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Kris McDowell

White Labs Yeast Essentials 2.0 Scholarship Recipient Announced

Scholarship Recipients

The Pink Boots Society is proud to announce that Johanna Foege of Perennial Artisan Ales is the recipient of the 2018 White Labs Yeast Essentials 2.0 scholarship.

Chosen by the PBS Scholarship Selection Committee (SSC), five very experienced women beer professionals who hold positions as brewers, educators and writers, they chose Johanna to receive this scholarship feeling that “her background in science would allow her to soak up the knowledge from the course, filling in the few gaps left in her QC and Yeast Management training to solidify her status as expert and practiced professional.”

Johanna is the Total Quality Manager at Perennial Artisan Ales, where in the course of a year she has single-handedly designed, implemented and is running their quality control program – a valuable achievement for her. She says, “As a smaller brewery, we don’t have a ton of resources available for training and development, so I’ve largely had to seek my own experiences and teach myself how to create and run a successful quality control program. This course aligns perfectly with my next addition to our program, which will include setting up and operating an internal yeast propagation and management program this fall.”

The White Labs Yeast Essentials 2.0 is a two-day workshop at the White Labs Asheville facility that will cover details on setting up a lab and quality control programs along with general lab techniques to improve brewing operations. It will explore fermentation control points, how to maintain optimal yeast performance and develop desired flavor compounds, off-flavor detection, sensory of different yeast strains and troubleshooting problem fermentations.

In addition to attending the course, Johanna will receive a pair of pink steel-toe rubber boots when she fulfills the Pay It Forward requirement associated with the scholarship.

Kris McDowell

Improving Your Sensory Beer Knowledge

Pay It Forward, Scholarship Recipients

Written by Ashley Nulph, tasting room server at The Rare Barrel and recipient of the 2018 Oregon State University Origins of Beer Flavors and Styles scholarship.

Beer is made with water, hops, malt, and yeast. It’s likely that you know what kinds of beer you like to drink but do you know how to communicate that to someone else? Perhaps you are at an event or visiting a friendly local brewery and taste a beer. Someone asks what you think of it. There are no off flavors or anything discernibly wrong with the beer. You want to come back with a witty and helpful response; you want to show your knowledge of beer but don’t taste anything that stands out to you. “It’s good,” of course, isn’t specific at all.  You have some of the vocabulary but not the developed palate to give more useful or detailed information that, in this case, would show you really know your stuff.

We can all look, smell, and taste any sample of beer we’re given but how do we delve deeper into its flavor profile? It is important to remind ourselves that sensory evaluation is a learned skill and a great way to learn is by tasting. What should you do if you want to give yourself a bit or training without anyone else being involved or pace yourself through the training of your palate?

One thing you can do quite easily without having to purchase any special equipment or products is to have several side by side beer comparisons. All these tastings require are off-the-shelf and readily available prepackaged domestic and international beers. Having them side by side in the privacy of your own home allows you to take time to evaluate specific flavors or isolate particular traits to hone in on them (such as bitterness) and also to take notes in your comparisons. You can do this with similar beers to really get a grasp on the expectations for a specific style or beers with one major difference to attempt to isolate it. Examples of this are beers of the same style with similar ABV and different IBUs, beers of the same style with similar IBUs and different ABV (this can be done with a DIPA versus IPA in many cases), beers of the same style one with adjuncts and one without, etc.

Here are 3 examples of tastings or pairings. For tasting or comparisons where the beers are the same style with similar specifications, they are expected to be similar and representative of a style. For these you may choose to buy one or both with the goal to pick a beer(s) representative of the style and take notes on what you taste. Getting a beer(s) that is basic without unusual hops or adjuncts is important. Getting a beer that is readily available and not specific to one season can also be helpful especially if you want to replicate this or have a friend do it and compare notes, but is not required at all.

For pairings where you want a comparison, you can also look at the specs on a beer and find two that are similar in all aspects but one. By isolating for one factor (ABV, malt, IBUs, hops, etc), you give yourself a chance to focus on that and better understand the differences.

