Anything I’m Fermenting

November 11, 2008

Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 4

Onward on the quest to brew a champagne of beers! So far I have discussed how to achieve a very light colour, fizz without head, higher alcohol content, and a noticeable acidity. Here are all the characteristics I am aiming for.

1. Very light colour

2. Fizzy, but without much head

3. Alcohol content of around 8% abv

4. Noticeable acidity

5. Light body

6. Clear – minimal cloudiness

7. Low bitterness and no hop flavour or aroma

8. Fruitiness

9. Dry (i.e. not sweet)

5. Light body. I’ve already discussed this somewhat in the post about the alcohol content because both the level of alcohol, and the body of the beer relate to the type of grain used for mashing. A lot of the ‘body’ in beer comes from proteins and residual sugars that remain in the beer after fermentation. In contrast to beer, wine does not contain much protein, or residual sugar (in dry wines anyways), so this beer needs to reduce the amount of protein and sugar left.

The first strategy to achieve this was already discussed – namely that I will use a considerable amount of refined sugar and rice. Refined sugar can be completely fermented, leaving no residual sugars, as long as the alcohol content is not too high (which it won’t be in this beer). It can also act as a sort of ‘subsidy’ to the yeast, giving it ‘cheap’ energy so it can devote more effort to breaking down longer-chain sugars. This is referred to as drying out the beer. This dryness is also a phenomenon of the palate, as the fermentation of the refined sugar increases the alcohol content without a proportionate increase in residual sugar or protein, so the beer tastes dryer or more alcoholic (alcohol and sugar balance each other somewhat, in terms of taste; that’s why most cocktails are sweet – to hide the alcohol).

Rice is partway between using refined sugar and using barley malt. During mashing, the starch in rice will be broken down in the same way as it is in barley malt – it will produce mostly simple sugars, but also more complex long-chain and branching sugars that yeast finds difficult to ferment, and so they make it into the beer. These residual sugars usually don’t taste that ‘sweet’, but do make the beer taste thicker, richer, and maltier. While rice will contribute residual sugars, it does not contain much protein.

The protein content of beer is one of it’s defining characteristics. Without the protein, beer would feel like pop. But in this case, I do want it to taste pop-like, within reason. Wine does contain tannins, phenolics, and polysaccharides among other chemicals that contribute to mouth-feel. I think that with the exception of wine tannins, many of these are also found in beer. To reduce the protein content of the beer, I will use refined sugar and rice, as these both contain little or no protein. Further, during the mashing, I will utilize the protein rest.

John Palmer, in his excellent on-line book How to Brew describes the protein rest as being around 52 degrees, for 20 – 30 minutes. He warns that using a protein rest when mashing well modified malts (like the 2-row barley malt I will be using) is unnecessary, and “would break up the proteins responsible for body and head retention and result in a thin, watery beer.” Perfect.

Changing the mash temperature is another way to reduce the body and sweetness of beer. Regular mashing temperatures (the saccharification rest) are around 67 degrees. Palmer states that: “A lower mash temperature, less than or equal to 150°F [65.5°C], yields a thinner bodied, drier beer”. Again, perfect for my needs, so my target temperature will be between 65 and 66 degrees. This is because the lower mashing temperature favours beta amylase, which produces a lot of simple sugars. There is a bit of a cost to this – the mash efficiency declines because some of the starch will not be converted. Beta amylase is not able to break apart starch molecules where the molecule branches – alpha amylase is needed to break off the branched sections.

1 Comment »

  1. […] 5. Light body […]

    Pingback by Making the ‘Champage of Beers’ Part 6 « Anything I’m Fermenting — November 22, 2008 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: