New Brewer - Some taste / comparison questions

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New Brewer - Some taste / comparison questions

Postby Cerebus06 » Mon May 21, 2007 3:04 pm

I'm looking at getting started in brewing my own beers, and I have several questions. The most important really is in regards to taste... and more specifically, what ingredients provide what tastes. My personal experience with beers is almost 100% commercial (Budweiser, Miller, etc.), and as such I don't really have the background knowledge to be able to taste a beer and determine it's ingredients, or why it tastes one way over another, etc. I just know that one beer tastes better to me (thicker, smoother) than another when I taste them.

I guess one way would be to have a comparison chart or list that shows a rundown of well known commercial beers and what their ingredients are specifically to brewing. I've hunted for something like that so I can get an idea, without success.

One of the main reasons I want to try to brew my own stuff (aside from just wanting to try my hand at it) is that I get heartburn from hops. So, one of my main reasons is to attempt brewing beers with little or no hops.

Anyways... if anyone has any suggestions on where to go or what to do to get a good idea of tastes for ingredients, I'd really appreciate it.
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New Brewer Hints

Postby brewmeisterintng » Sat May 26, 2007 12:59 pm

It sounds like you need to read some books on the subject. I am not saying that to be mean, it's just there isn't enough space to tell you all you could learn from reading. The brands you mentioned are lagers and are not for the beginner. Ales are where most brewers start and most ales have their far share of hops in them. If that's what is giving you heart burn, I don't know what to tell you.
If I were you I would go to my local grocery store and find either micro brews or commercial ales and find out if brewing is really for you. I am not trying to chase you away but don't want to see another plop down a bunch of money only to find out that you have more yard sale stuff.
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Postby ColoradoBrewer » Sat May 26, 2007 9:19 pm

I don't know what to tell you about the hops other than they are a necessary part of any recipe. They're needed to balance the sweetness of the malt and all beers have them, even Bud and Coors. I would suggest that you try a few of the English styles. While they have hops in them, there is typically little or no hop presence the taste of these styles. The point is to see if these give you heartburn. BTW, are you sure it's the hops that causes heartburn and not something else?
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other bittering agents

Postby slothrob » Sun May 27, 2007 6:45 am

Before hops other herbs were used to bitter beer. If it really is hops that your stomach has a problem with, you could try experimenting with some of these other bittering agents. I believe yarrow and woodworm have both been used by modern brewers with some success.

It will require some research, but you can take a look at Cambridge Brewing Company's Gruit. This beer had no hops and was quite good. Perhaps if you contacted the brewer they might give you some guidance on where to start.

The other thing to try is limited hopping to focus the hop contribution to just bitterness or mostly flavor, by adding hops only early or only late in the boil. The timing creates different chemicals in the beer, but both can serve to balance the flavor. Odds are you only have a problem with one chemical, so this experimentation would help you narrow it down.

Or perhaps it is only certain hop varieties that bother you, say citrussy american hops. Compare British, German, and American beers to try the three major hop subgroups.

The best way to learn about beer ingredient flavors is to brew with different ingredients. The second best way is to taste a large variety of beers and look up what ingredients they use in their beer (often posted on their websites) or what ingredients people use when they try to clone the recipe.
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Just an additional comment or two

Postby billvelek » Sun May 27, 2007 10:24 pm

Please don't take offense if it appears that I am doubting your diagnosis that it is the hops that is causing your hearburn, but let me make a few comments.

First, you indicate that your beer drinking experience is almost 100% commercial (Budweiser, Miller, etc.), but you don't mention commercial ales such as Sam Adams and other microbrews, etc. This leads me to believe that all you've had is the typical lagers that are popular here in the U.S. While I drink some of those myself and don't have a snobbish attitude of some folks of looking down my nose at such beers, many homebrewers consider those beers to be ... well ... "swill" that is hardly fit to drink. So, maybe it is "swill" that is causing your heartburn, rather than specifically the hops. Moreover, I will add that, insofar as I understand it, such beers generally contain far less hops than what homebrewers use. I think a good test would be for you to buy some quality ales in the quantity that you genally drink and see if you get a case of heartburn; this will have the added advantage of giving you a better idea of the sort of beer that you are going to be able to brew as a beginner. If you don't like ales, you ought to find that out before you invest in brewing equipment.

