Zymurgy Review - Nov./Dec. 2013 By: Ben Bakelaar

Notes from Zymurgy By: Ben Bakelaar

Today I review the November/December 2012 issue (Vol. 35, No. 6) of Zymurgy, the journal of the American Homebrewers Association. If you haven’t joined, you can go here! It’s only $34.99 per year when you buy from Love2Brew, less than the cost of some batches of beer. The AHA has done as much or more than any other organization to promote, legalize, and improve the hobby of homebrewing. And, as an added bonus, you get access to eZymurgy, their electronic archive of all current and some past issues, which they are slowly adding in as they digitize them.

  • The cover: “It’s all in the details: crafting a quaffable brew”. On the graphic, they list these following characteristics - freshness, carbonation, body & sweetness, mouthfeel, complexity, aroma, maturation, flavor, balance, and style. I couldn’t agree more! At this point, approaching the end of my 3rd year of homebrewing, I’m finally starting to learn patience and attention to detail. Big bold flavors are great, but as my tastes change I am starting to appreciate the subtleness of a well crafted beer just as much as an over the top sour, IPA, or bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout.

  • Keep an eye out for the newest hop on the market - Mosaic! On page 3’s “Notes from Hop School”, Jill Redding reports that Mosaic imparts notes of blueberry, mango, tangerine, rose, and bubblegum. What the what? I know I’ll be experimenting with this one as soon as Ron and Mark get it in stock!

  • On page 4, check out the new Hydro Flask Growler option for transporting your brews. It is vacuum-insulated, food-grade stainless steel, designed to keep liquids cold for 24 hours. You can get them directly at their website or check availability at local breweries. None in NJ that I know of carry them yet.

  • Have you ever argued with your friends for hours about which is better, LME or DME? Well I hope not, but flip to the article “Malt Tips from the Source” on page 7 to learn everything about malt. Gary Glass, director of the AHA, authors this article, so you know it’s authentic information.

  • Heads up... the National Homebrewers Conference is coming to Philadelphia, PA from June 27-29, 2013! Registration opens on February 5th at AHAConference.org. I know I’ll be there, how about you?

  • Page 19 starts one of the main articles, “Top 10 Modern Homebrew Flaws (and how to fix them)”. Here’s the quick list - oxidation, maturation issues, harshness, lack of complexity, muddy flavors, body and sweetness, phenols, improper carbonation, out of style, and balance issues. Need the details? You’ll have to buy the issue or join the AHA to get access to the electronic version. Who does this guy think he is to say what the top 10 flaws are? Oh, well he’s just Gordon Strong, current president of the Beer Judge Certification Program and the highest-ranking judge. Time to listen!

  • The education continues on page 25 with “Understanding Yeast Off Flavors”. You can Google a list of yeast off flavors in 1.3 seconds flat, but are they written by Neva Parker, head of laboratory operations for White Labs? No, didn’t think so. See the point I’m making in this issue review? The value you get out of Zymurgy is in the people who write the articles. Authentic, fully vetted, and experienced.

  • Oh, by the way, I just noticed the little heading in the top right - “Troubleshooting Issue”. That makes this issue just that much more valuable. On page 29, “The Art of Tasting Beer” by Ted Hausotter yields some info on this topic. This is one I always find tough, since I’m much more interested in the process, equipment, and chemistry, and my sense of smell is almost non-existent thanks to years of chronic sinus issues.

  • “Brewing on the Ones” by Drew Beechum makes a great point - despite the hundreds of grain, hop and yeast choices available at your homebrew store, more ingredients does not equal better beer! “I remember a sort of mad dash from bin to bin, scooping a little of this and whole lot of that into the mill”, he says in the introduction. I had the same feeling at one point, but just like cooking, a dish with a dozen ingredients is unlikely to taste like much in particular. As evidenced on Food Network shows like Iron Chef or Chopped, greatness often comes from simplicity and austerity, as Chef Morimoto proves over and over again :)

  • This issue’s “For Geeks Only” article is on “Beer Spoilage Organisms”. If you’d like to read up on your “gram negative bacteria”, such as acetic acid, zymomonas, and enterobacteriaceae, or on the other hand your “gram positive bacteria” such as lactobacillus and pediococcus... oh and don’t forget your obvious wild yeasts and molds... well, like I said, if you’d like to read up on all that, head straight to page 49.

  • The “Commercial Calibration” this month switches to mead! Moonlight Meadery vs. Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser. I have never heard of Moonlight Meadery, but I’ve found Zombie Killer on tap in several bars in the central NJ area recently. Even if you can’t taste these same brews, reading the comments are a great way to pick up on the language used to judge beer, whether you are a judge or a recipient of judging via homebrew competitions.

  • The final page has a great article titled “I Love You Beer, Worts and All”. The main point of the article is summed up in this great line: “Taking pleasure in a hand-crafted, artisan product is the essence of our obsession, and infectious enthusiasm for our own little objects d’art can compensate for many a technical flaw”. Cheers to that!