Friday, February 19, 2010

Now That's Penance!

A friend to whom I sent some of my Holyday Brown and Icicle IPA sent me an e-mail reminding me of former days, when some of my fermented beverages didn't work out quite so well:

Thanks for the nice ale. Last Saturday after a long week, I consumed the IPA you made. You’re in the big leagues now. The hop taste had a bit of a pine flavor, my favorite. I haven’t tasted the brown yet. All of a sudden Lent came; that great time of suffering with no ale. (what a wimp I am) . . . .

I hope you will try your hand at Russian Imperial Stout one of these years. I’m aware of how difficult good brew making is. I know you're busy enough. Don’t worry about a few early mistakes like the Palm's vintage apple wine that had a clear vinegar start with a hint of chlorine after taste. My Dad never knew the difference. I tolerated it too, during Lent a few years ago.

Hoo boy, apple wine with a vinegar start and chlorine finish. Now that's a Lenten sacrifice!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Catholic Church Did What?

A while ago a reader alerted me to a strange sentence in the Wikipedia article on "Lager". Now by way of background, speaking very generally beer is divided into two broad categories: ales and lagers. Ales are fermented with what are known as "top fermenting" yeasts, which ferment at warmer temperatures and generally exhibit at least a certain amount of yeast-induced flavor characteristics. Lagers are fermented cooler, using different, "bottom fermenting" yeast strains which throw fewer flavor compounds; thus lager beers are considered "cleaner" tasting. Lager beers are also typically aged at very cold temperatures for a time to further smooth out the beer.

The need for mechanical refrigeration to achieve these colder temperatures, at least for year-round brewing, meant that commercial production of lagers became widespread only in the late ninteenth century. "By the 1870s breweries had become the largest users of commercial refrigeration units, though some still relied on harvested ice" ("Refrigeration").

Back to the Wikipedia article on Lager, a reader asked me about this curious sentence: "As a new variety of beer, its production faced opposition from established brewers as well as the Catholic Church" (my emphasis).

Huh? Why the heck would the Catholic Church be opposed to the brewing of lager beers? Well, there's no knowing exactly why the original author put that in, but I suspect that this is just an example of free-floating anti-Catholic bias out there—we all know that the Catholic Church is the great enemy of free scientific inquiry and technological progress. Right? Don't we?
(Well, lots of people might "know" it, but that doesn't make it so. For the other side of that coin, see How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, at least for starters.)

Thanks to the editing feature on Wikipedia, the sentence now reads: "As a new variety of beer, its production faced opposition from established brewers." Because the Catholic Church doesn't have a dog in this hunt. Drink all the lagers you want—pilsner, bock, doppelbock, schwartzbier, long as they're not just the "tinted waters" that pass for beer here in the United States. (You know, we really should see if we can get our beer-loving German Pope to oppose those, just on principle.)