Super Bowl Hangover

If you managed to stay awake for the Super Bowl (no shame if you didn’t, it was a snoozefest) you might have noticed AB-InBev pull out their claws and go for the throat.  They specifically called out both Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in a series of Bud Light ads throughout the night.  How will this play out for Bud Light and ABI? In my opinion, not well.

In the current age of instant fact checking, people quickly realized, while Bud Light might not use corn syrup, many other ABI brands do.  So, technically, they aren’t lying when they say Bud Light doesn’t, but it’s a bad look to call out a competitors ingredient that you also use.

BudLight

This post from the Mad Fermentationist was posted at 4:38PM (Pacific Time), in other words, DURING the game.

Jeff Alworth’s Beervana Blog offered a quick recap posted later that night, AB InBev’s Weird Super Bowl Message, which also points out that ABI makes more than just Bud Light, including a beer that also got a Super Bowl spot, Stella Artois which uses corn as an ingredient.

The Beer Business Daily newsletter published on Monday morning did not pull any punches.  A couple things popped out to me while I was reading it.  This was the first.

“One of the first rules they teach you in marketing school is you never, ever, under any circumstances, name your competitors when they are smaller than you. Second, if you do, don’t disparage them because it makes you appear to be a bully. ” BBD 2-4-19

I hadn’t really thought about the bullying angle.  I had always heard, the leader in a category doesn’t mention it’s competitors in ads because it doesn’t have too.  Take Coke for example.  Pepsi is running ads about how Pepsi is consistently ranked higher than Coke in blind taste tests, while Coke is running ads about polar bears drinking Coke.  Pepsi has to try to PROVE it’s better.  This is what makes this so wild.  ABI isn’t acting like the industry leader.  They are acting like a wounded animal, lashing out violently but randomly.  They seem to be acting out of fear.

The next thing that struck me is this (emphasis mine):

“IS IT FAIR? Well, all is fair in love and war, and this is war. A-B knew it could leverage it’s huge audience without the majority of consumers checking the fine print. High fructose corn syrup, of course, has been widely publicized as an evil ingredient in most products. I’m sure A-B tested for that. But no MillerCoors products are brewed with HFCS.

Many beer brands brew with regular corn syrup, which includes ABI’s second largest brand outside the U.S., Corona. But not sure the average consumer gets the distinction. And of course, in brewing, the vast majority of the corn syrup is fermented anyway into ethanol and carbon dioxide, just as any starch, including rice. But that is lost on the majority of the public.” BBD 2-4-19

This cuts to the heart of not what they are doing, but why.  Throw out a dirty word that the public hates (sliding by on the lack of distinction between HFCS and CS) and pin your opponents name to it.  Unfortunately, nowadays this will most likely have the opposite effect of focusing people on Bud Light and asking, so what’s in YOUR beer that you don’t want us to know about? This drives me mad with Coors Light commercials all the time.  They make huge bold statements (COLD FILTERED, COLD PACKAGED) that, while they are true, are not unique to Coors Light.  Every beer on the planet (save perhaps bottle conditioned Belgians) is cold aged, cold filtered and cold packaged.  You can’t filter or package warm beer.  But, the majority of the public doesn’t know that, Coors is the only one to put it in their ads and therefore Coors is special.  That’s what ABI is doing here as well, it’s an advertising sleight of hand. “It’s not that we DON’T use Corn syrup…. but they DO!” It’s not lying, but….

