Tuesday, October 30, 2012

536. Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

It feels like we should have already sampled and discussed this beer, but a careful examination of the records indicates that we have not. After all, this beer is one of Elli’s favorites—it is well nigh impossible to keep any in the basement, even if it is carefully hidden. But I digress. We haven’t, and thus here we are: our second Samuel Smith’s beer. Our previous victim was their Organically Produced Lager. So here we are again: we’re bringing sexy back like it was our job.

Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout pours a rich, dark chocolate with a creamy cocoa-colored head that offers respectable retention. The beer itself initially appears almost black in the glass until tilted to see the light through the sparkling clear fluid, and there are pleasant garnet highlights from the light passing through the beer. Smelling this beer is a pleasure; up front is sweet cocoa and milk chocolate, followed by caramel and a hint of toffee. There is also a slight minty herbal character that I’m attributing to the hops. As it warms roasted malt and coffee starts to creep out, along with a hint of nuttiness, but it is still in the background. All in all, quite beguiling. Flavors open with chocolate with underlying coffee and roasted hints, albeit balanced much more towards the chocolate. The middle is cocoa and hints of both milk and mint; the coffee and roast reassert themselves in the finish, accompanied by sweet milky caramel. The mouthfeel is chewy, rounded, and full; the lighter carbonation helps round the beer, but also allows it to sit enjoyably on the tongue. While the beer has a hint of alcohol flavor and warmth, it plays well with the sweet chocolate flavors. Overall, I’d call it easy-drinking deliciousness. As well, it is always a little different every time we have it. In this one, the slight minty hop character was more pronounced than in previous bottles; it added to the overall character of the beer nicely. Elli initially thought the mint was from the tea she had been drinking.

From the bottle: “Brewed at Samuel Smith’s small, traditional British brewery with well water (the original well sunk in 1758 is still in use), best barley malt, roasted barley, yeast and hops to create a rich flavourful ale; deep chocolate in colour with a roasted barley nose and flavour that is a complexity of malt, hops and yeast. Fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares.’ This distinctive type of ale was originally shipped to Imperial Russia; it was a favourite of Russian nobility.”

ABV: 7.0%

This beer is also registered with the Vegan Society: it is safe and suitable for vegans and vegetarians alike. Take that, Meat-Lover’s Guiness!®


Friday, October 26, 2012

535. 8 Wired Saison Sauvin

So here’s another shot at a beer using Nelson Sauvin; this one is brewed and bottled by 8 Wired Brewing Company in Marlborough, New Zealand. While we’ve had beers with hops from New Zealand, and made beers with hops from New Zealand, we’ve never actually had a beer from New Zealand (well, that all of you know about, anyway). So here it is: our first beer from New Zealand. And an excellent choice, might I add: here’s a beer dry enough to highlight the delicate white wine and Chardonnay-like flavors associated with Nelson Sauvin. And it is made with Wyeast’s French Saison 3711 yeast, perhaps the greatest yeast known to humanity. Ah, I kid. There is no perhaps in that last sentence. So basically, we’re talking win-win all around.

Saison Sauvin pours a hazy golden apricot with a sparse but creamy head, while the nose is simultaneously juicy, earthy, and musty mixed with a fair amount of floral and fruit aromas, including citrus, pear, and apricot. I also get a touch of over-ripe fruit followed by hay and hints of pith and zest—a smell I would best characterize as spritzy. Flavors open with a slight candy sweetness that moves quickly into a dry, earthy bitterness. There is a touch of juicy flavor and mouthfeel in the front, but the bitterness quickly strips it away. The bitterness continues into the finish, along with a brief appearance by bright, spicy hop flavor. While there are corresponding hints of the pear, apricot, and over-ripe fruit flavor in the finish, they are much less forward than in the nose. The attenuated body creates a dry and eminently drinkable beer that pairs well with the hop bitterness; it has a mineral, earthy tang in the finish that further dries and cleans the palate. It is better than I thought it was going to be, and I had high hopes for it; the malt presence is minimal, allowing the yeast and hops to dance and swirl on the tongue. Even Elli, who is often diffident regarding saisons, gives this one her approval. As she observed, “the humble farmer wouldn’t know what hit ’em!” All in all, an excellent example of the style, one worth seeking out. Nice work, 8 Wired!

