IBUs, hops and beer bitterness

WARNING: This post is kind of nerdy.

I often find myself stalling, looking for an answer when someone walks into the brewery and asks “How many IBUs does that beer have?” It happened more than usual last weekend while we sat at our table at the South Sound IPA Festival in Tacoma. People grazing on 4 oz pours of hoppy beer have been trained to look to IBUs as a marker for the most heavily hopped IPAs, but there’s more to it than this. IBU stands for International Bitterness Unit, and it is a measurement of isomerized alpha acids. Bear with me, I’ll break it down.

Alpha and beta acids are the two easiest stats to find on a bag of hops, in spite of dozens of other important qualities in any given hop varietal. Though chewing on a hop cone will always give you the most unpleasantly bitter experience of your life, neither alpha, nor beta acids will add bitterness to beer without a fundamental change. For alpha acids, that fundamental change is isomerization (rearranged molecular structure using heat), and beta acids, it’s oxidation (chemically reacting with oxygen). European “noble” hops are prized for having relatively balanced alpha to beta ratios, and many brewers age their hops to target beta acid forms of bitterness, which wouldn’t count toward IBUs at all. Here in west coast styled IPA land, we aim for all things resinous, and the alpha acid is king. Isomerization requires boiling, and the longer you boil, the more of this type of bitterness is created in your beer. Alpha acids come from the resin glands in hops, which also produce flavor and aroma oils (hoo boy, does it get complicated from here). You can look for myrcene for resinous qualities, cis-rose for fruity, octanal for citrus, 4MMP for black currant, linalool and geraniol for floral, or my favorite, Caryophylla-3,8,dien-(13)-dien-5-beta-ol for cedar notes. These flavor and aroma oils are volatile, and boil off quickly, so while you might gain bitterness from isomerization, you lose what most IPA lovers call “hoppy”. This is why we throw tons of pretty hops that you can smell from across the room into the boil kettle during the last few minutes of the boil. We call this “hop bursting”.

A beer made with 16 metric tons of IBUs and no hop bursting would not satisfy the average IPA drinker. So when the question comes up “How many IBUs? Tell me how many!!! I WANT MORE IBUs!!!!!”, I hesitate a little, wondering how far to go with the conversation. Many of the most revered IPAs only have 70 IBUs and dump liquid CO2 extracted hop oils into the beer after it’s been made. This is a verse from a different song, however, and we’ll get into that another day.

The bottom line is that there is a difference between “hoppy” and “bitter”. If all you want is bitterness, your cheapest option would be 4 or 5 bags of black tea steeped in your cup for a half hour. You’ll find yourself face to face with a truckload of tannins. Ever come upon a stream in the Olympic Peninsula colored orange from all the decomposing cedar upstream? Mouth puckering tannins aren’t inherently bitter, but can be perceived that way. In beer, tannins counteract malt sweetness by drying it out, and malt balances IBUs. You can get tannins from the hops, or from the husks of the grains during the mashing process. The point is, bitterness is complex, and while many might not care to know, in a world with a bazillion IPAs, it helps to at least know the difference between hop flavor and hop bitterness. It’s for this reason that the question “What do you have that isn’t hoppy?” also gives me pause, because theoretically, you could have a beer with tons of “hoppiness” and extremely low bitterness. I may or may not be brewing that beer this week.

MOVING ON … here are your options this week, and their IBUs, which you’ll probably never see again:

  1. Rye IPA (67 IBUs)
  2. West Coast IPA (65 IBUs)
  3. Imperial IPA (111 IBUs)
  4. Pale Ale (43 IBUs) out until Friday
  5. Wheated Red Ale (44 IBUs)
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale (96 IBUs)
  7. Imperial Rye IPA (100 IBUs)
  8. Belgian Strong Ale (36 IBUs) next up, Belgian Dark Ale
  9. Single Hop w/Cluster Hops (54 IBUs) next up, Single Hop w/Citra hops
  10. Bière de Garde (25 IBUs)
  11. Auld Alliance (26 IBUs)
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer (no IBUs at all)

Ever had Gruit? Drink some and watch the Hawks.

Before humans used hops in beer, we used all kinds of herbs to balance the sweetness of grain sugars to make beer palatable. I’m sure many combinations would test even the most adventurous modern palates, but diversifying the herbal content in beer can be an interesting detour from the usual elements of the Reinheitsgebot. We decided to take our biggest step away from the norm with a gruit that we’re calling Auld Alliance. In the Middle Ages, the Scots allied with France to help protect themselves against British tyranny and constant invasion. Our gruit was named after this alliance to reference the primary ingredients you’ll notice – herbs de provence, and peat malt. The “dry hop” consists of marjoram, lemon thyme, lavender, coriander and black pepper, and a pinch of peat malt bring the influence of single malt scotch whisky to the picture. Similar to the beet ale we just finished up, it takes a second to adjust your palate to the unusual combination, and becomes more refreshing the further you get into it. Give it a shot and try something you don’t get to try very often.

