Garrett Oliver is the Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, the author of The Brewmaster's Table, and the foremost authority in the United States on the subject of traditional beer. After years of amateur brewing inspired by beers he had encountered during a year in England, Garrett Oliver began brewing professionally at Manhattan Brewing Company in 1989 as an apprentice. He was appointed brewmaster there in 1993. He soon became widely known both here and abroad for his flavorful interpretations of traditional brewing styles and as an avid and entertaining lecturer and writer on the subject of fine beer. Garrett has hosted hundreds of beer tastings and dinners, writes regularly for beer and food-related periodicals, and is internationally recognized as an expert on traditional beer styles and their affinity with good food.
Question: What goes into making a bottle of beer?
Garrett Oliver: Well it is a good question, because, you know, beer, beer is one of the few sort of major foods people eat on a day-to-day basis, drink on a day-to-day basis, that your average person has not the slightest idea what beer is. So I think you do need to start at the beginning. Traditional beer is usually made from barley malt and barley malt is barley which is a grass like wheat, and it’s sprouted. You take the seeds they are soaked in water and they are sprouted and this is done by a company or a person known as the maltster. They are making malt out of barley. You sprout the malt for a few days and what happens is that enzymes develop inside the seed which are going to be used by the plant to convert starches in to sugars, burn the sugar for energy get the leaves out become a plant. Well, we interrupt the process a few days in, drain the water off, put in the kiln and dry it. That’s barley malt, Malt's a variety like wine grapes, dozens of varieties, different flavors etc. But the important part here is those enzymes because the enzymes are going to break down the starches in to sugars is in a porridge called the mash, so we're going to crush the malt, mix it with hot water at a very specific temperatures, the enzymes are activated, they break down all the starch in to sugars, so we start off with starch porridge, we finish with the sugary porridge. And then at that point we have to separate the liquid which is called thewort away from the essentially chaff what we call spent grain or it’s the husk, that’s on the barley and that process happens in the vessel with the set of screened to the bottom. We spray hot water down top of the grain bin, rinse all the sugars away from the grain husk, the husk goes off and becomes cattle feed and now we have our sweet liquid which is the wort. We bring that to a boil, we had hops and the hop is a little arted choke shaped flower about that big it grows on a wine in this country largely in the Pacific Northwest but also in another temperate areas around the world. The hops give us bitterness in the beer which is the backbone of the beer and also gives us flavors and aromas now hops are very varietal, there are dozens and dozens of varieties and some smell like lemons or oranges or flowers or whatever else. These may be a major component or not of the type of beer. We then add the yeast. The yeast consumes the sugar, it gives off the carbon dioxide, the alcohol and also the number of flavors and that we associate with beer, so we in the brew house technically speaking create wort and then the yeast creates beer and it is at the point where you add the yeast that you decide will it be a logger or an yale. Ales are one fermenting and rapid fermentations don’t some times need long aging, lagers are a long slow cold fermentations by a completely different species of yeast. So at every stage of the process there is another opportunity to determine what this is going to be, and it's a actually it’s a much more complicated than making wine, at least in any traditional sense and in actually bears a greater resemblance to cooking than it does to winemaking. You know winemaking is relatively simple. Brewing isn’t.
Recorded on: 3/25/08