From the bottle: “Saisons were traditionally brewed by Belgian and French farmers to provide refreshment to their laborers during harvest, back when water was generally undrinkable. Those low-gravity beers were not so much about flavour, I’m sure, so I’d bet those hardworking, humble farmer brewers would be plenty surprised to learn that, centuries later, their style of brewing has come to be cherished by modern beer lovers, and has inspired brewers from all over the world. As with all our beers, this is a very modern, new world, interpretation of the style. We have used a French Saison yeast, which provides a plethora of funky, earthy, very ‘Belgian’ flavours. From there we have upped the ante a fair bit by doubling the amount of malt, and have loaded the kettle with punchy Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, where our beers are brewed. Unlike the original saison, this is beer to be savoured. Moderation is the key for full enjoyment of this and all great beers.”

ABV: 7.0%
IBU: 50
Yeast: Wyeast 3711 (I knew it!)
Malt: Pilsner, Aromatic, CaraMunich, Wheat and Crystal
Hops: Nelson Sauvin and a pinch of Motueka


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

534. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord

Timothy Taylor has been producing “prize-winning Yorkshire Beers and Ales” since 1858 at the Knowle Spring Brewery in Keighly. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord—not to be confused with Chris Wyatt’s Landlord—is something of a staple in England, and, well, I can see why. Here’s to British beer!

Landlord pours a crisp, clear toffee caramel with a creamy and slightly off-white head that has stupendous retention. Visually, the beer is a pretty one—in addition to the clarity, it features small streaming bubbles that light up the beer. The nose is malt mixed with huskiness and light buttery toast. As well, there are hints of floral, musty, and earthy hop aromas. Flavors start with caramel malt sweetness mixed with creamy toffee; there is a floral earthy hop flavor in the front, although some of the floral components could be from the yeast. The middle features a gentle bitterness along with a slight creamy spiciness that tastes and feels hop-derived. It almost comes across as a light herbal mintiness—bright and crisp on the tongue. A touch of graininess comes out in the finish, along with gentle lingering bitterness. The beer is bright and clean; the medium body and prickly, restrained carbonation keeps the beer light on the tongue. It is smooth and even from start to finish. It is certainly a classic. I’m happy to finally taste the original: while it is a bit darker than the one we brewed for the Rockit Cup, the flavors are similar, although this beer has more body and depth. The hint of herbal mintiness is a nice touch in the beer. Landlord is a standard-bearer for the easy-drinking session beer that American craft brewing should be aspiring to replicate: nothing flashy, nothing showy, just straight pure quality. I’d drink pints of this all night long. And so would you.

From the bottle: “Landlord is the classic pale ale, brewed in the traditional way from the famous Knowle Spring water, using only the finest malt and leaf hops. This full-flavoured brew has been crowned Supreme Champion Beer of Britain four times at the Great British Beer Festival; no other beer in the U.K. has won as many awards. Timothy Taylor started brewing at Keighley in 1858, and his business continues as a family company at the original brewery, maintaining the tradition of excellence he established.”

From the Timothy Taylor website: “A Classic Strong Pale Ale, Landlord has won more awards nationally than any other beer: This includes four times as Champion at the Brewers’ International Exhibition and four times as CAMRA’s beer of the year. Refreshingly reliable, nationally renowned, this full drinking Pale Ale with a complex and hoppy aroma has real Pulling Powerand stands out in any bar as the ideal regular.”

They also have an entry for Bottled Landlord: “The bottled version of the Classic Pale Ale that commands its own loyal following. Bottled Landlord boasts six national awards in recent years and is a natural selection for those who wish to enjoy beer at home.”

ABV: 4.1%


Saturday, October 20, 2012

CMI Oktobersbest Zinzinnati 2012 Beer Judging

Like N2Deep, it was back to the hotel for this year’s CMI Oktobersbest Zinzinnati beer competition—specifically, back to the 16th floor of the Radisson. Or, to quote the day’s guest speaker, it was all about getting “back to myself.” Can you, my dear reader, sense a theme?