We’ll be opening early for the Seahawks game today at 1:25, and as usual, it’ll be up on the big screen outside. Come on down and let’s yell at the screen together. Here’s the tap list:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial Fresh Hop IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. Imperial Rye IPA
  8. Belgian Strong Ale
  9. Single Hop w/Cluster Hops
  10. Bière de Garde
  11. Auld Alliance
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer

Imperial Rye IPA has been tapped

You may remember this juggernaut from a few months ago. Those of you that love big, juicy hop bombs were pretty fired up about it. We sold a keg to Chuck’s and it was gone in a couple hours. This time, we’re keeping it all to ourselves. The Imperial Rye IPA is on tap, and it is so very delicious. A Mosaic heavy IPA, and paired with Columbus, Citra and Jarrylo, this little number balances tons of aromatic hop oil with rye and British Ashburne malt. It’ll warm you up at 8.5%, and it’ll be your friend while you try to get used to the chill in the air. Fall is here, and it’s time to drink big beer again. Here’s our big beer lineup for the week:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial Fresh Hop IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. Imperial Rye IPA
  8. Belgian Strong Ale
  9. Single Hop w/Cluster Hops
  10. Bière de Garde
  11. Super Saison > next up: Auld Alliance
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer

Bière de Garde is here!

“Bwhat de What”, you ask? Bière de garde is a French farmhouse ale (or saison). Literally, it means “beer for keeping”, or beer you would cellar for a time before drinking.Rather than continue producing saisons that are dry as a bone and so light and quaffable you wanna stick a straw in it, we’re moving to more fall-like beer in our brewing rotation. While bière de garde is traditionally drunk in the summer, I’ve always felt it’s dry, complex maltiness was most enjoyable with crisp air and fading sunlight. We’ve sat on this guy for a month and a half and he’s primed and ready to go.

We used a pilsner malt base along with munich malts and some rich caramel malts to bring a little raisiny toastiness to the backbone. If any of you are familiar with Fantȏme, you will recognize a very unique yeast characteristic in our bière de garde. While nobody professionally admits that the strain we used comes from their brewery, they do say it comes from Soy, Belgium, and well, Fantȏme is the only brewery there. Though bière de garde is French and not Belgian, it is northern French, and this yeast is perfect for this beer. It makes a little room for initial malt sweetness, but dries out well on the finish and brings subtle wine-like esters, no Belgian spiciness, with a touch of cellary funk (not to be confused with celery funk, which isn’t a thing, though maybe it should be a style of music). With mild alcoholic heat of an 8.2% beer, this number is perfect for an early fall evening. If you like the more subtle, graceful sour beers, this one might toot your horn. While it isn’t soured, per se, this is a far cry from our dry and hoppy beers. Come and try it out!

Lots of new beer on tap

If you haven’t been by in a while, now’s a good time to swing in. We have a lot of new styles that either just went on this week. The newest is the Cluster Single Hop. Cluster is one of the oldest hops used in American styles and is often used in historical recipes to get as close to the hop character used in older beers. All of it’s flavor and aroma is isolated in the single hop style of brewing, and presented in a super light 4.7% easy drinker with a distinct tea-like flavor on the finish. Also in the line up:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial Fresh Hop IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. BeetAleJuice > next up: Biére de Garde
  8. Belgian Strong Ale
  9. Single Hop w/Cluster Hops
  10. Fresh Hop IPA > next up: Imperial Rye IPA
  11. Super Saison > next up: Auld Alliance
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer

Belgian Strong Ale is on, open for Seahawks.

Just a quick note that we are open early (1:00pm) for the Seahawks vs Broncos Super Bowl rematch. We now have the Belgian Strong Ale on tap, as well. It’s fruity, 8.3% and a great choice for the start of fall. Come enjoy what might be the last 80+ degree day of the year by watching an exciting game on the patio. Tap list:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA > next up: Imperial Fresh Hop IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. BeetAleJuice
  8. Belgian Strong Ale
  9. Kölsch > next up: Session Single Hop w/Cluster Hops
  10. Fresh Hop IPA
  11. Super Saison > next up: Biére de Garde
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer

Fresh Hop IPA is on tap!