ABV and IBU. This information should be reported for most breweries on their own websitess along with style, description, malt bill, hops used, availability and other information. While these things can change batch by batch, if you cannot find this information on the brewery page or need a quick reference, Rate Beer is a good site where you can get basic information about a beer such as its ABV and IBU. It may also give you information on where to buy a beer if you want to purchase one of the beers listed below and you do not find it at a local store. The beers below are readily available at grocery stores in California and the Pacific Northwest. In the case you wanted to do one of these comparisons and could not find the listed beers, you could use Rate Beer or brewery websites to look up the specifics on the bottled beer that is available and pick a beer with similar make-up to conduct the same taste comparisons with a replacement beer.

What is IBU? IBU stands for international bitterness unit and is the scale that measures the hop-derived acid isohumulone that gives beer its bitter flavor. IBUs are not something most people can identify easily but it is important to understand what this contributes to beer. One’s understanding of IBUs can differ by style and malt bill. One of the best ways I’ve found to understand IBU ratings is to taste otherwise similar beers (same style, color, similar ABV) with more than as high of a point distinction in IBUs as possible.

There are arguments that IBUs don’t give us an awful lot of information about a beer in this climate but since it is one of the only pieces of information given beyond ABV, style, and a brief description on many websites, menus or labels; it is important to try to understand how your own palate interprets isohumulone for your own understanding of the IBU rating on a beer.

Sensory experiments number one and two: focus on bitterness and style

Tasting number 1: Style understanding and bitterness in dark beers (Imperial Stout):

Bitterness is often something that people associate with IPAs and hoppy beers and not with darks which is why I think this is a fun sampling to do first. In these cases, the malt character effectively hides a large amount of the bitter bite one would expect from such high IBUs. An imperial stout with 75 IBUs, therefore, will taste much less bitter than an IPA with the same. The human palate can only distinguish up to about 110 IBUs so the beers we are sampling will be in this range. IBUs vary from batch to batch and even for the tastings below, are reportedly differently on the brewery websites, Rate Beer, and other tasting sites. Every attempt has been made to use the current numbers from the brewery when available. In cases of great difference, it is important to taste the beer with lower IBUs first as your palate can become accustomed to it. In this case, if drinking both, it will not matter.

In both of these cases, the beer will have a roasty depth and similar dark color. Both are California brewed and have wide commercial distribution. The brewing date on these beers shouldn’t matter too much for our purposes. If both are available to you, I urge you to buy both. If not, one or one and a similar beer from your region will suffice.

Beer A: North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout (9.0% ABV, 75 IBUs) 

Beer B: Lagunitas Imperial Stout  (9.9% ABV, 72 IBUs)

Make notes about your impressions of the Imperial Stout style. What do you taste in the beer(s)? Which adjectives or descriptors would you use? Do you find there to be a bitterness on your palate? If you struggle with tasting bitterness, do not worry. There is an opportunity to do another bitterness test using IPAs which will be more noticeable to most. Also, if you taste one of these beers several months or a year from now having worked on your sensory evaluation skills, you will likely fare better in identifying the bitterness.

Tasting number 2: Bitterness in hop forward beer (India Pale Ales)

In either of these cases, the beer will have a hop forward flavor and mid-golden color. Both are Pacific Northwest brewed and have wide commercial distribution. The brewing date on these beers should be as close to today as possible and ideally not more than a month old if bottles are date stamped. If both are available to you, I urge you to buy both. If not, one or one and a similar beer from your region will suffice.

Note: In my opinion, both of these beers should be considered Double India Pale Ales (DIPA) or Imperial India Pale Ales (IIPA) based on their ABV despite the labeling of Space Dust simply as IPA.

Beer A: Elysian Space Dust IPA (8.2% ABV, 73 IBUs)

Beer B: Ninkasi Tricerahops DIPA (8% ABV, 84 IBUs)

Like above, take notes. Ask yourself what you taste in the beer(s), and which adjectives or descriptors would you use. Do you find there to be a bitterness on your palate? Is it much more pronounced for you than above?

If you happen to chose to do style tastings 1 and 2 in the same night, you can also taste them against each other. The variation in bitterness perceived by the tongue between one of the Imperial Stouts and one of the Imperial IPAs can actually be great despite the fact that the greatest IBU variation between these 4 beers is no more than 12 IBUs (a difference you are very unlikely to be able to taste).

Tasting number 3: Focus on style and aromas in Hefeweizen wheat beer

In both of these cases, the beer will have a slight sweet, non-hoppy flavor and light-golden color. Compared to the other samples, you will not likely be able to discern any bitterness at all. One beer is Pacific Northwest brewed and the other is brewed in Germany but both have wide commercial distribution. The brewing date on these beers does not matter as much as for an IPA and does not warrant concern. If both beers are not available to you, purchase the one beer that is available to you and complete this as a style tasting like numbers 1 and 2 above.

Beer A: Widmer Hefeweizen (4.9% ABV, 26 IBUs)

Beer B: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbeir (5.4% ABV, 14 IBUs)

Smell these beers before you taste them. What scents do you detect? Phenol off flavor (POF) is a banana or clove aroma. It is called an off flavor because it is generally not desired in the final beer product. However, in a German style wheat beer, this flavor is considered acceptable and even desired by some. These two hefeweizens are both classic examples of the style while one has the POF and the other does not. This is by design and each brewery either has or does not have the aroma as a deliberate decision about what the style means to them. Can you identify which beer has the banana and clove aromas and which does not? What do you taste in the beers? Which adjectives or descriptors would you use? Other than this, would you make any other distinction between the two?

Taking it one step further: hop sensory

What about hops?  You cannot taste them. You can smash and rub cones or pellets and smell them but that will only get you so far.

One method to getting more familiar with hops is to seek out SMASH (single malt single hop) beers. These beers have become much more popular lately with some breweries even doing SMASH series that focus on different malts. SMASH beers offer the opportunity to hone in on the manifestation of individual strains of hops in the final beer.

You can ask at your local brewery if they have any SMASH beers or know of anyone local who does. You can also consult the list here https://www.ratebeer.com/tag/smash/ or talk to a friend who brews about completing one of the recipes from the Homebrewers Association.

Hopefully you can find some good examples that give you an idea more about specific hop strains!

Kris McDowell

Barley and Malting Quality Course Scholarship Recipient Announced

Scholarship Recipients
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The Pink Boots Society is proud to announce that Jessie Smith is the recipient of North Dakota State University Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences Barley and Malting Quality: A Field to Brewhouse Perspective scholarship, a partnership with the Northern Crops Institute. Jessie is a lab technician at Texas’ oldest craft brewery, Saint Arnold Brewing Company, in Houston.

The PBS Scholarship Selection Committee (SSC) is made up of five very experienced women beer professionals who hold positions as brewers, educators and writers. The committee chose Jessie to receive this scholarship as she was able to convey “a logical plan to implement knowledge that would be gained from the course including sensory and quality analysis in her role as a lab technician.”

Jessie holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and has worked for Saint Arnold Brewing Company since 2016. She handles quality testing that includes IBU/SRM, forced diacetyl testing, microbiological plating and PCR, manages their weekly sensory panel and has begun to experiment with small scale yeast propagation with the hopes of a larger scale expansion in the future. She says, “I’m always trying to learn through courses like these in order to bring back some new information to our lab and our brewers. Malt analysis has been a topic our lab has been interested in expanding on for quite some time. The problem has always been where to start. A course like this would provide me with the tools to offer us with a number of potential starting points for analysis.”

Barley and Malting Quality: A Field to Brewhouse Perspective is a four-day onsite course that will take place in Fargo, ND at the NDSU Northern Crops Institute. This course is intended to provide an intensive overview of the many factors impacting barley and malt quality from the field to the brewhouse. Lectures, discussion sessions and participatory laboratory demonstrations will provide participants with the knowledge to understand malt processing and to effectively interpret barley and malt analyses. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from a group of internationally recognized experts assembled from industry, academics and government.

In addition to attending the course, Jessie will receive a pair of pink steel-toe rubber boots when she fulfills the Pay It Forward requirement associated with the scholarship.

Kris McDowell

Beer, Brats and Beyond Tour Scholarship Recipients Announced

Scholarship Recipients
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The Pink Boots Society is excited to announce and introduce the twelve ladies that have been selected by the PBS Scholarship Selection Committee (SSC) to receive a travel scholarship for the Beer, Brats and Beyond Cultural Exchange to Germany October 19 – 29, 2018.

