Brewers feel our pain

By Joe Ross 

Craft beer enthusiasts with nagging questions about their favorite brews share some of the same uncertainties as brewers.

Which hops work well together? Why is one beer so citrusy while another is so bitter? These questions were kicked around during the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines gathering at Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge Jan. 5-7.

One of the biggest problems facing brewers is “coming up with the perfect hop blends,” said Steven Pauwels, brewmaster for Boulevard Brewing Co., who presented a seminar on Discovering Fruit & Fruit Flavors in Brewing at the 17th annual festival, which was previously held in Vail.

Pauwels said numbers (the science, tracking and testing) are extremely important to producing consistent, excellent beer.

One way to accomplish that combination is to know your hop grower, Pauwels said. With so many breweries across the country vying for hops, it’s important to have friends in the hop world. Baby hops, he said, can create a sulfur aroma in beer, as opposed to mature hops that will provide more consistent aromas.

One of the brewers in the seminar asked Pauwels if there was a “hop chart” available that would allow analysis in combining hops. Sorry, Pauwels said. No such luck.

Another important factor for a beer’s character is the amount of fruit that is added. As little as one ounce of lemon peel per barrel can influence the fruity characteristics. “A very small amount can go a long way,” Pauwels said.

He also pointed out that hopped up beers are most vulnerable to heat degradation.

Beers that are dated to be consumed within four months might lose flavor sooner if they are not kept chilled in liquor store coolers.

The bottom line, he said, is to drink the beer when it is fresh to garner the best flavors.