The morning began with a presentation on sour beers by Jason Roeper from Rivertown Brewing. Once that was finished, we mercifully moved onto beer judging, which was Category 14 (IPA). Since there were 33 entries, we had four sets of judges, and we rolled through the lot quickly and efficiently. After lunch in the revolving restaurant upstairs, it was back to business. In the afternoon, I judged Category 12 (Porters) with three other judges; I was paired with Scott LaFollette from Blank Slate Brewing, and everything went smooth and easy—we were generally within one or two points of each other, so the focus was kept on the beer itself. As it should be.

Afterwards, we opted to skip out of the pub crawl and instead head back to Dayton. On the way home, however, we did stop at the Party Source to check out the beer offerings, and we also stopped and had a pint of Fifty West Brewing Company’s Hoppy When Wet at Dutch’s. I do love me some fresh hop beers...

P. S. I hope Scott LaFollette doesn’t hold a grudge for calling him a wet blanket. Oh, and results are here.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

533. Freigeist Abraxxxas

Holy German revival brewing! Historical brewing is all the rage with the kids these days, and it is nice to see when American obsessiveness with extinct beer styles returns to the source, so to speak. This beer, as the label informs us, is brewed and bottled by Braustelle at Brauerei Göller in Zeil Am Main, Germany. I would have checked out the website and all to find out more, but it was verboten.

Abraxxas pours a rich hazy gold; the murky fluid is vibrant in the light, and it carries a creamy white head that offers better retention than other lactically-soured beers we’ve had. The nose is equal parts smoked malt and candy-sweet gummy lactic sourness. While there are at least two internal contradictions in the last phrase, that doesn’t change our perceptions. Imagine if you can sour candied bacon, and you’ll be headed down the correct rabbit hole. After the beer has had a chance to open up a bit, there is that slight hint of fetid decomposition that lactic beers exude underneath the bright tartness; while this description sounds horrendous, it is meant as a compliment. You will, no doubt, forgive the limitations of language when dealing with the beauty and splendor of sour beers. Flavors follow the aroma quite closely: there is the initial rush of sweet smokiness as the beer rolls across the tongue, followed by a bright lactic sourness as it hits the back of the mouth and encompasses the tongue. While the smokiness never quite disappears, the lactic twang does try to covers it, especially as the creamy mouthfeel and bite from the carbonation push the bright mineral tartness. The tartness begins retreating in the finish, leaving a lingering bacon smoked-meat flavor that blends well with the remaining tartness. There is a complex balancing of subtlety in this beer—the creamy, almost chewy mouthfeel is still light and spritzy in conjunction with the carbonation, and the layers of flavors between the smoked malt and lactic sourness roll and swirl across the palate. While some of you out there in TV land may be quick to call novelty beer, this beer is squarely in our wheelhouse. Well, at least mine—I’m not sure Elli would give it such a glowing recommendation. It is something that, were it were to remain readily available (because, sadly, I’m afraid it won’t), would hit regular rotation in the refrigerator. While sour candied bacon will undoubtedly flummox many, this beer is a beautiful marriage of smoke and sour. So give it shot before it disappears—this beer is a good part of why I love craft beer in the first place.

From the bottle: “Freigeist is the experimental offshoot of Cologne’s revolutionary small brewery, Braustelle. Here we strive to break the chains of industrial brewing by reviving and updating Germany’s unique, historical beer styles. Inspired by the eastern German tart wheat beer style once known as ‘Lichtenhainer,’ Abraxxxas is sour and complex, with a balancing smoky maltiness.”

ABV: 6.0%


Monday, October 15, 2012

December Rockit Cup: Northern English Brown

Thanks to Ben Cripes for putting together the recipe for the December Rockit Cup. I might even have to forgive Ben for being a dirty, dirty cheater. I probably won’t, but I’d like to at least impress the judges with my marvelous faux effort.

December Rockit Cup: Northern English Brown
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.011
IBU: 26
SRM: 18
ABV: 4.6%

80% Maris Otter
7.5% Caravienne
7.5% Special Roast
2.5% Chocolate
2.5% Pale Chocolate

Mash at 154˚ F for 60 minutes

½ oz. EKG FWH
¾ oz. EKG @ 60
¾ oz. EKG @ 10

WY 1318 London Ale III
acceptable substitutions would be WY 1098 British Ale or WLP 007 Dry English Ale

Ferment at 67˚ F and carbonate to 2.0 vol.