Hailing from the United States, Canada, Peru and Mexico, these twelve women run the gamut from new to the industry to those have considerable experience, some of which have opened their own breweries. Natalie Baldwin, Cassandra Barlow, Blair Elias, Grace Howard, Sara Lefevre, Betty Lopez, Katarina Martinez, Diana McKenzie, Becky Peppelman, Ellen Sherrill, Michelle Tham and Nicki Werner will be embarking on an eleven-day, co-ed insider’s tour of the Bavarian brewing industry that aims to foster relationships between North American and Bavarian breweries with sessions, tastings and tours with women brewers.

Natalie Baldwin, Research & Development Brewer at Breakside Brewery in Portland, OR., may have only three years’ experience in the brewing industry but her accomplishments in that time and her goals for the future stretch well beyond her years. She says, “I find my interest primarily lies with traditional European beers, with a predominant focus on German lagers and Breakside’s R&D program is currently focused on lager brewing. I’m honored to be in this position—but I also understand that my skill set can only be so thorough without being immersed in where it all began.” Taking part in the tour will help further her education in a way that will benefit both her and Breakside.

Cassandra Barlow comes to the group from the tap room/front of the house perspective, working for Resident Culture Brewing Company in Charlotte, NC. She was introduced to the Pink Boots Society while working as a part-time bartender and was initially intimidated about the prospect of being surrounded by much more experienced members of the industry. Her fears about having anything to offer were quickly dispelled upon attending the Society’s 10th Anniversary Conference. There she was particularly inspired by a presentation on tap room management, saying, “A light bulb went off; I realized that I had created my own loyal customers at the brewery I worked at and was a big part of our success.” Encouraged by this new found confidence she plans to take the knowledge gained on this trip to show other women, regardless of their current role, how important they are to the craft beer industry.

Hailing from an event planning/fundraising/civic education background Blair Elias works as a meeting planner for the National Barley Growers Association. An area of particular interest to her on this trip is the hyper-local Zoigl beer of Bavaria as it parallels the local marketing employed by many U.S. craft brewers. She says, “I am interested to see how Bavarian Zoigl brewers have sustained the “local” trend for so long. This knowledge would be invaluable to me as I continue my work as an advocate for the early stages of the U.S. beer supply chain.” Blair hopes to come back from the trip with a deeper understanding of the opportunities here at home by having been able to explore how German breweries have overcome similar struggles.

Grace Howard initially applied her environmental engineering degree to the areas of soil, groundwater, air and landfill management but says, “I fell in love with craft beer after my very first brewery tour and began homebrewing shortly after.” These days she is able to combine her background with that love in her current position as a laboratory assistant with Bone Up Brewing in Everett, MA and in the future hopes to develop products and technologies that and be used to make brewing easier, safer and more efficient. To that end she has been actively working to increase her knowledge and is looking forward to the tour providing an opportunity to “expedite my learning and provide an amazing chance to learn these things up close and in person.”  

Sara Lefevre is the co-founder of Barranco Beer Company in Lima, Peru and the communications and marketing manager. That’s quite a change from six years ago when she was working as a language teacher in Miami, FL planning and instructing international students. A self-described “craft beer lover, geek, and aficionado,” Sara is also a BJCP judge who has applied her multilingual skills to translating exams and score sheets. Taking part in the tour not only melds with her love of travel but will also provide her the opportunity to try classic styles from their region of origin and further develop her palate. She says, “The tastings, tours, and all of the experience I receive would also be applied directly and immediately to training the staff where I work and shared with my local PBS chapter.”

Betty Lopez understands first hand the challenges of breaking into the brewing industry but it has been worth the effort. “Brewing changed my life,” she says, “it gave a sense of purpose I wasn’t sure I’d find, it helped me find my place in the world professionally speaking and it made me grow as a human being.” Her break came when she found someone willing to give her a chance to learn on the job and she has since worked her way up from assistant brewer to brewer and has been the head brewer at Tres Fuegos Cerveceria for the past year. Experiencing traditional Bavarian beers in person on the tour will help her in the short term as Tres Fuegos looks to add a lager to their lineup and perhaps in the years to come through if she is able to achieve her goal of working at a German brewery.