It’s that time of year, again …

Anyone that’s lived in Seattle for a decade or more knows that the last 3 summers have been stupendous by historical standards. This year might go down as the best summer in a generation or so. I feel like it’s been summer since March, and with the long range forecast calling the upcoming fall warm and dry, we might not be very near to summer’s end just yet. This has been great news for gardeners inside city limits, who usually struggle to get more than a handful of tomatoes and other sun-loving crops. Hops definitely love the sun, and as such, we’ve had a bumper crop of aromatic cones. To celebrate, we’ve thrown an ample lot into this year’s Fresh Hop IPA, which features Palisade, Columbus and Northern Brewer hops. It’s 6.9%, and quite crisp, clean and bright. It’s just what you want to drink if you’re celebrating the fact that we’re going to see temperatures in the 80s during the 3rd weekend in September.

Currently on tap:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA > next up: Imperial Fresh Hop IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. BeetAleJuice
  8. Schwarz Kölsch > next up: Belgian Strong Ale
  9. Kölsch > next up: Session Single Hop w/Cluster Hops
  10. Fresh Hop IPA
  11. Super Saison > next up: Biére de Garde
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer

Currently fermenting: Imperial Rye IPA

Also, We’ll be open early for the Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos at 1:25pm. Go Hawks!

Opening early for the Seahawks

A brief note that we’ll be open early tomorrow for the Seahawks vs. Chargers game at 1:00, showing the game outside on the patio projector. Come on down, and help us drain the Session Single Hop so we can put the Wet Hop IPA on!

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BeetAleJuice and a Used Book Sale

A quick note to let you all know that BeetAleJuice is on tap. You may remember it from last year as the refreshing, earthy, aromatic and bright red ale we did as a collaboration with homebrewer pal Ian Hunter. Well, it’s back, and it’s waiting for you with a big pink head.

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Like books and beer together? We’re hosting a used book sale in the parking lot of the brewery on Saturday from noon to 4pm. Book sale proceeds go to the Colman Neighborhood Association. Come browse the selection and when you find one to buy, scoot into the patio and read the first few chapters over a pint of beer! That’s all for now. See you soon!

Seahawks opener!

Come watch the Seahawks opener tonight at the brewery! We’re showing it on the big screen outside, which is now under a black shade, to ensure a bright, crisp picture on sunny days. It’s gonna be an exciting game. If you can help us finish off either keg of red beer (Wheated Red or India Red Ale), we can put on the BeetAleJuice (your favorite beet ale of all time). Game time is at 5:30. Here’s the tap list:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. India Red Ale
  8. Schwarz Kolsch
  9. Kolsch
  10. Session Single Hop
  11. Super Saison
  12. Bee’s Wine

Seahawks randall tonight

Come watch the game with us at 7pm tonight! Of course, we’ll be open late so we can watch all of it, as we’ll likely mow down the Oakland Raiders using their own ex-quarterback. Should be a fun time, and the view will be great on our new, big ol’ projector screen out on the patio. To fuel the fun, we’re going to be randalling with fresh hops again! This time it’s the Wheated Red Ale with fresh Northern Brewer hops. If you just want the randall and hate sports, just come before 7pm, because we’ll be running it all night. OK then, see you tonight!

Super Saison is on, Tepache almost gone.

Hey folks -

Just want to let you know that the Tepache is almost out for a while. We have to ramp up production on ginger beer to keep up with growing demand, which means that Tepache has to take a back seat. We’ve got less than half a keg of it left, and then it will disappear for a while. If it was your favorite thing ever, you might want to get down here pronto.

Also, we just tapped the Super Saison! It’s a big boy at 8.8%, but it’s clean and refreshing for it’s size. It has a sizable dry hop featuring citrus, pepper, and spicy notes from Green Bullet, Horizon, and EXP 7270 hops. Come quaff it up!

Hopscotch, Schwartz Kölsch, Seahawks Randall

It’s a big weekend in the CD, folks. Saturday from 9am-6pm will be the second annual Hopscotch CD! I know, I know, you might be too proud to be seen hopscotching around the neighborhood for almost 3 miles, but you should see all the events. Look here for the route and things to do. It has even grown since the map was made, and it seems like this event is turning into a bit of a festival, bringing the whole neighborhood out to mingle, eat, drink, get some exercise, shop rummage sales, listen to music, and on and on. To celebrate, we’ll be opening up at noon and running happy hour until 6pm.

HOWEVER, before we get to Saturday, let us deal with tonight. Fresh hop season is upon us! Our estate grown, organic, grain fed, local, fair trade, small batch crop is beginning to mature and we are ready to begin applying them to beer. The first hops ready for pickin’ are Willamette, Northern Brewer and Hallertau. I’ll be picking an artistic melange of fresh hops tonight and stuffing them in the randall with some lavendar, and we’ll be running the Summer Wheat Saison through it. It will be delicious, so come indulge while we cheer on the Seahawks against the Bears in preseason game #3. Game time is at 7pm. We will be open until the game ends!

Lastly, you’ve had Kölsch, but have you ever a Schwartz Kölsch??? We added enough Carafa to our Kölsch recipe to get it nice and dark, and applied German Hallertau hops all the way through to give the beer a floral influence. The Kölsch yeast gives it that crisp, clean finish you’d expect. While not technically a real style, we think it’s a great way to drink a dark beer on a warm day. Come enjoy one after you try the randall.

On Tap:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. India Red Ale
  8. Schwartz Kölsch
  9. Kölsch
  10. Session Single Hop (El Dorado hops)
  11. Summer Wheat Saison (randalled with fresh hops and lavendar)
  12. Bee’s Wine
  13. Tepache

In fermenters, coming soon:

  • BeetAleJuice
  • Biere de Garde
  • Super Saison
  • Belgian Golden Strong

Correction: Seahawks Randall Tonight

I’m sure many of you caught my little *derp* moment yesterday. The Seahawks 2nd preseason game is tonight at 7:00, not last night at 6:00. Those that showed up last night get to come enjoy the India Red Ale randalled through Chinook hops two days in a row. The good news is that the game is happening late enough that we’ll be able to show it on the projector outside on the patio. Those of you that want to come down will get to keep up on the game on an 80″ projection.

Fun fact: Our randall has been named Randall Wilson, in honor of a dear friend’s misunderstanding of our starting quarterback’s name. See you tonight!

Seahawks Randall: IRA and Chinook

Just a quick note to let you know that we’re randalling the India Red Ale through Chinook hops tonight. We’re open to watch the next preseason Seahawks game tonight, so come on down, get your beer on, and let’s nerd out about all the new kids on the team! We’ll be open until the game is over, and since it starts at 6pm, we’ll likely be open past our normal 8pm close time.

IPA Day/Seahawks Randall

Hey guys.

Remember how Joe Namath showed up in a dazzling fur coat and flipped the coin toss too early and how he had to re-flip it and how we still won the coin toss and how we chose to put our defense on the field to start the garsh-darned Super Bowl? Remember how the first snap of the game went over Peyton’s XXL head and we got a safety on the first play of the game, and how it was the quickest score in the history of the Super Bowl? Remember how we waited and waited for Percy to get healthy and how he got that horrible concussion and then how he barely came back in time for the big game and how he almost scored right away in the first quarter? And how Kam Chancellor followed the Peyton humiliation by intercepting that dumb pass, and how Marshawn got us way ahead by being all about that action? Then remember how Malcolm Smith started MVP talk with that interception off a Cliff Avril tip that put us up 22-0? And then Percy gave us what we all had been waiting for and made the dream a reality by cementing history in Seattle’s favor with a kickoff return touchdown that made the orange jerseys look like a junior varsity team? And then Byron Maxwell punched the ball out of Demarius Thomas’ big dreams of third quarter revival, and Malcolm Smith sealed the MVP deal? And then Ricardo Lockette? And then Jermaine Kearse? And then Doug Baldwin?

Look, the world thought we were a silly, pop-off kid that didn’t understand the big leagues, and we completely flipped the equation, using a cast-away coach, a handful of undrafted players and an old school defensive system thought to be outdated. We’ve been reveling in that historic win and waiting patiently for the return of our terrifyingly good team since February. In the mean time, we lost a handful of players, but none were terribly consequential on a team that values healthy competition and a readiness to accept and train the next most competitive player. Tonight at 6:00pm, we get to see what comes next. If you live in Seattle, there’s a good chance you care about these things, and if you do, you should come watch the pre-season opener, a rematch of the Super Bowl, at the brewery. I can’t say how thrilled I am to start showing games again. Somehow, it’s already NFL time again. Somehow, the start of our season lands squarely on IPA Day. This couldn’t be more fitting, since we are doing randalls for Seahawk games again. Tonight, we are randalling the Imperial IPA through Nugget and Citra. Go Hawks!!

Here’s the tap list this week:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA (Nugget and Citra randall)
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. India Red Ale
  8. Imperial Rye IPA
  9. Kolsch
  10. Dry Hopped Rye Saison (next up, El Dorado Single Hop)
  11. Summer Wheat Saison
  12. Bee’s Wine Ginger Beer
  13. Tepache

Thanks KOMO/Seattle Refined!