So, let’s talk about sugar here for a minute.  Maltose (the sugar from Malted Barley) is a disaccharide (two sugars) formed from two glucose molecules.  Dextrose (usually refered to as Corn Sugar) is a single glucose molecule. Yeast break down the maltose into single glucoses (dextrose) and from that point on they are identical.  Sucrose (sugar from cane or beets, common granulated sugar) is a disaccharide formed from one glucose and one fructose. Fructose is commonly referred to as fruit sugar since it was likely first discovered in fruits, but these different configurations of carbon structures exist in all starch/sugar containing foods.  Corn Syrup is made by treating corn starch with enzymes to break down the long chains into dextrose and double glucoses still referred to as (you guessed it) maltose.  They are chemically identical whether they come from barley or corn.  The yeast cannot tell a difference.  High Fructose Corn Syrup has a bad wrap mostly because it’s in everything that’s bad for you, soda, cakes, cookies, etc.  But here’s the thing, it’s identical to sucrose.  HFCS is corn syrup that’s been treated with enzymes to convert some of the glucose to fructose.  How much you ask? About 42% fructose to 50-52% glucose and the rest longer chain starches, which is the exact same formulation as sucrose.  That’s intentional.  Fructose “tastes” sweeter than glucose, which means corn syrup isn’t as “sweet”, so HFCS has been modified to have the same flavor profile as table sugar.  Now, I’m not saying it’s good for you, but it’s no worse than sucrose.  The new sodas made “Without HFCS” and “Made with REAL sugar” etc are implying that regular sugar is better for you. Of course, legally they can’t make that claim, so they expect the consumer to make that jump, which most do.  This beer ad does the same thing. “We can’t say it’s bad, but you know it’s bad so you’ll do that math for us.”

Miller Lite of course fired back with a full page ad in the New York Times which was not surprising, and also not surprisingly they play off the corn syrup vs HFCS trope as well saying: “What might have gotten a little lost […] is the distinction between “corn syrup” and High Fructose Corn Syrup”

As far as our bodies are concerned, sucrose and HFCS are chemically identical.  Any implication that one tastes better (or even different for that matter) is bogus and any implication that one is better or worse for your body is bogus.  We all know sugar of any kind in large quantities is bad for you.  The type of sugar honestly doesn’t matter.  Your body converts all of it to glucose.

This holds true for brewing as well.  Whether the sugar comes from wheat, barley, corn, rice or cane sugar, in the end it all gets converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide.  It really doesn’t matter.  To try to claim rice is better than corn is foolish.  And yes, lets acknowledge the fact that a lot of this “rice and corn bashing” in macro beers is coming from the same people who will happily drink a beer with lactose (milk sugar) and/or actual Lucky Charms in the mash tun.  Hypocrisy is not a good look for anyone.  I have the same reactions when “craft” people bash regular beer.

The last caveat I’ll add to this is the same I would for any such post about a single ingredient in a larger mix.  This is alcohol we’re talking about, which is (in the wrong doses) a poison.  Now, surely if you’re reading this you know I’m not anti-alcohol.  I’m a homebrewer and work in a brewery, an avid consumer of both beer and whiskey, I play on both sides of the beverage alcohol industry, production and consumption, but lets be real for a moment.  We all know (or should) the dangers of alcohol consumption.  In too high of volumes or for too long a period of time it can be detrimental to your health, up to and including death.  Maybe we shouldn’t be too terribly concerned about what form of sugar is used to make our poison? I see similar posts about artificial flavors in tobacco products (such as certain brands being listed as “All Natural”) and just shake my head.  It’s not the cherry flavor in tobacco that’s going to kill you.

AB InBev is playing a dangerous game and I don’t think it’s going to play well for them at all.

Untapping the World

Last week I had the opportunity to try my first beer from Hungary. It sadly wasn’t that great, but time, travel and storage have a huge effect on beer quality.  I’m sure the person sharing it did everything they could to keep it in good condition but there’s only so much you can do.

That said, the check-in brought up my Beer Connoisseur badge, which measures how many different countries I have drank a beer from.  What was interesting is that it gave me a list of the countries I’ve checked in and the number of beers I’ve had from that country. Since I’ve only traveled to Mexico and Canada (and live in the USA) most of these beers are commercially available in one of those countries.  A very slight few will be beers shared by friends who brought them back from that country.  I thought it was an interesting list to look at and it reminded me of some cool check ins.

