Beer Jargon Part 3
Get your beer geek on and your notebooks out because we are doing some serious learning this week. Big words. Science. That kind of thing. Some of you might call it “dry”. And you might be right. But it is still all about the magic of making our favourite wet stuff so read on.
Wort is basically what beer is before it becomes beer – the “beer starter”, it sometimes called. It’s not a pretty word and, trust me, you wouldn’t want to drink it. But if a wort is of good quality, then chances are it will become a good beer. Essentially the wort is the result of the mashing process whereby the malted grain (usually barley) is mixed with water and boiled to produce the sweet and malty liquid that contains all the sugars that the yeast will munch up and convert to alcohol. Hops can be added during the boil and then after it’s cooled down sufficiently, the yeast starts working its magic.
Adjuncts are products added to the brew in addition to or as a substitute to the main ingredient (which will usually be malted barley). Sometimes they are added for the fairly mundane reason of reducing costs. For example, the use of a more economical source of starch like corn or rice instead of barley in lagers (though this may have started out as an attempt to improve the quality of a beer, not just to cheapen it). The fun adjuncts are the ones that are added to complement or alter or add interest to the taste of a beer. And, if you can name it, it’s probably been used – wheat, oats, maple syrup, molasses, cinnamon, liquorice, coffee, chocolate, chilli, oysters, potato, coconut... Check out the GABs festival beer line up for some great examples of truly creative adjuncts.
Belgian witbier is a great example of a beer brewed with a variety of adjuncts. Unmalted wheat is used to brew Belgian witbier and usually makes up at least half the grist, along with some oats. This gives the style its distinctive pale, opaque appearance, silky mouthfeel, and delicious spritely tang. The other defining features of the style are coriander and orange peel – in most witbiers the coriander aroma will positively envelop you and the orange peel adds a real citric bite. It’s good stuff.
Esters are produced during fermentation and refer to a particular set of aromas and flavours. Usually they are very fruity in character but you can also get esters that taste like nail polish remover. Ugh. The type of esters produced depends very much on the strain of yeast being used and the kind of fermentation taking place and the expertise and ability of the brewer. Fermentation at higher temperatures tends to produce more esters which is why cold fermented lager is generally said to have a cleaner, crisper character with far few discernible. For a great example of easily identifiable esters, get your hands on a good Hefeweizen and take a big whiff . That distinctive banana smell? That’s iso-amyl acetate, the same ester that is found in bananas.
We’re going to get stuck into more detail on tasting beers in coming weeks so stick around. Righto. Class dismissed.