People who brew beer do so with a strong focus on flavour and drinkability and those who are adept at brewing are in all practical senses like chefs. Make them taste a dish (or, in our case, taste a beer) and they start thinking about what went into creating that experience.
I have been a home brewer since 2006 and have brewed over 150 batches of beer and most of what you drink from Gateway Brewing Co., is one of my recipes (obviously with contribution from our brewers) tweaked to suit a 1000 litre batch size. What is really important here is that we brewers create beers that we like to drink as well! Having said that, how does one go about giving birth to a new beer? Or, why?
Let’s start with the why as it is quite straight forward: Boredom or a desire to create something new. Craft beer drinkers (those of us who drink beer for taste rather than only inebriation) like to explore and savour various flavours and after drinking the same beer for many months, we want something new. Along these lines, there are many that like to experiment. Be bold. Stay off the beaten path. Be different. Get it?
For us, at Gateway, it is the same thing. We want to keep things fresh and want to change our offerings on a regular basis so that people get a chance to explore new flavours. So, how do we do it? Simple. Get inspired and let our thoughts run wild.
Recently, I was in Prague, Czech Republic, for vacation and had the opportunity to drink the dark lager that is widely available there. I wanted to brew this beer and make it available to all the craft beer lovers because it is such a great beer - Sweet, malty with caramel and subtle coffee notes. It goes very well with their traditional bread and is simply divine.
Being a brewer (chef, if you may), thoughts started popping into my head and a recipe was born. At first, it is only a thought. A few tweaks and the final beer is born. Let me take you through the process of creating the beer in a very non-technical manner.
Think about art & craft in school and about mixing colours. Think about tea & toast.
- 1. The beer is dark so we will need some dark brown or black colours
Beer is made with barley malt that is a light beige in colour. Just like the crust of the bread you eat at home. How do you make it dark or black? Toast it, right? Exactly the same thing happens with beer. We take a portion (say 5%) of the barley malt and roast it to a light-to-medium brown colour. If we roast it further (or, burn it) and make it black, guess what flavours we will get? Burnt and coffee flavours. We want some of that in the beer so a light-to-medium brown colour will do.
Next time you are eating toast, try different levels of toasting. See if you can pick-up notes of caramel, coffee etc. in the toast.
- 2. The beer is sweetish so we need to have some sugar
We don’t really add sugar to the beer but we extract sugar from the barley malt in the brewing process. This sugar (maltose) is then fermented into beer and it contains alcohol and carbon di-oxide. A higher amount of sugar will result in a beer that is sweetish.
Also, hops are bittering agents added to beer to ensure that it is not overly sweet. So, if you add less of it, you will have a sweetish beer. Finally, to ensure sweetness, you can add barley malts that have been roasted wet. These malts add a caramel sweetness to beer. Think caramelised sugar!
- 3. The beer is malty with caramel and subtle coffee notes so we need some of these ingredients
We can add cold extracted coffee that will give us these flavours but it is not necessary. Roasting the barley malt and adding, perhaps 1%, of very highly roasted malt (think burnt bread), does the trick.
- 4. Beer has alcohol so, add alcohol
Just kidding. We don’t add alcohol to make beer. It is produced by the yeast in the process of fermentation. We control that by controlling the quantity of sugar (derived as maltose from barley malt) available to the yeast. More sugar = more alcohol.
This is a simple take on how we create recipes at Gateway. Feel free to read more about the hobby of making beer at home and how to create recipes. It is truly rewarding. Or, at the very least, try drinking different craft beer and start identifying flavours in them! Enjoy.