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Miracle Brew: Hops, Barley, Water, Yeast and the Nature of Beer

av Pete BROWN

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner
241783,625 (4.33)Ingen/inga
The Guardian's "Best Books on Drink" Pick Most people know that wine is created by fermenting pressed grape juice and cider by pressing apples. But although it's the most popular alcoholic drink on the planet, few people know what beer is made of. In lively and witty fashion, Miracle Brew dives into traditional beer's four natural ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast, and water, each of which has an incredible story to tell. From the Lambic breweries of Belgium, where beer is fermented with wild yeasts drawn down from the air around the brewery, to the aquifers below Burton-on-Trent, where the brewing water is rumored to contain life-giving qualities, Miracle Brew tells the full story behind the amazing role each of these fantastic four--a grass, a weed, a fungus, and water--has to play. Celebrated U.K. beer writer Pete Brown travels from the surreal madness of drink-sodden hop-blessings in the Czech Republic to Bamberg in the heart of Bavaria, where malt smoked over an open flame creates beer that tastes like liquid bacon. He explores the origins of fermentation, the lost age of hallucinogenic gruit beers, and the evolution of modern hop varieties that now challenge wine grapes in the extent to which they are discussed and revered. Along the way, readers will meet and drink with a cast of characters who reveal the magic of beer and celebrate the joy of drinking it. And almost without noticing we'll learn the naked truth about the world's greatest beverage.… (mer)
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I was in a used book store two weeks ago and my wife noticed a small stack of this book. No brainer, I added it to the small stack of Tom Swift and Rick Brant books I'd found to add to my collection. I hadn't heard of Pete Brown, but I had heard of (and met) Stephen Beaumont, who was quoted on the back cover "Hugely entertaining and informative...You may think that you 'get' beer, all its ingredients and processes, but by the end of Miracle Brew (Brown) will have you marveling at how little you fully understood." He is right. I have more than a passing knowledge of beers - more on the enjoying them side; I've played at home brewing with modest success, but I'll never progress beyond that - and I learned a lot.

So this book is about hops, barley, water, and yeast (presented in the order of barley, water,, hops and yeast). For those mistakenly thinking "purity law" (he does actually go into Reinheitsgebot in an after chapter), no, this is about the basic ingredients of "the world's greatest beverage". So much more complex than crushing some grapes (cue the oenophile outrage), it's been around in some form for at least 10,000 years. Brown is British, and this has a Anglo-Euro perspective. I don't hold that against him ... he was in Munich in 2016 when a kid shot nine people in a nearby mall and panic had rumors of a second gunman and he, his wife and patrons in a restaurant huddled in the restaurant cellar. When one of the waiters offered some water, joking about wine and beer inferior to what they had before, Brown said he pointed to the water in his glass and said "Englishe bier". Anyway, it is not a book about brewing or brewing processes. He talks about the processes to cultivate and use the ingredients, how the beer comes about, but not brewing.

The Barley chapter covers the history of the grain, the varieties, and the big deal...malting. Water may seem obvious but as I've learned from a documentary that had a - apparently this is a real thing - water sommelier - the epigraph Brown chose is appropriate:'In most cases, the very purest and finest water is, for brewing, the worst of all.'
- George Watkins,
The Compleat Brewer; Or, The Art and Mystery of Brewing Explained, 1760Of the four ingredients, I know more of hops than the others, as do probably most beer aficionados, and of course, he taught me more. Yeast would be second on my knowledge list, but... sure, more knowledge! I learned a lot in every chapter, even Water, and you'll just have to find the book and learn yourself because to summarize here wouldn't do any of the book justice.

He concluded observingWhen I think now about the science of understanding water chemistry, the incredible and ancient technology of malting, the magic of hops and the fact that we're being controlled by microscopic fungi we still don't understand. I realise the idea of 'raw materials' in beer is a fallacy. There's nothing raw about them. Each is incredibly sophisticated, each refined by centuries of scientific endeavor and discovery. After 10,000 years of brewing, we're still at the beginning of finding out what these four ingredients do. And all the work that's gone into understanding each ingredient so far, if the scientists, the maltsters, farmers and hop growers and, of course, the brewers who bring them all together, were to all get what they truly deserve for their efforts, and if the price of beer was an accurate reflection of its real worth, beer should be costing £10 a pint. As a drinker, I'm very glad it doesn't. But the fact that the most complex, varied, beautiful and difficult to make alcoholic beverage in the world is also usually its cheapest and most taken for granted, is something of a cosmic joke.
[...]
We apply the best thinking science can offer in order to increase our aesthetic pleasure. We pursue rigour and excellence in our pursuit of hedonism. And that's why beer represents, for me, at the end of this journey, the very best of everything we are.

