03 Nov 2010 @ 10:40 PM 

Siebel Concise Course: Day 3 – Malting, Milling, and Styles


There’s this mindset — I don’t know how to explain it. At some point, when you’re in the process of doing something, it kind of sets in that you’re doing it. Sitting down this morning for the 3rd consecutive set of 8-hour days talking about very specific technical topics about beer, well – that’s when it hit that: hey, we’re only 1/3 of the way into this and there’s a WHOLE lot of information flying by. It was a halfway, “Neat!” feeling and halfway, “Oh dear god!” feeling.

Today, we picked up from where we left off from yesterday’s “Enzymes in Barley” and launched straight into a detailed discussion of malting, malt houses, malting equipment, and exactly what goes on inside of barley when you malt it so that we, as brewers, can get a good idea of what we’re looking for in terms of malt. So, again, we hit into a lot of biochemistry, a smattering of botany, a little bit of mechanical engineering and – when discussing malt analyses – just a pinch of voodoo.

We talked about specialty malts, and the type of kilning that was used to create specific specialty malts. This I found particularly interesting because, unsurprisingly, malts that I consider to fall into certain “taste families” (this is just how I think about things) all happen to be malted/kilned in the same way – like Victory and Biscuit malts or Munich and Aromatic malts. Things that aren’t necessarily quite closely related in either use or immediate characteristics that I always felt had similarities. It turns out, they do. It was nice to have a confirmation that they were all actually related somehow.

From there, we talked about milling: milling practices, exactly what’s going on in a 2-roller mill vs. 4-, 5-, or 6-roller and exactly what we should be looking for in a well-milled grist.

We finished the day with a discussion of styles and another, much more pleasing, tasting. We covered a smattering of English and American styles, as you can see from the photo to the left here, notably:

Classic English-Style Pale Ale (Batemans XXXB Pale Ale)
English-Style Extra Special Bitter (Fuller’s ESB)
English-Style IPA (Sam Smith’s India Ale)
Dry Irish Stout (Porterhouse Oyster Stout – made with real oysters! Really!)
California Common Beer (Anchor Steam)
American-Style Amber/Red (Eel River Organic Amber)
American Pale Ale (Napa Smith Pale Ale)
American IPA (Avery IPA – by far the star of the pale ales on the day)
Imperial/Double IPA (Anderson Valley Imperial IPA)
Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (Goose Island Bourbon County Stout)

While it was definitely a pleasure to go through these (which are some of my favorite) styles, it was also a light tour through a few off-flavors, as well. Many of the imported beers were old and oxidized, most of the highly hopped beers were full of isovaleric acid (from oxidized hops). The beers that, I thought, were of best quality were the Avery and the Goose Island. They were both fantastic. The others all had… flaws. In any given bar environment I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but here, in the classroom, after spending all day thinking about it, the flaws stood out like a sore thumb.

The other thing worth bringing up, I think, and this is a slight criticism of the course, really, is that there seems to be a steady discrepancy between slides that have been included in our book/binder for our study and the slides being presented to us by the instructor (and one in particular). Sometimes they’re not in the same order, sometimes they’re entirely different slides and, thus, entirely different pieces of presented information. I don’t know if this is just a matter of the instructor having old slides, but it’s a shame.

From a value standpoint – sure, I’m not spending tens of thousands of dollars for the full diploma course, but I am spending somewhere on the order of $5,000 for this course plus room and board over the next two weeks, and that’s a lot of money to me. I think I’d like it if I felt like it was a little more polished, especially coming from a 130-year-old (y’know.. ish.. with a few breaks) brewing school, concise course or not.

(And the tech geek in me says: You printed how many Powerpoint presentations and gave them to me in a binder? You couldn’t have burned that onto CD and saved a few trees?)

Still, in the grand scheme of things, the info is there, and I’m still getting more into my head than was there before and filling in the gaps of my knowledge, which was my objective here. So, onward and upward.

Tomorrow? Mashing. Lots of math and mashing. Awesome.

Tags Tags: ,
Categories: industry
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 03 Nov 2010 @ 10 40 PM


Responses to this post » (2 Total)

  1. Macguffin says:

    An excellent three posts! Looking forward to more. This stuff is incredibly fascinating.

    Also – I got to have Goose Island Bourbon County Stout several months ago at The Asgard in Cambridge, MA. Holy hell, was that good.

    Best with the rest of your week!

  2. Nate says:

    I’m enjoying this series immensely. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that feeling you describe in the second sentence of the first paragraph, where the reality sets in that you are actually doing something that you’ve dreamed of or even considered unattainable…miss that feeling.

    I am pleased to hear that it’s only $5,000. I spent roughly 90K on two degrees that are now collecting dust. Comparatively, the siebel course is a bargain.

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