Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A practical guide to beer flavors with snobby sounding names

So after being scorned by my fellow bloggers about using the description 'fruit esters' in one of my reviews, I decided it would be fun- and hopefully enlightening- to write a quick and dirty guide that traverses some basic flavors and aromas beer drinkers commonly encounter. These typical flavors and aromas are produced by certain chemicals with names that usually turn people off. Also worth noting : they are usually associated with snobbery. And I agree that 99% of people don't give two shits, although it took some convincing on Andy's part. Honestly, who gives a damn about technicalities if you aren't making beer yourself? If you ever do decide to brew beer some day, as the Andrews household has begun to do so, this might deem itself worthwhile.

Without further ado!

Diacetyl: A chemical produced during beer production that gives beers a butterscotch flavor. This can be easily confused with caramel flavors from malts. The latter is desired, the former is not.

Esters: A large number of flavors are caused by esters, and those esters are byproducts of the strain of yeast used to make beer. The most commonly experienced is that of banana as evident in hefeweizens and belgian ales. More specific these are termed fruity esters since not all esters produce fruit like flavors.

Phenols: The most common flavor associated with phenols is that of cloves. In general its a spicy like flavor and aroma. This is also very common in hefeweizens and belgian ales. Phenols are also a byproduct of the strain of yeast employed in the fermentation process.

As such, this is why the most important ingredient needed that produces the typical flavors in your run of the mill hefeweizen or Belgian beer is the strain of yeast. There is no way to replicate a Belgian ale without using a Belgian strain of yeast. And there is no way to produce a proper hefeweizen without using the proper yeast strain. This is why there is such a big difference in the flavor profile of an American wheat beer versus a German wheat beer. The only major difference besides the yeast is the quantity of wheat used.

So, moral of the story, yeast matters a ton. Although I will admit, using esters to describe a flavor is silly unless you are trying to figure out how to replicate a beer recipe.

Now go have a drink on me. I will reimburse you I'm rich.