Seattle Refined is a great website subsidiary of KOMO news, and they just wrote a wonderful feature on us! So thrilled to see it up. Go check it out

Here’s the current tap list:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. Altbier
  8. Imperial Rye IPA
  9. Kölsch
  10. Dry Hopped Rye Saison
  11. Summer Wheat Saison
  12. Bee’s Wine
  13. Tepache

The Altbier is pints away from kicking the bucket, and the India Red Ale will be on as soon as it does. Also, as soon as the Dry Hopped Rye Saison blows, we’ll be moving on to the El Dorado Single Hop, which is an easy session beer perfect for the dog days of summer.

Tepache is back! New Summer Saison!

Remember Tepache? It’s baaaaaaack. In case you don’t remember, or have never had it, lemme tell you about it. Tepache is a Mexican folk beverage that uses brown sugar, pineapple, cinnamon and clove to make a fizzy, refreshingly sour drink. Typically, it’s a wild fermentation, using the yeast on the skins of the pineapple, but wild fermentations are tricky and often a failure. We use water kefir, which (like the ginger beer plant) is a symbiotic culture containing yeast and beneficial bacteria. The temperature, amount of sugar used, pH and oxygen levels all have effects on the final fermented flavor. One of my favorite things about using symbiotic cultures is playing with the different factors to give an advantage to one bug over the other. This time around, we decided to give a leg up to the bacteria and get to know the souring side of kefir. You sour beer nerds out there may appreciate this, especially if you’re the type to toss in a little syrup in the tartest of sours. Come and get it.

While we have Tepache on, we will have 13 taps. That’s right. 13. Jeebus. Makes me tired just typing that.

We briefly ran out of Bee’s Wine last week (due to high demand and using one of the fermenters for Tepache). It’s back on again, so don’t worry about that. If you’re around town, and have a hankering, you can stop by any one of these places to get some as well. Broadcast Coffee (CD), Cone and Steiner, Monsoon, Chuck’s Hop Shop (CD), Little Uncle (Pioneer Square), Joe Bar, Sun Liquor Lounge, Cafe Presse, and Assembly Hall.

New beer on tap: It’s the Summer Wheat Saison! Like your Saisons smooth and dry as a bone? You’ll love this one. We used 50% wheat in this recipe to keep a round body in this summer quencher. Hallertau and Horizon mix old and new world hop subtlety in this little number – a subtle and complex, extremely thirst quenching beer.

Pissed off about the weird squall blowing through town? We’ve got plenty of ways for you to wash away that irritation. Here’s what’s currently on tap:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast  IPA
  3. Imperial IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red Ale
  6. Cascadian Dark Ale
  7. Altbier (last keg! get it while it lasts!)
  8. Imperial Rye IPA
  9. Kölsch
  10. Dry Hopped Rye Saison
  11. Summer Wheat Saison
  12. Bee’s Wine
  13. Tepache

Waiting for the Altbier to blow: India Red Ale

Percolating away in fermenters:

  1. El Dorado Single Hop
  2. Schwartz Kölsch

Watch the World Cup final with an Imperial Rye IPA!

Brazilian futbol, I’m sorry. Getting outscored 10 to 1 on your own turf in your last two games is ridiculous, and it seems unnecessarily harsh that your own fans booed you afterwards.

Netherlands, I’m sorry for you guys, too. Looked like you had a chance to finally get it done, after so many close calls in previous World Cups.

But whatever … survival of the fittest, right? It’s the ferocious German landsharks against 2 time champs Argentina and the best futboller in the world (some say). This one’s gonna be a good one, and a hot one, and probably not much like that first Brazilian humiliation …

We weren’t planning on opening up early, but there were a lot of requests, so we’ll be here, open for the game at noon. Just in time, we’ll be putting the Imperial Rye IPA on tap. It’s a monster. If you loved the Anniversary Ale, you may recognize some similarity in the high alcohol (9.5%)/Mosaic hop combo.  In addition to Mosaic hops, the dry hop uses Jarrylo, Columbus and Citra hops. Using 20% Rye and 15% Ashburne malt, this IPA has complex body without the use of caramel malts. There will be plenty of fans to keep us cool, and lots of thirst quenchers to sip on. Come on down and enjoy one or more of our 12 taps:

  1. Rye IPA
  2. West Coast IPA
  3. Imperial IPA
  4. Pale Ale
  5. Wheated Red
  6. CDA
  7. Düsseldorf Alt
  8. Imperial Rye IPA
  9. “Single” Hop (Falconer’s Flight)
  10. Dry Hopped Rye Saison
  11. Belgian Black Ale
  12. Bee’s Wine