Some flagged parts:

Barley: Brown talked about not being all that jazzed over Schlenkerla, a smoked beer "that made the German town of Bamberg famous." Like Cantillon, the equally esoteric 'champagne of beers' created in a Brussels suburb, the reverence of its hardcore fans has always put me off a little. For me, these brands have always been beer's answer to progressive rock: complicated and aloof, celebrated more for the idea of them than their actual delivery. [...] Smoked beer is a minority interest, something we're supposed to like if we're really into our beer, but secretly don't, apart from a few fanatics. [...]I appreciate that it is special, but it's someone else's special.That what I think something like Bourbon County Brand Stout...idea rather than delivery. Oh, and don't even try to debate me on Guinness - nasty, watery, pseudo stout that should go back to calling itself the porter ... spelled 'poorter" ... it is.

Barley: Brown was at the "mother field" where the original crop and successive seedings of the Maris Otter barley were grown and one of the farmers had recently installed a micro-malting operation. Brown mused "Surely a microbrewery, enabling the process from grain to glass to happen without the barley leaving the farm, can't be far behind." Rogue Farms in Oregon does precisely that.Water: Brown went to Dublin's Guinness Brewery at St James's Gate "partly because the facility here is the centre of excellence for a brand that's brewed and sold all around the world, and partly because people often attribute the romance of Guinness, and the endless debate about whether it really does taste better in Ireland, to the notion that it is brewed using the water from the River Liffey." (It isn't - the river is "completely unsuitable for human consumption.") Excellence is a relative term. Someday I'll go to Ireland and someday I will try an authentic locally brewed Guinness. who knows? Maybe I will be surprised, but I doubt it. My palate didn't like it when it wasn't as mature as it is now.

Water: Funny bit...Brown is quite humorous... Talking about the legendary pale ale brewing water from the wells at Burton (one of the few Dogfish Head beers I like more than once is their Burton Baton, named "after the ales of the Burton region in England and the rare Burton Ale brewed by Ballantine, the 'Baton' signifies much, but more aptly denotes the bastard-ness of this beer."), Brown is hip deep into the softness, hardness, and lots of -ness of water and he learned that the Burton brewers bored deeper and deeper (for water) as their production grew, as a well nearby wasn't being used because it may have been contaminated. Okay, long backstory to: "This highlights a further level of complication, which is good because I was starting to worry that water chemistry was starting to get a bit too simple."

Hops: A footnote to a subsection on Bohemian hops history, on Bohemiam King Charles IV, named WenceslausThe problem with having (a) much higher standards as a writer than I once did and (b) having searchable access to the world's entire store of historical knowledge, is that where I once let a good yarn go, I now have to go back an check it. In doing so, I often learn the most wonderful stories about the history of beer to be untrue or, at best, unproveableI get that. I don't like to share quotes unless I can verify the source. And if a story is too pat to be true...I'll go searching. Sometimes I'm surprised.

Hops: I didn't know surplus hops shoots were a delicacy in Italy, and when sauteed with wild garlic (he told of that particular adventure) "taste sweet and fresh and juicyu with just a hint of bitterness."

Hops: A visit to the US for research. Getting through US customs is an interesting experience, always best appreciated when you've been awake and dressed for twenty-four hours. [That acerbic humor!] It seems designed to intimidate, to make you crack and say, "OK you got me. I was going to try to start a Communist revolution but you've foiled my plans.' Instead it makes me want to say, 'Get over yourself, you country's not that special.'{snort}!

Hops: Something I can relate to. Not this per se: "Some people go on a years-long binge, seeking ever-hoppier and more extreme beers in the search to recreate that first hit.", but his footnote:Which happens rarely, if ever. In the fifteen years since I tasted my first American IPA, I've had two beers that match up to the experience. And when I go back to that first beer and taste it again, it's a pale shadow of what I remember. The beer hasn't changed, but my palate has. The beer changed me, permanently opening doors of flavour perception which can never be closed again, and changed permanently my demands, expectatins and standards for flavour experience. You can never have a first impression and second time.The beer hasn't changed, my palate has. Quite true for me. My palate has flipped at least twice since I fell into craft beer - not liking lagers and Belgians and bourbon barrel aged beer, to now not liking golden ales and now not disliking bourbon barrel aged beers (but...lagers are still wrong and I can only tolerate dark traditional Belgians.)

Hops: Subchapter title, on Galaxy hops, grown only in Australia (I like IPAs that use them when I can get them): Guardians of the Galaxy

Hops: Brown was bringing fresh hops from Hobart, Tasmania to Byron Bay, a thousand miles to the north, for a brewer to try in wet hopping, announcing over the Twit-ter "Just about to get on a plane with 25kg of fresh hops. This should be interesting." One reply said he should ask Sam Calagione about his experience getting stopped in Chicago carrying a brick of hops. Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, said a sniffer dog took a dislike to his stash of whole-leaf of Palisade hops, and "Of the five people in the room I definitely held the minority opinion of whether a full-scale cavity search was necessary. But I was the only one in the room without a gun so I did a lot of listening." !!

Yeast: This was just funny...well, the backstory is fascinating, the reaction is funny. Carlsberg had found three bottles beer brewed in 1883 (they apparently have 13 km of cellars??!!) - the year Emil Hansen "successfully isolated and cultivated single strain yeast cells" - and one of the bottles had yeast cells that were still alive and that they were able to repropagate. Carlsberg set out to rebrew the first modern beer, dubbed Re-Brew. They worked to recultivate a legacy barley, purified water and added salts based on a water analysis from the 1880s, and settled on a hops from the Hallertau region as that was the only thing known. Brown talks about the leadup, the anticipation, the collective neurosis. This is the most miraculous thing the world has ever seen. Nothing is a valuable as a glass of this stuff.
It pours slowly from the cask into a glass shaped like a brandy balloon. The glass has been specially designed and hand-blown for the occasion. Slowly, the number of glasses multiples. Everyone forces themselves into polite restraint, while suppressing the urge to kill everyone else in the room to get the first glass. About a thousand years later, I finally have a glass in my hand. The beer is a deep, reddish brown. There's a faint but intriguing aroma that bears hints of honey, marzipan and caramel. I take my glass into a corner and contemplate it for a while without drinking it. I want everyone else to disappear, so it can be just the two of us. I photograph it. I stroke it. And, finally, I raise it to my lips.To find out the rest...read the book!

Reinheitsgebot: Despite legends, the 1516 law primarily focused on pricing. And until the nineteenth century, only applied to Bavaria, only formally adopted throughout Germany in 1919, and... formally withdrawn in 1988. "Five hundred years my arse." Brown called it a sham. Preach it! ( )
  Razinha | Aug 23, 2020 |
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The Guardian's "Best Books on Drink" Pick Most people know that wine is created by fermenting pressed grape juice and cider by pressing apples. But although it's the most popular alcoholic drink on the planet, few people know what beer is made of. In lively and witty fashion, Miracle Brew dives into traditional beer's four natural ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast, and water, each of which has an incredible story to tell. From the Lambic breweries of Belgium, where beer is fermented with wild yeasts drawn down from the air around the brewery, to the aquifers below Burton-on-Trent, where the brewing water is rumored to contain life-giving qualities, Miracle Brew tells the full story behind the amazing role each of these fantastic four--a grass, a weed, a fungus, and water--has to play. Celebrated U.K. beer writer Pete Brown travels from the surreal madness of drink-sodden hop-blessings in the Czech Republic to Bamberg in the heart of Bavaria, where malt smoked over an open flame creates beer that tastes like liquid bacon. He explores the origins of fermentation, the lost age of hallucinogenic gruit beers, and the evolution of modern hop varieties that now challenge wine grapes in the extent to which they are discussed and revered. Along the way, readers will meet and drink with a cast of characters who reveal the magic of beer and celebrate the joy of drinking it. And almost without noticing we'll learn the naked truth about the world's greatest beverage.

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