Let’s get brewing!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Last Wild Fresh Hop Brewday

I’ll be happy when the four different fresh hop beers we’ve made this year are all ready to drink, but I’m also already slightly nostalgic for the passing of one of my favorite seasonal moments during the year. Sure, I have fall to look forward to (and I do), and all of that delicious fresh hop beer to drink (and again, I do), but since we’re not living in a beer-rich area, and more specifically, not the Pacific Northwest, fresh hop offerings are themselves few and far between. As in non-existant. In fact, there’s a big enough gap that I’m officially declaring myself the Fresh Hop King of Ohio. You heard it here first: what we’re drinking is the 2012 Fresh Hop King of Ohio, and we’re awarding ourselves the first annual Ohio Fresh Hop 2012 Championship Belt. You want to take it away? Bring that fresh hop beer, son, and get ready for 2013, when maybe they’ll actually be some challengers. Knowing the history of any contest I run, I’ll not be holding my breath.

131. The Last Wild Fresh Hop
8 lbs. Rahr 2-row
1 lb. MFB Vienna
1lb. Breiss White Wheat

Mash @ 151° F for 70 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.078
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 ½ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¾ gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 ½ oz. Willamette leaf 7.8% AA

w/20 to go: 3 oz. wild wet hops

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/10 to go: 2 oz. wild wet hops

w/5 to go: 3 oz. wild wet hops

w/0 to go: 3 oz. wild wet hops

Chilled, racked onto Wyeast 1272 American Ale II pancake from 130. Cascade Fresh Hop

Brewed: 10/13/2012
Secondary: 11/14/2012 @ 1.008
Bottled: 11/29/2012 w/ 3.0 oz. table sugar; added 2 oz. Press concentrate to the last gallon

OG: 1.046
FG: 1.008

Tasting Notes: The one difference between this and the other fresh hops beers I made is that I used commercial hops for the 60 minute bittering addition, although I chose Willamette so that it would be gentle and not overpower the subtle wild hops flavors. As well, this beer actually pours a much lighter color than I could record in the picture; while hazy, it is closer to a dull gold than the almost
copper seen in the picture; it also has a mousse-y white head—I always like it when the wheat does its job. The main hop aroma in the nose is new-mown grass coupled with a touch of hay; there are lesser amounts of pear and apple fruitiness, both of which are delicate and subtle. The malt is only minimally present, which was intended—I do think this grain bill creates a light, pleasant body for the beer, although next time I might switch out the MFB Vienna for Dingemans Cara 20, or maybe try a ½ lb. of each. Flavors start with a gentle bread crust malt flavor and the apple and pear hop found in the nose. Grass hop flavor and bitterness comes in the middle, along with just a hint of restrained malt sweetness; the grassiness and bitterness continues into the finish, ending with a slightly stronger grassy note—let’s call it hay. The grassiness might be a bit much for some, specifically as it is the main hop flavor, but I find it enjoyable. The body is light, and the carbonation is bright and cleansing—it gives the finish an almost refreshing spritzy crisp to it that rounds the beer well. The light body and clean yeast profile allows the subtlety of the wild hops to come out in this beer. I’m already looking forward to making more of this next year. 

I forgot I put coffee in the last gallon until I was typing up the notes; I’ll try and pull a bottle of that one soon to drink and compare.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cascade Fresh Hop Brewday

The actual name of this beer should probably be Smith Hop, since the Cascade hops I am using were the lovely gift of my nextdoor neighbors, the Smiths. I’ll just thank my lucky stars they are too busy to make use of them, and brew away. Oh, the deliciousness!

130. Cascade Fresh Hop
8 lbs. Rahr 2-row
1 lb. MFB Vienna
1lb. Breiss White Wheat

Mash @ 151° F for 65 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.080
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.022

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 6 ¾ gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 4.75 oz. fresh Cascade

w/20 to go: 3 oz. fresh Cascade

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/10 to go: 2 oz. fresh Cascade

w/5 to go: 2 oz. fresh Cascade

w/0 to go: 3 oz. fresh Cascade

Chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Brewed: 10/7/2012
Secondary: 10/13/2012 @ 1.012
Bottled: 11/14/2012 w/ 3.0 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.008

