Column: A little beard hair with your beer?In the last couple of years I have made two batches of my own beer, and only half had weird, algae-like things floating in it. So, I think it’s fair to say I’m pretty much an expert when it comes to brewing.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
In the last couple of years I have made two batches of my own beer, and only half had weird, algae-like things floating in it. So, I think it’s fair to say I’m pretty much an expert when it comes to brewing.
I’m not alone. The craft brewing movement is growing rapidly in the United States. According to the Brewers Association, money spent on beer from smaller breweries grew by 14 percent in the first half of 2012. The number of breweries has hit an all-time high.
All that growth has led to a lot of creativity among brewers. Brewers are making beers with chocolate and vanilla, with spruce tips and sage, even with bacon. It’s entirely possible some brewmasters are planning their recipes by checking their refrigerators and pantries and seeing what they have too much of.
On a related note, I’m pretty excited about the next beer on my brewing schedule, a nearly-spoiled milk and graham cracker porter.
Granted, some of these unusual ingredients are more appealing than others. An episode of the Discover Channel’s short-lived series Brew Masters followed the crew at Delaware brewery Dogfish Head as they brewed up a batch of an ancient Peruvian corn-based drink called Chicha. Their process was authentic, right down to chewing the corn before it went into the brew kettle.
The saliva really gives it an extra bite.
For a while, that was the most unsettling thing I’ve heard about going into beer, unless you count whatever was floating in my last batch. But now it’s been topped by Oregon-based Rogue Ales, which is reportedly preparing a brand new beer with a special kind of yeast.
Yeast, of course, is vital to the brewing process. It’s what transforms sugars in the brew to alcohol. Beer without yeast is a little like the Minnesota Vikings offense without Percy Harvin. It just doesn’t work.
Yeast is found all over. It’s floating around us almost all the time. Even, apparently, in the beard of Rogue brewmaster John Maier. According to several news reports, Rogue is currently making test batches yeast from Maier’s beard. It plans a full release next year, apparently based on the theory that if you can put out a product that will make most of your potential customers immediately say, “Ew!” you have to do it. As far as I can tell, it’s the same theory behind most reality television programming.
In reality, the process isn’t quite as disgusting as it sounds. Maier isn’t just running his fingers through his beard, which he apparently hasn’t cut since 1978, and flicking handfuls of beard yeast and three decades of lunch crumbs into the brew kettle. The yeast was taken from samples of his beard hair that were sent to a lab for analysis. And, Maier points out, you can even find yeast in hair of your cat. Although nobody’s suggesting shaving the cat for a batch of kitty brew.
It’s all very scientific, this process to turn the stuff in a 34-year-old beard into a cool, refreshing brew. Sterile, even.
I think I’ll stick with my floaty things.