There are few things that will dampen the image of a brewer more than the phrase “tastes like butter.”
This was explained to me on a gorgeous afternoon at the 2014 Great Canadian Beer Fest.
As I stood beside the tent of a local brewery my sipping partner, an assistant brewer from another shop here in town, explained the concept of how some brewers, particularly one we know and love in Victoria, are too eager to pull the plug on the two-week (or so) brewery process.
Somehow, for reasons only science can explain, bottling the beer a few days early can lead to a subtle flavour of butter that certain palettes will pick up the instance the golden, or in this case, black hued lager reaches their lips.
“Basically, sugar versus yeast is a complicated process that plays out in peaks and valleys near the end of the brewing process,” said the brewer (or something close to that).
Basically, he added, you might think the yeast process is finished but it flares up one more time. By bottling it prior to that final surge the beer somehow takes on the normally charming flavour of butter (or something like that).
And that’s when he spit out the said beer.
“I haven’t had it for a while, I don’t buy it.”
It wasn’t the first beer he spat out. Two tents later, the contents of another beer was poured, sacrificially, onto the grass of Royal Athletic Park.
It was a shock, to say the least. I can’t say that I joined him in this act.
“Got to prioritize my liver space,” he defended.
It was an educational day to say the least. Hearing the raw opinions of what’s really happening in the Victoria beer scene, which is otherwise treated by media and the public like a darling gift bestowed to the South Island economy by angels.
By the time we parted ways after an hour of touring through last year’s festival, I felt I had finally graduated from beer fan to beer geek. Being a beer geek is, of course, a noble and respected title to bear, one which you must live up to.
For instance, a true beer geek will hold opinions but also sees the good in all beer. Budweiser, for example, is said to be one of the more difficult recipes to brew as it demands a different style of consistency that craft brewers don’t need to adhere to.
Craft brewers are credited for the revival of fresh, locally sourced beer with abundant and creative ingredients. They are praised for tweaking the recipe from batch to batch.
But it was once regaled to me by another brewer, this one from up-Island, that Budweiser brewers are to be respected.
“The consistency needed to make all those Budweiser batches the same is incredible. You have to consider the shelf life these beers are going to have before they ever make it to the table. Some won’t be opened for months, you have to adjust for that in so many little ways.”
Don’t know if that’s true, but I heard it said. These are things you learn sitting late night at the Drake Eatery and walking amongst the men and women in attendance at the Great Canadian Beer Fest.
This year’s Great Canadian Beer Fest is underway today (Sept. 11) from 3 to 8 p.m. and tomorrow from noon to 5 p.m.
– Reporter Travis Paterson is a beer fan who is, sadly, skipping the GCBF in 2015.