'beer flavor' on Serious Eats
If there's one trend in craft beer that has fought hardest to beat out the hoppy-hoppier-hoppiest IPA arms race, it's the boom in popularity of sour beer. These small production, time-intensive brews offer an intriguing history (and hype-inducing rarity), but it's their unique flavor that seems to turn most drinkers into dedicated sour beer fans. The tart, puckering taste is often met with a shocked, love-it-or-hate-it type of reaction, and those with the former can't seem to get enough of the stuff. The secret ingredients that set these beers apart from the rest of the brews on the shelf are actually living creatures: yeast and bacteria.
Folks in the beer industry like to say that brewers don't really make beer. Brewers make wort—which is the stuff that yeast makes into beer. Yeast and its performance has a huge impact on a brewer's final product. But what does that taste like?
Adjunct: it's a dirty word to a lot of craft beer fanatics, conjuring images of cackling evil Bud/Miller/Coors brewers alternately dumping bags of corn into their beer and money into their bank accounts. But like any good curse word, it has its f#&$@n' place.
When it comes to malt flavor in beer, it's helpful to think of your grist (the sum of all grains used in the beer's mash) as a choir. The base grain fills out the risers—the core of the choir's sound—but fades into the background as bold soloists strut their stuff. Specialty grains are those soloists. And what a delicious song they sing.
Now that you're getting pretty darn good at identifying different hop varieties, it's time we looked at another major flavor contributor in beer: malt. You've seen how its made, and if you've ever had Grape Nuts, you've got a pretty good idea of how it tastes on its own. But how can you tell which malts you're drinking when you're drinking beer?
Careful readers may have caught my first article on how to identify the "three C" hops in beer a few weeks back. If you did, the fun must be winding down by now—there's only so many times you can call out a whiff of that Cascade grapefruit before the other regulars at your local get a little sick of you. It's time to expand your repertoire.
These days, there seem to be more hopheads out there than uhh....human heads. And yet, not many people know what exactly goes into their bitter beers—what makes each brew different from the other. Hoppiness exists not merely as a linear scale of IBUs, but as an array of flavors, aromas, and bitterness. Each hop variety (and there are dozens) is different, and identifying them is easier than you might think. Let's start with the hope you're most likely to be sipping in your pint of American IPA: a group of hops known as the "Three C's."