USA – 2575 beers: Not surprising since I live in the US, this is the grand majority of my list.  About 92% in fact.
Canada – 52 beers: A good number of these were from my trip to Montreal earlier this year, but a decent number of Canadian beers are available “down south” in the States.
Belgium – 49 beers: I really like Belgian beers, and thankfully a lot of them are available in the States, particularly the beers from Trappist monasteries.
Germany – 28 beers: Again, not shocking, a lot of German beers are available in the States. Several of these are from my BJCP classes and the Mt Angel Oktoberfest.
England – 15 beers: A lot of Fullers and Samuel Smith beers that are available in the US as well as ciders like Strongbow.
Mexico – 12 beers: Almost all of these are from my Mexico trip.
Scotland – 8 beers: Shares from friends who travel to Scotland frequently, and the Scottish pub we went to in Seattle.
Denmark – 8 beers: Mikkeller and To Øl, probably the only two available in the US. 4 of each interestingly enough.
Poland – 6 beers: A handful of Polish beers are available in the US. My wife has traveled to Poland and someday I hope to go as well.
Netherlands – 6 beers: Almost all of these are from the International Tent at the Oregon Beer Festival.  They bring over some interesting stuff.
Ireland – 4 beers: Guinness and Murphy’s Irish Stout. Pub beer.
Japan – 4 beers: One random craft beer I found here in Portland (Yo-Ho Brewing) the others Kirin and Sapporo.
The Bahamas – 2 beers: Pirate Republic beers from our honeymoon cruise. At the time these were the only two they had.  Only brewery in the Bahamas.
Colombia – 2 beers: Interesting story with these Bogatá Brewing beers.  They got sent up to the Best of Craft Beer competition, but otherwise I don’t think they are sold in the States.
China – 2 beers: Tsingtao and Lucky Buddha, both from restaurants.
France – 1 beer: France isn’t really known for it’s beer scene.  3 Monts Biere de Garde is really good though.
Australia – 1 beer: Coopers Pale Ale. Probably from a BJCP class.
Czech Republic – 1 beer: Pilsner Urquell. Classic style, from a BJCP class.
Switzerland – 1 beer: Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, a Swiss Trappist brewery.
Italy – 1 beer: Brewfist Grappa barrel aged RIS.  From Festival of Dark Arts.
India – 1 beer: Haywards 5000 Super Strong.  From a Greek Restaurant ironically.
Vietnam – 1 beer: 33 Export.  From a Thai restaurant.
Phillippines – 1 beer: Red Horse Beer.  Had this on the Portland Spirit (Christmas party).
Lithuania – 1 beer: Dragon Lady Doppelbock. From a BJCP exam.
Jamaica – 1 beer: Red Stripe mon…
Hungary – 1 beer: Feher Nyul Oatmeal Stout.

So there we have it, a very interesting list and a neat trip down memory lane looking up where I had some of these beers.

Cheers!

“Tasting” Beer

It is almost without fail.  I tell someone I work in the quality lab at a brewery and the response is a chuckle and something along the lines of “So you just sit around and drink beer all day, yeah?” Above and beyond the fact that there is a lot more involved in beer quality, there’s a distinction that I think gets lost on the public.  The difference between drinking beer and tasting beer.

Often, when I taste beer at my job, the purpose is to make sure the beer is holding up well over the course of it’s shelf life.  So, we’re talking about beer that’s been bottled 90 to 120 days.  Not bad, but it’s not fresh.  Some beers hold up better than others and that’s exactly what we’re testing for.  Another common occurrence at work is tasting a beer that’s been intentionally spiked with an off flavor.  Sometimes they tell us, sometimes they don’t.  This accomplishes two goals. If the spike is known, the idea is to give us an idea this is what <insert off flavor> tastes like.  Some, like clove or banana are not that bad.  Some, like papery, solvent or metallic are not at all pleasant.  If this spike is not disclosed than the goal is to see how many people pick it up and at what levels.  This is called threshold testing.  Some people can’t taste certain things like diacetyl and that’s OK, but as someone running a sensory program you want to know those kinds of things.  If 9 out of 10 people ding a beer for diacetyl and the one who doesn’t is known to be diacetyl blind, then that’s pretty much 100%.  That’s not to say test panels can’t be fun, but they are work, and also a very small portion of the overall program.