Tasting Notes: Cascade Fresh Hop pours a hazy dirty straw; while it has the same grain as 131. The Last Fresh Wild Hop (and pretty much the same process with the exception of the hops used), this one is certainly hazier in the glass. The head is creamy, white, and profuse, with good retention and offering some lacing on the glass. The nose is a mix of spicy floral and fruit hop aromas in the front, with grass and hay coming in after that; when I first had this beer, there was a distinct berry note in the front—strawberry, in fact—that has faded. There is none of the classic grapefruit you’d expect to find in Cascade; the fruitiness might hit lemon, but barely. Still, the hop aromas in the nose are subtle and beguiling. I get a touch of candy sweetness in the nose as well, and this reappears in the flavors of the front of the beer, which starts with light cracker and candy malt sweetness. The hop flavor comes in on the heels of the sweetness, starting with a resin spiciness mixed with grass that is clean and brisk, and leads into the gentle bitterness of the middle. There is also some hay and pine in the middle along with a touch of bread crust from the malt, while the finish is clean and crisp. I get a touch of floral hop flavor and candy malt, along with a gentle, even hop bitterness. The gentle, creamy carbonation rounds the beer on the palate—it is smooth and even, and the lighter body allows subtlety to play across the tongue. All in all, this is certainly the best of the fresh hop beers I made this year, and it also does have some actual bitterness from the hops—the only other one that had any actual hop bitterness was the aforementioned 131. The Last Wild Fresh Hop, and that was because I used commercial Willamette for bittering. As well, the MFB Vienna was a good call as a replacement for any caramel or crystal malt; there is a touch of sweetness, but nothing big enough to impinge upon the delicate components of the fresh hops. I might try pushing it a bit next time—something like Dingemans Cara 20, but I also like the pared-down body here—it serves more as a backdrop for the fresh hops. I’ll have to expand my fresh hop operations next year. My secret plan: a fresh hop saison. Not that that would actually surprise anyone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review: Wildbrews

“Why do all of these breweries own a cat? To keep the Brettanomyces under control” (vi).

Jeff Sparrow’s Wildbrews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer’s Yeast is a primer on brewing beyond Saccharomyces cerevisiae; while this is of course the subtitle of the book, I nonetheless feel compelled to reinforce this point, as it is, I think, one of the keys to understanding the Belgian approach to brewing. As Peter Bouckaert notes in the “Foreword,” Belgian brewers “are making their beer, not a style” (ix), and Sparrow expands on this point, observing that Belgian brewers “aren’t terribly obsessed with the concept of style” (9). Sparrow continues: “At one time, all beer exhibited some level of tart, sour, acidic character. Modern brewing methods helped to virtually eliminate those characteristics in beer. Only several traditional styles of wild beer exist, still brewed using traditional methods in Flanders, Brussels, and the surrounding countryside” (4). This hewing to traditional methods, along with an understanding and intentional implementation of wild yeast and beer souring micro organisms, is what makes Belgian brewing Belgian. These “hedgehogs,” as Bouckaert calls them, cling “furiously to the good old stuff” (ix). And in reading Jeff Sparrow’s well-written, clear, and detailed book, you can find the information necessary to transform yourself into as much of a hedgehog as you’d like to be when brewing.

Not surprisingly, to understand the beers, we need to understand the history that created them. Sparrow spares no detail in providing the influence of history on Belgian brewing. The traditional combination of barley and wheat in many Belgian beers dates back to, well, a long time ago: “Duke Jean IV of Brabant decreed in 1420 that all brewers in Brabant were required to use wheat to improve the quality of their beers” (40). And lambic turbid mashing traces back to an 1822 Dutch law that “fixed a duty upon the capacity of the mash tun [...] The mashes of early Belgian brewers were, therefore, turbid. This type of mash, full of starches and dextrins, is still common in the production of lambic” (40). The law, however, did have one loophole: “This law made a provision for raw grains not directly mashed with the malt in the tun, this giving a financial advantage to the use of corn, oats, or wheat in a separate cereal cooker” (49). Thus, while 400 years separate these two legal decrees, they both push Belgian brewing in similar directions.

