Week 3 at UC-Davis
Entering our third week of instruction, it is becoming apparent that one of our instructors is quite the character. I am referring to Dr. Bamforth or Charlie, as he prefers to be addressed. He not only has a very strong opinion about the many facets of brewing science and their various applications, but also posses the innate ability to draw from previous experiences that are often humorous. Translation: He’s a storyteller. His English accent is usually accompanied by a hint of sarcasm, which for me makes it all the more entertaining.
This week he shared with us that back in the 1990’s when the South Beach Diet first became popular, the Miami based cardiologist that invented it wrote in his book that beer was absolutely taboo because it contained maltose. Why maltose? The doctor claimed that this particular carbohydrate was king of all sugars, more terrifying than table sugar and was the main contributor to the beer belly. Beer was villanized as the worst of all alcoholic beverages in the book because it contained this substance. People in the brewing industry got wind of this, including Charlie and he felt that someone needed to set the record straight. I’m not sure exactly what form of communication was used, but the exchange with the good doctor went something like this: “So, have you ever heard of this revolutionary concept called fermentation? Yes I have. Okay, well at some point during that process, the yeast uses virtually all of the maltose up and converts it to alcohol. Therefore, the calories cannot come from something that no longer exists. Oh I’m sorry, my mistake.” Shortly after, there was some sort of amendment or retraction sent out that claimed recent studies had had revealed that the level of maltose in beer was much lower than previously thought etc. Charlie seems to take any misconceptions of beer very personally and has also done a fair amount of research on it’s various health benefits.... when consumed in moderation of course.
The reason he brought that story to our attention was because our focus this week was on brewhouse operations and the biochemistry of mashing/boiling of wort. We began with discussing the various mills that are being used such as 2 Roll, 6 Roll, Wet Mills and Hammer Mills. The last one I had never heard of before, but it apparently turns the malt (husk and all) into fine grits. At first I thought, how in the heck do they lauter their mash into the kettle with no grain bed? I found out that in conjunction with the hammer mill, a device called a mash filter is used and that it may also contain an inflatable bladder component that squeezes every last drop of extract out of the pulverized grain which gets you close to 100% efficiency. Interesting stuff. We also covered topics such as Darcy’s law and how it is applied to wort flow during lautering, the spectrum of sugars in the wort post-mash, different kettle designs, the biochemical changes that occur during the all important vigorous boil, the conversion of S-Methyl Methionine to DMS and finishing with wort separation in the whirlpool.
We also had an introduction to the packaging section of this course and I am here to tell you that I have a new found appreciation for anyone that can get an advanced degree on this stuff without having an I.V. of espresso flowing through them. I do not fault the instructor, but it is simply a pretty dry subject. Alas, we must become intimately familiar with it. Packaging includes topics such as labeling, keg filling, pasteurization, how various containers are made, methods to prevent beer oxidation, quality assurance etc. None of which can be ignored if you are to have a successful brewery. Next week we’ll be moving on to a topic I’m pretty excited about. Hops!