Judging beer, as a BJCP judge has been a very similar experience.  When I told people I judged beer competitions the same reaction of “Wow, that must be great to just sit around and drink beer all day.”  While I really enjoy judging, a good portion of the beer that crosses your table is not very good. That’s not meant to disparage those who enter the competitions, rather the main point of a competition is to get feedback.  You want to know how true your beer is to the style you were going for, but also if there are any major flaws in it.  Some people will enter a beer that they know has an issue but they can’t put their finger on it.  A more experienced brewer or an experience judge may be able to figure out the problem and offer a possible way to correct it.  As I’ve mentioned in past posts, someone told me that pro beer was the same way, more bad than good.  Two years of judging Best of Craft Beer have pretty much proven that true.

The flip side of this is an “ignorance is bliss” approach.  Some people don’t want to know about flaws and off flavors.  Perhaps they like a certain flavor that a hardcore judge would find offensive.  Maybe they just want to sit back and enjoy a pint.  There’s nothing wrong with that! I’ll admit, judging has messed with me a little when I’m just sitting around drinking a beer.  As long as the flaw is not so horrible to make the beer undrinkable I try to turn that part of my brain off and just enjoy it.  Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

So the reality is “tasting” beer is not nearly as glamorous as it may seem, especially if you’re confusing it with drinking beer. But it’s not without it’s merits.

Whether you drink, or taste, enjoy! Salut!

Montréal Trip Recap

Last Friday I returned from my nearly two week trip to Montréal, Quebec.  This was my first time in Montréal and first time in Canada.  Following the trip to Mexico in January, all of a sudden I feel like a world traveler.

Education:

Of course, the reason I was there was to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.  The course was held at the Lallemand Yeast labs at the National Research Council of Canada’s Montreal Facility.  The course consisted of a 3 hour lecture in the morning and then after lunch a 4 hour (sometimes longer) practical lab session.  We covered nearly everything from how to make media and pour plates, to streaking and inoculating all different kinds of media with known organisms and then finally, classifying and identifying unknown organisms.  All useful skills if you have an infection problem in your brewery.  We also spent a good amount of time talking about yeast physiology and yeast handling techniques.  No yeast means no beer.  Unhealthy yeast means bad beer. The course was really intense.  They covered a lot of material in a very short time period.  The first day I felt like I knew what we were talking about, reviewing stuff I already knew.  The second day they shoved the funnels down our throats and started pouring it in and I was quickly overwhelmed.  I managed to keep pace and stay above water but it felt like treading water at times.  I made a 89 on my final exam, so some of it stuck!

Breweries:

Surely a place that has a yeast research lab has to have a thriving beer scene yeah? Montréal does in fact have a bustling beer scene.  I managed to make it to seven breweries while I was in town.  5 on my own, 2 were with the group on the last day of the class.
First was Brasserie Harricana, a pretty hip spot with a decent crowd for a Monday night.  Something I noticed with them, and several other places in town, they served different style beers at different temperatures.  Light beers and lagers colder, dark beers and Belgians warmer. I think this is common in Europe, but extremely rare in the US.  American beer drinkers are conditioned to “the colder the better”.  Craft places may serve a little warmer than “ice cold Miller Lite”, but still all the same no matter the style. The next night I made my way out to Le Saint Bock, in the trendy University of Quebec-Montreal neighborhood.  I only got one beer here, but it was a Black IPA (aka Cascadian Dark Ale) which is my wife’s favorite style.  I ran across several in Montréal, actually.  Saint Bock also had several varieties of poutine.  The one I got had pulled pork and a BBQ sauce made with Orval beer.  All the poutines had a beer sauce.
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I took a couple days off from exploring at this point, both to rest and the weather had turned a little sour.  On Friday night I made it out to Dieu du Ciel, a brewery whose beer I’ve actually had here in the States.  It was mobbed and I had to wait a while for a table, but that was OK.  Two beers here, a double IPA that was quite nice and another Black IPA, this one more chocolaty than Saint Bock’s but it was still very tasty.
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After Dieu du Ciel, I headed over to the Montréal taproom of Quebec City brewery Pit Caribou.  This doesn’t count in my “breweries visited” list, but one of my classmates was from this brewery and so I wanted to try it out.  It was very good.  He also brought some bottled beers for us to taste on the last day of class (his was the closest brewery to Montréal) that were outstanding.  I hightly recommend looking up Pit Caribou if you’re in Quebec.  On Saturday, I went to a couple museums and wandered around the old Historical part of Montréal.  There I ran across the Rue St. Paul outpost of Les 3 Brasseurs.  Originally from France, 3 Brasseurs is a chain of brewpubs with several locations in both Quebec and Ontario.  Similar to a Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch or RAM Brewery chain here in the states, each place brews three or four company standards and then rotating local beers for each unique location. The beer was serviceable and the food was good.
Tuesday of the second week I made the last two stops of the breweries I wanted to see on my own.  First was EtOH Brasserie which had good beer and good food.  The third Black IPA I found was here.  It was chocolate-heavy like the one from Deiu du Ciel, but it was quite nice.  After that I made my way to Le Cheval Blanc, which was the first microbrewery in Montréal.  Good beer here as well, but almost got myself in trouble.  Went to pay and the barkeep told me they only took cash or debit drawn on a Canadian bank, no credit cards.  I had enough cash to cover it, but only just barely.
The last two places I visited were part of the group tour at the end of the class.  After we had taken and graded our exams, they took us across the river to Chambly.  A bit of a cherry on top to round out the course.  The first place we stopped was a tiny brewpub Bedondaine & Bedon Ronds.
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Working on nearly a homebrew scale with an 18 gallon capacity and using 5 gallon Corny kegs, everything they brewed was consumed on site.  No bottling, no outside draft sales, not even growler fills.  The owner was a funny and humble man who made good beer and had a ridiculous breweriana collection.  The walls and ceilings were covered in bottles, cans, posters, coasters, serving trays, tin signs, anything you can imagine, dating back to the 1920’s or earlier.  Final stop was at Unibroue.
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Unibroue makes some of my favorite Belgian style beers so I am very familiar with them and their products.  I have to say, they rolled out the red carpet for us.  Our tour was led by none other than Brewmaster Jerry Vietz himself.  After the tour he led us through a beer and cheese pairing that finished with chocolate truffles made by him and his wife.  We tasted through 9 beers at Unibroue, including both the Canadian release and US release of the 25th Anniversary series, which were different.  He also sent us home with a cookbook and a bottle of the lastest in the Éphémère series, Strawberry Rhubarb.  I’m normally not a rhubarb fan, but this beer was great, and has a strong strawberry flavor which is hard to keep in a beer.  It’s so light and subtle it tends to fade quickly.
I also bought some bottled and canned beer from stores while I was in town but sadly, most of the packaged beer was in rough shape compared to fresh draft.  Several old cans (as old as November of last year) and oxidized bottles.  Check for dates, or stick with draft.
I started the trip 2418 unique check-ins on Untappd.  I finished the trip with 2461.  A total of 43 beers.  I had one in the Washington DC airport on the way and one in the San Francisco airport on the way home.  The other 41 were all Canadian beers.  Most from Quebec, but in some of the bottled beers from other provinces.

Culture:

The class was an all day thing, and since I was travelling for work with obligations to meet it was difficult to fully “relax” but I managed to get out and about.  The brewery trips listed above were mostly weekday evenings trips out for dinner.  I had a free weekend in the middle and made the most of it on Saturday.  My first stop was Parc Jean-Drapeau which consists of two islands in the middle of the river, accessible by the Metro.  The main reason I wanted to head out there was a feature called the Biosphere.  It’s a geodesic sphere, designed and built by Buckminster Fuller. Home of the US Pavilion of Expo67 in Montréal, it now houses a nature and environmental museum.  Also on the island was Musée Stewart.  An old British stronghold turned history museum, focusing on history of the fort itself, and the island it’s on.  Brief history of the founding of Montréal as well.  After this, I headed back across the river to the old historic part of downtown.  I had been forewarned that it’s mostly full of cheesy tourist shops, and it is, but it also has some interesting buildings and amazing architecture.  Walking through this part of town made me feel like I was in Paris, despite the fact I’ve never been to Paris, it just had that old school European vibe to it.
30708850_10214488632664149_5171834068328775680_n The second museum I visited was the Musée d’Archéologie et d’Histoire.  I didn’t know what to expect when I went in, but quickly discovered this museum is quite literally built on top of an archaeological dig site, the former location of the first building in Montréal, and later a bank building that was a city landmark.  The tour takes you downstairs into the foundation of the old building.  You traverse through an old granite brick sewer tunnel (now clean and dry of course) to get from one building to the other, they are connected underground.  One part of the building had a thick glass floor where you could see the dig as it had been left and a note that one day a fresh batch of archaeologists with newer tools and techniques would resume the dig and likely discover even more.  It was hands down one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been in.
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French is an official language in all of Canada,  but the majority of French speaking Canadians are in Quebec.  I took French in high school and I’ve been working on learning more, but it’s slow going.  Reading written words (like the signs on the museums) I can do pretty good with, but hearing someone speak I can’t comprehend much at all.  It ended up being pretty frustrating as I tried to use what little French I knew (Hello, goodbye, thank you, please etc) to be polite and then having people assume I spoke French.  Nearly everyone there is bilingual French/English but even sometimes the English was hard to understand.  One funny account though from the archaeology museum, the man at the ticket counter said “Hello” as I walked up, and I replied “Hello” and he began describing the layout of the museum in English, but I didn’t quite understand what he was saying, so with my brain in French mode I said “Pardon ?” and he started speaking French, perhaps assuming then that I didn’t understand his English. I apologized and said “No no, sorry, en Anglais?” He effortlessly switched back to English and then we had no more trouble.  Montréal is a pretty easy city to get around in, but when you get lost and your phone doesn’t work (mine didn’t) and you can’t easily ask someone for help, it tends to get a little panic inducing.

All in all, it was a rewarding trip, if not always smooth running.  Parts of it were extremely stressful, but the experience will come in handy, both in future work and future travel.

Salut !

Hopless Beer?

I first saw the post about this on Jeff Alworth’s Beervana Blog Facebook group, and then it seemed to be popping up everywhere.  Apparently, some scientists in California used gene splicing to allow yeast to make one of the aroma oils from hops, using genes from other flowers and plants that make those compounds.

Here is a link to the actual research paper, posted on Nature.com
Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer It’s a bit to chew through, but I’d recommend reading at least the results section.  It does work, to a certain extent, but the commercial viability of it is probably very limited.

What followed was a series of newspaper type articles, ranging from super clickbait, to quasi scientific that briefly touch on the results and then make wild assumptions about what this technology means.  This is one of the major things that drives me bonkers when non scientific people try to make judgments based on science they don’t understand but assuming the science supports them, when sometimes it’s the exact opposite.

First is this article from Quartz which is so poorly written it’s painful to read.  The main issue here is that they roll out the old “Hoppy pale ales and IPAs were made to survive the trip overseas” myth which has long since been busted, and then they claim that hops are no longer needed as a preservative like they were back then.  We may have refrigeration now and better packaging techniques, but beer spoilage is still a major fight every brewer faces.  Hops anti-microbial properties are still very much in play.  Sour beer producers use aged hops that impart almost no bitterness or flavor/aroma specifically for the control of which bacteria and yeast they want to grow and flourish and which they want to inhibit.

Next, have an article from TheTakeout which is very short and barely mentions the research at all, but a couple things.  First, the title of the article “New Beer yeast could make hops irrelevant” This is a huge leap (that all the articles make) that suddenly we could make beers without hops.  That doesn’t work for several reasons, one is that you literally cannot make beer without hops, legally.  It has to contain hops to be considered beer, otherwise it’s a flavored malt beverage (think Zima, Mikes Hard, etc).  Of course those rules can be changed, but for now that’s how it is.  Also, as mentioned above, hops do play other roles than just bitterness or just flavor.