Former software engineer Katarina Martinez left the corporate world a year ago and opened her own brewery – Lineup Brewing – which has the distinction of being the only solely female owned and operated brewery in New York City. Their German Pilsner, originally named Bieryonce, received a great deal of press, and ultimately a cease and desist letter, so these days the beer goes by the name “Katarina.” With the intention to make more German style beers in the future she says, “I feel that this trip to Germany will do wonders for expanding my knowledge base, improving my palate, and hopefully making new strong female friends in the industry that support one another.” Katarina was also given Wine Enthusiast’s 2018 “40 Under 40” award.

Diana McKenzie co-founded Callister Brewing in Vancouver, BC five years ago and it is the first co-working, collaborative brewery of its kind in Canada. As Director she handles many of the administrative aspects of the brewery and earlier this year expanded her brewing role, taking over management of their cask program. Their three cask engines generally pour Scottish and English beers but Diana hopes to incorporate some of the styles she will be exposed to on the tour. She says, “By learning about different techniques or styles and trends in other parts of the world, as a brewer and brewery owner, I can bring those lessons and innovations into our beers and brewing techniques at home.”

One of the most seasoned professionals on the tour, Becky Peppelman says that from the time she started cleaning kegs and working on the bottling line, “The more I learned on the particulars of craft beer, the greater my drive became to be a part of it. It was, and remains, a true passion and hunger for knowledge.” In recent years she has been drawn to historical styles of beer and has been able to use her role as Head Brewer at Snow Hop Brewery to produce styles, like the popular Grodziskie she made last year, that are not widely available in the U.S. This tour will add to her already accumulated knowledge and allow her to continue share more of the “exceptional characteristics” of beers of times past with her brewery’s craft beer audience.

A professional brewer for two and a half years, Ellen Sherrill’s experiences professionally and as a homebrewer have primarily involved ales. One of the aspects of this tour she is looking forward to is increasing her knowledge of lagers, “to observe and learn in person, as well as hear more about how modern techniques and tools are used to bypass traditional methods while still making the same tradition-honoring types of beers.” She brews on both the 30bbl and 7bbl systems at Track 7 Brewery in Sacramento, CA, leads the sensory panel that creates tasting notes for the marketing of their beers and is a BJCP judge. She looks forward to returning from the trip a more well-rounded brewer and a better beer judge. (Photo credit: Nikkita Miller)

Michelle Tham is employed by the largest of breweries in this group, Labatt Breweries, where she is the Head of Education. The Ontario, Canada native says, “Stories are my strength. Storytelling is where my breadth of knowledge and dynamic enthusiasm are brought to life, enabling my impact as an educator of beer and an ambassador for brands. Lucky for me, the roots of beer and brewing are found in stories – stories of history, tradition, geography and discovery. My effort to develop my career has been to seek stories and connections with people who brew and appreciate beer, and seeing the places that allow me to paint the picture for others to better understand the complexities and joy of beer.” She’s looking forward to being able to add a more robust understanding of German beer to her work as an educator as a result of going on the tour.

Nicki Werner, brewer at the mid-sized Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont, CO, is excited to embark on her first trip abroad, especially in the company of the Pink Boots community. The former college professor says, “My teaching experiences left me frustrated and confined to old institutions that were bogged down in bureaucracies and incapable of adapting to a changing world with changing needs. What I found in brewing was an opportunity to build new types of institutions, and a lifestyle that was self-sustaining, both for the business and for myself on a personal level.” While her work environment is competitive it encourages her to strive for growth opportunities and she has found a great deal of support as a member of the Pink Boots Society.

In addition to attending the tour, each scholarship recipient will receive a pair of pink steel-toe rubber boots upon fulfilling the Pay It Forward requirement associated with the scholarship.

The eleven-day Beer, Brats and Beyond Cultural Exchange, a collaboration with Treasures of Europe Tours, will make stops at small and independent breweries located in towns such as Munich, Franken, Spalt and Niederbayern. It will highlight many women owned and/or operated breweries (Sister Doris, Meinel sisters), communal brewing traditions, new school craft producers and a few abbey breweries. The tasting sessions, tours and cultural events aim to deepen and enhance the participants’ knowledge of brewing traditions and technologies as well as dispel old stereotypes. In addition to the breweries, stops will be made at German hop farms in the heart of Hallertau where participants learn about the traditions of Noble hops.