Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CT Column 30/03/2011: Give a man a beer

‘Give a man a beer and he will waste an hour, teach him to brew and he will waste a lifetime’ or so the saying goes.
However for some of us learning to brew beer at home, it has been anything but a waste with many of the craft brewing industries key players having started out as amateurs. Luke Nicholas of Epic originally started homebrewing while at University in 1989.Invercargill Brewing’s Steve Nally gave homebrewing a go after reading about it in the Listener. Richard Emerson still counts a homebrewed batch of beer, the majority of which he tipped down the drain before it had matured, as his best batch ever. More recently, contract brewers like Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired have blurred the lines between amateurs and pros.
The one thing that all of these brewers, and incidentally myself, have in common is that we all started out our brewing careers using canned homebrew kits of the sort that you see on the shelves in supermarkets and homebrew stores around the country.
These cans of hopped malt extract present a very simple way for a homebrewer to create beer of moderate quality. One of the downsides to these kits is that the evaporation process that allows 20 litres of beer to fit in a small can ends up knocking out many of the volatile flavour and aroma elements resulting in a dull but convenient product.
Last year Jim Matranga of Mapua’s Golden Bear Brewing came up with an idea that could help his small brewpub use its brewing capacity and help entry and intermediate level homebrewers to brew better beer. The result has been coined “wort in a bag” and consists of a box and bladder much like a cardboard wine cask that holds unfermented beer, or wort as brewers call it, from the Golden Bear brew house. The homebrewer then pours the wort into a fermenting bucket and adds yeast to ferment the beer at home. More experienced brewers can add extra hops, spices and select particular yeast strains to ‘make the brew their own’. Because the wort is not evaporated it retains much more flavour and complexity than traditional homebrew from a can.
I recently tried out the wort in a bag system and the results were fantastic with the resulting keg of fruity pale ale disappearing rather quickly. Time will only tell how many of tomorrow’s professional brewers will start out using Jim’s invention.
Golden Bear Fresh Wort Kits are available from online retailer Liberty Brewing and from the Golden Bear brewpub itself at Port Mapua, Tasman Bay. Cheers.

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