From Vine to Pint Glass: Hops and Barley in the Brewing Process

On October 24, 2019, Krystin Norman and Rachel McKinney of Fremont Brewing provided an intimate presentation on barley, hops, various plant use in brewing, and beer tasting accompanied by samples of Feemont Brewing’s distinctive beers.

Krystin Norman is a Senior Scientist and Microbiologist at Fremont Brewing. She received her B.A. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado and went on to develop a passion for home brewing and beer!

Rachel McKinney is a Sensory Scientist at Fremont Brewing. She received her B.S. in Fermentation Science and Technology from Colorado State University.

FIGURE 1: Krystin Norman and Rachel McKinney present on the brewing process in the Seasonal House of the Conservatory.

The main steps of the brewing process include malting, mashing/lautering, boiling, whirlpool, fermentation, dry hopping, fining, packaging. The initial process of malting exposes sugars and turns barley corn into malt through three different steps: steeping, germination, and kilning. The mashing/lautering step converts malt enzymes and grain starches into wort, or fermentable sugars. The wort is then sterilized in the boiling process and the whirlpool is used to further purify by removing any solids. Yeast is pitched in the fermentation stage which helps sugar turn into alcohol. Dry hopping occurs about five days after the whirlpool stage for Fremont Brewing and dry hopping is used to increase aroma. The fining stage is used to clear beer by speeding up settling and removing any remaining contaminants. The last step of the brewing process is packaging, which is where carbon dioxide is injected for forced carbonation. The entire Fremont Brewing process takes about seven days.

Barley is essential to the beer brewing process as it contributes to sugar potential for yeast fermentation, mouthfeel, aroma, and color. This grain is unlike many others because it is accessible world-wide and is grown on almost every continent.

Barley consists of high levels of vital nutrients such as protein, enzyme potential, vitamins, and minerals which are all essential to promoting yeast health. The tough husk material coating barley is a feature other grains don’t have; this husk can be used as a filtration medium in brewing. The low levels of lipids and oils in barley are another reason this grain makes a great brewing agent.

Hops influence bitterness, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, foam, lacing, flavor stability, and anti-microbial properties. Hops are typically grown in the 48th parallel north in places such as Germany, China, and Washington. Washington grows 70% of the US’s hops.

Hops are another plant critical to the beer brewing process. Many beers have fruity, citrusy, and tropical flavor notes which can be directly attributed to the use of hops. Hops are flowers that are related to the cannabis plant- they both smell, look, and feel very similar! Washington grows 70% of the US’s hops which is convenient for Fremont Brewing, especially for their fresh hop beers.

Any additional plants used in the brewing process are called adjuncts. Examples of adjuncts include corn, rice, oats, wheat, rye, and sorghum.

Oats are typically added to beer to encourage a creamy mouthfeel, which we got to experience in one of the beer samples, Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout. Sorghum is frequently used as an adjunct to make a gluten free version of beer. Adjuncts are used strategically to manipulate flavor, quality, and cost benefits.

FIGURE 4: Different grains and adjuncts commonly used in brewing.

The Fun Part: Beer Tasting

Krystin and Rachel offered samples of four vastly different beers: Operador Suave Mexican-Style Lager, Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout, Field to Ferment Fresh Hop Pale Ale, and Head Full of Fresh Hops.

The Operador Suave Mexican-Style Lager was the lightest beer sampled; it had a clear light straw color with minimal white foam. The lager smelled of corn chips, grassy aromas, florals, and honey. It tasted fairly sweet with minimal bitterness and left a mouthfeel of moderate carbonation and slight mouthwatering. 

The Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout was an example of a beer with additional adjuncts, in this case the adjunct was oats. This beer was thick, dark, and caramel colored with a hint of red. It smelled strongly of roasted coffee and chocolate. This beer was fairly sweet and left a full-bodied, creamy, and warm mouthfeel. The unique creaminess in this beer is attributed to the addition of oats!

The Field to Ferment Fresh Hop Pale Ale is made from the first hop harvest of the year and presents as a celebration of being so close to some of the biggest hop producers in the world. Hops are harvested, separated, and sent in a refrigerated truck to Fremont Brewery to be brewed the same day- it really doesn’t get fresher than this! This pale ale is a light amber color with moderate foam and minimal lacing. It gives off a vegetal aroma with notes of bell pepper, grass, and orange. This beer is lightly sweet, moderately bitter, and has a mouthfeel of some astringency and carbonation.

The last beer sampled was Head Full of Fresh Hops, which is a part of Fremont Brewing’s hazy beer series. This beer is a dark yellow color with haze, minor particulates, minimal white foam, and light lacing. Head Full of Fresh Hops smells of pineapple, grapefruit, fresh cut grass, and black pepper. This beer is gently sweet and is mouthwatering with medium carbonation.

Craft brewing is a little different every time, which is why it’s so exciting and why so many people enjoy it. Brewing and fermentation is a complex science and we were so lucky to be joined by Krystin Norman and Rachel McKinney of Fremont Brewing!

Reported by Aaliah Condon, Marketing Volunteer
Photos by Lou Daprile

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