Terroir is also a significant contributor to many Belgian breweries; process has been shaped by locale as well as the law. Chapter 4, “Beer-Souring Organisms,” offers a rundown of the different organism that contribute characteristics to beer: “Four dominant types of microorganisms commonly ferment and acidify beers: Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Saccharomyces. Several other important players also merit a mention, including Acetobacter, Enterobacter, and various oxidative yeasts. A wide variety of different strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae ferment beer, and they all have different requirements and characteristics. This same fact applies to wild yeast and bacteria” (99). While broadly interested in all of these, my current interest is specifically in Brettanomyces. Thus, the several pages that Sparrow dedicates to N. Hjelte Claussen’s 1904 discovery are excellent reading: “The five currently recognized species of Brettanomyces include (with several synonyms): B. anomalus (B. claussenii), B. bruxellensis (B. abstinens, B. custerii, B. intermedius, B. lambicus), B. custersianus, B. naardensis, and B. nanus. Many different strains of each species exist within the genus Brettanomyces” (106). Next month, I’ll be making Brettanomyces-only beers with the four different Brettanomyces commercially available to home brewers; from Wyeast there is B. bruxellensis (5122) and B. lambicus (5526), and White Labs carries B. claussenii (WLP 645) and B. bruxellensis trois (WLP 644), the last which is a seasonal release and is, I am guessing, a specific strain of the B. bruxellensis species (it is, according to the Mad Fermentationist, the 3 Fonteinen strain). Thus, according to Sparrow’s list, I’ve bought three versions of B. bruxellensis and one of B. anomalus; one further distinguishing characteristic Sparrow does point out, however: “B. bruxellensis often refers to a strain obtained within Brussels, B. lambicus to strains cultured in the Payottenland. Individual strains all exhibit different characteristics” (106-7). Mainly, it looks like I’ll have to wait and compare the final products to get a sense of the similarities and differences between the four different Brettanomyces listed here, but then again, that's part of my interest in performing the experiment (and another side note: Al B. from East Coast Yeast offers B. custersianus as ECY 19). There’s also an interesting (and valuable) chart at the end of Chapter 4 that maps out the alcohol and pH tolerance of all the common wild buggies in the chapter, as well as which ones produce alcohol, lactic and acetic acid, and the temperature ranges and response to oxygen for each (115). [Brettanomyces graphs from Eureka Brewing]

Equally valuable is “Production Methods,” Chapter 5, which offers the nuts and bolts of how to produce wild beers. Of particular interest is the discussion of fruit: “Four factors to consider when choosing fruit include sugar content, acidity, the type of acid, and the level of tannins in the fruit” (130). The previous page has another helpful chart, listing fruit and ranking all four of these categories. As well, the extended discussion on turbid mashing was helpful in understanding the processes and purposes behind the practice. In regards to fermentation, Sparrow discusses three different methods: “inoculated, spontaneous, and mixed” (151); he also traces the fermentation dynamics of both Lambics and Flanders Reds, providing a sense of the complex and inter-related microbial sequence of events required to produce these beers.

The chapter on “Fermentation and Maturation Vessels,” Chapter 7, covers the characteristics of barrel and wood aging, along with information on selecting the appropriate barrel. Thus, the “designation ‘oaky’ refers to the aroma or flavor of a liquid that has interacted with the oak while in a barrel. More than 200 components of wood may directly contribute to an alcoholic beverage, although only about a dozen are detectable by the human palate, and three deserve closer attention. One of the primary compounds contributed in vanillin. This compound will lend a vanillalike aroma and corresponding sweetness, even in barely detectable amounts. Oak also contributes tannins. This compound adds a drying, astringent, acidic character often present in red wine. A third—the unique spicy character contributed by methyloctalactones—differs according to the origin (country, region, and even forest) of the wood” (191-2). The information on preparing a barrel for use (205-8) offers information I hope to be able to make use of some day.

Sparrow’s book concludes with a discussion of finishing beers and blending, an important part of Belgian brewing, and a section of recipes to get readers started. Thus, a “brewer blends beer for two basic reasons: to change the character of the beer and/or to produce a consistent result not possible from a single batch” (225). I do like this carefully and most certainly intentionally placed observation: “Anheuser-Busch carefully controls every step of the brewing process and still blends to achieve an extremely high level of consistency” (225). Rreowww!  
From here.

And finally, my new vocabulary word from this book: caveau, the name for the large stacks of bottles of gueuze, stored on their side and usually against a wall, which brewers use to age individual blends of their beer (245). Love live the caveau!