your friendly neighbourhood Saccharomyces brewing yeasts, it is able to eat up all sugars, no matter how large or long the glucose chain. (Saccharomyces chokes on anything larger than maltotriose, a short string of three glucose molecules.) This means a beer infected with Brett becomes a very dry beer with a thin mouthfeel, because the Brett has eaten all the sugars, even the long chain sugars that contribute to fuller mouthfeel. The alcohol content can also climb, since Brett is able to convert all sugars into CO2 and alcohol.

Secondly, Brett will throw odd flavours into the beer: depending on which strain of Brett, this could be sourness, strong fruity esters, and what can only be charitably be described as barnyard aromas.

Once Brett has entered your brewery, he almost never leaves without a fight. Brett is extremely hardy, and extremely difficult to eradicate.

Lastly, Brett is not domesticated like Saccharomyces, so when you let it off its leash, you are never sure what it is going to do. Even the flavours and esters it throws off can vary depending on the types of sugar it digests.

Nevertheless, more and more craft brewers are adding Brett to their beer, especially for bottle- or cask-conditioning, to give their beers more complexity. This is nothing new of course. For many years, Guinness added Brettanomyces A to Guinness to dry it out. For centuries, Belgian lambic brewers threw open their windows and invited Brett L into their beers for the resultant complex sourness, extreme dryness, higher alcohol and yes, barnyard aromas.

Don’t know if I’ll ever brew with Brett, but it is fascinating to see a part of the industry wholeheartedly embracing what the rest of the industry sees as the brewing equivalent of the cockroach.

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