Furthermore, many folks who drink those commercial American lagers -- and even some who drink mainly homebrews -- drink a LOT of beer, and so maybe it is the drinking of beer in _excess_ that is causing heartburn, although I don't know how much you drink at a time. Drinking a lot of beer can contribute to being overweight, which can be a cause of heartburn. And I'd imagine that having a whole lot of carbonation in the stomach might affect you, too, so it might be something else other than hops. On the other hand, even if it is the quantity that you're drinking at a sitting, that doesn't really provide an answer. And many folks like to snack while drinking, so maybe it is something in combination with the beer, such as pizza or salsa, etc. Have you been allergy tested? Has a doctor actually told you that it is the hops, or are you just guessing?

Now, as mentioned by others, hops hasn't always been used to brew beer, so you can try a number of alternative spices. I have a book titled "The Homebrewer's Garden", primarily for info about growing hops, but about half the book is about using various herbs and spices in homebrew -- some in addition to hops but also some in place of hops. There might be other sources of similar info that you could find with a bit of 'google' research, and I'd also suggest that any groups or mailing lists about "historical" brewing could be a good source since they probably have recipes for gruit. If all else fails, you might need to switch to making wine or moonshine :D since they don't contain hops.

Good luck.

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Carbonation

Postby slothrob » Mon May 28, 2007 11:32 am

I thought of carbonation as a probable culprit, too. After all, carbonation turns water into carbonic acid. It would be worth trying a cask conditioned beer, if you can find a pub that carries one, or a beer served on Nitrogen, like Guiness, which knocks much of the CO2 out of solution. Guiness in the DRAFT can would be about the same as that served from a nitrogen tap.

The other thing that a lot of people skip over is that alchohol itself is pretty rough on the stomach, especially on an empty stomach or if you take a lot of aspirin or ibuprophen.
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Postby Cerebus06 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:38 pm

I'd like to thank you all for your replies... and no, I don't take offense to anything anyone has said at all. After all, I'm sure all of you have much more experience with this than I do. :)

I realize it's been quite a while since I posted this (things have gotten a bit busy in life lately), but I just wanted to say that I have taken a lot of the advice given here. I've been reading as much information as I can on the subject. We have a couple of micro-brew places around here that I've been visiting, and have been attempting to try as many micro and ale beers as I can to not only get a taste for what I like and don't like, but also to try to figure out the "heartburn" issue (more specifically, what's causing it), and to see if I can begin to start identifying ingredients by taste once I know what they are so as to have a better idea of just how a specific ingredient can change the taste. I'm still not all that great at it, but I'm getting better.

Just to clarify also... one of the reasons I wanted to start brewing own is mostly because I don't really care for lagers... I've always liked beer with a more robust taste and enjoyed ales (I didn't clarify that above). I just, at the time of my post above, hadn't had as much exerience with tasting them and the different variations possible (and I'm most certainly still an amateur... albeit more informed and with considerably more tasting experience than I did have).

Specifically in regards to the hearburn, prior to researching this I'd really never paid much attention to exactly what caused the problem, or specifically what I was drinking at the time. It was always later that it occured, and I had a couple people who drink more beer than I did suggest that as a possible issue. I just took it to heart. In the last several months however I've been paying much more attention to it. I'm not certain that it has anything to do with hops specifically now... it appears as if it's either in ingredients with certain beers (most notably commercials) or coupled with food I'm eating at the time. In retrospect, I've not had any heartburn issues whatsoever when drinking micros... which, as far as I'm concerned, is a good sign. :)
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