One thing that really gets me about the above article, and even this mostly scientific one from Smithsonian Magazine is the phrase that “some terpenes could mimic the taste of hops”.  I think this is where a lot of people get riled up about GMOs or things like this as being un-natural.  It would be much more accurate to say that some plants contain the same terpenes as hops.  Limonene, one of the major aroma compounds in citrus fruits, is also found in hops and in marjiuana.  It’s not just that hops or weed can “smell like” orange or lemon, they literally contain the exact same compound, produced in an identical, or similar, pathway.  We associate flavors with certain things, usually a food product since that’s what we learn first as kids, but other things contain the same compounds.

A few things, in closing, about this from a commercial prospective.  Yeast is already more expensive than hops, so I don’t imagine there will be much cost savings buy engineering yeast to replace hops.  Plus, this yeast I’m sure would cost a lot more than standard brewers yeast.  Second, the articles talk about hop flavors changing from year to year with crop changes, but yeast is not stable either.  Yeast mutate over time, and after a handful of generations they may not produce these compounds anymore, or not at the same levels.  More research would need to be done (and probably will be) to see how stable these genetic changes are.  Lastly, these yeast were designed to produce one hop oil only.  Hops, like flowers and spices like vanilla, contain hundreds (if not thousands) of flavor compounds.  Vanilla is a great example.  The main compound we associate with vanilla is vanillin.  Artificial vanilla uses only vanillin, whereas real vanilla may be 90% vanillin, but has many other compounds to round out the flavor profile.  Most people can immediately tell the difference between natural and artificial vanilla.  Vanillin is found in oak, which is what gives whiskies and barrel aged beers that hint of vanilla, but on its own it just doesn’t live up to the real thing.  They compared the yeast made beer with a single hop beer, Sierra Nevada Pale ale, and it compared favorably, but you could never mimic a complex hoppy beer like Boneyard RPM which uses 6 or 7 different hop varieties.

In my opinion, this is novel research and probably teaches a lot about yeast genetics, but this has virtually no commercial application, at least for now.  20 years from now, who knows, but as usual the websites that want to claim that we can make beers without hops “right now!” are way off base.

Trip to Montréal

I just booked my flight to beautiful, sunny errr… snowy(?) Montréal, Quebec, Canada.  I will be travelling there for two weeks in April to attend the Siebel Institute’s Brewing Microbiology short course.

I’m excited both for the learning opportunity and another chance to travel internationally.  Before the start of this year, the extent of my international travel was 6 hours on Grand Nassau in the Bahamas on a cruise ship stopover.  That almost doesn’t count (I didn’t even need my passport…).  In January, my wife and I spent a week in Mexico, deeply embedded in the local culture, and now I’ll have nearly two weeks in Montréal.  Of course, I’m there for the education, but my evenings are free and there’s a free weekend in the middle, so I’ll get to do a little bit of exploring.

Unlike Baja California Sur, Montréal is teeming with craft breweries.  I hope to make it to a handful on my own, and the last day of class the Siebel folks take us on a “brewery tour”.  I don’t know what the stops are, but anywhere we go will be new to me unless it’s one of the ones I happen to run across on my own.

My hotel is walking distance from the class location and there’s a subway station a block away, so I’ll be spending a good amount of time on foot and aboard mass transit.  In my experience, after learning the ropes in Portland and then branching out to cities like San Francisco and San Diego, buses and trains are a great way to see the city and to get around.  As long as you can figure out where you’re going. The subway system seems to be laid out pretty well and cover most of the city.  The buses on the other hand are a little confusing.  There is a bus that goes to the school, but halfway there you have to get of one 115 bus and get on another 115 bus.  I haven’t quite figured that out.  It’s only about a mile walk.  If the weather is halfway decent I’ll just walk.

I’m very happy to work for a company that values education and is willing to send people to these kinds of trainings.  Oh yeah that’s the other great thing, this is a business trip.  There’s no way I could afford this on my own.

I fly out Sunday April 8th, the course runs from Monday, April 9 to Thursday April 19 and I fly home Friday April 20.  (And come straight back to work on Saturday the 21st. It will be a whirlwind of time zones and jet lag, but I’m excited for it.  Can’t wait!

Stay tuned for a recap when I get back!