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Beer School: A Guide to Fermentation and Flavor

March 20, 2020

By October Staff, March 20, 2020

In our first installment of Beer School, we told you all about the basics: whether beer goes bad, the importance of glassware, and more. In our second installment, we tackled popular styles that you’ll find in most craft taprooms.

Now it’s time to level up your knowledge about the brewing process itself. How do brewers get their beers to taste like ramen noodles, or employ wild yeasts to create complexly flavored sours? It all comes down to technique and ingredients.

Read on to understand how your beer gets its unique character.

The Basics of Bottle-Conditioned Beer

What’s that sediment sitting at the bottom of your bottle? Don’t worry, it's not a fault. It's just a sign that the beer has been bottle-conditioned. The result is a beer with a more robust body, more fizz, and a more complex flavor profile. Read on to understand why brewers put these kinds of beers through a secondary fermentation in the bottle.

What Exactly Is Mixed-Culture Fermentation?

In short, mixed-culture fermentation employs a blend of both wild and cultivated yeasts that bring a whole house party of flavors to a given brew. As one brewer notes, “A music professor said our beers reminded him a little bit of John Cage, that we were in this middle ground between the intentional and the avant-garde.”

What Is Lactose and Why Is It in My Beer?

You can’t make beer without sugar, but not all sugar is the same. Lactose, a sugar derived from milk, is unfermentable by brewer’s yeast, so it’s added to a beer makes the final product sweeter, fuller, and creamier. Delicious? We think so.

How Marshmallows and Ramen Noodles Get into Your Beer

There are a lot of gimmicky beers out there—some great, some surprisingly OK. But how exactly do brewers get those oddball flavors into your beer? How do you make a beer taste like a beloved children’s cereal? Read on to find out.

Why America Is Falling for Europe’s Most Pain-in-the-Ass Brewing Technique

A coolship is a wide, shallow, open vessel used in the production of spontaneously fermented ales. Wild yeasts find their way into this pool and then go to town—but it’s hardly a controlled process, and one that has more variables than most brewers want to deal with. But the resulting beer can be out of this world.

Why Brewers Are Falling Back in Love with Herbal Beers

Don’t tell the Germans, but you don’t need hops to make beer. Gruits were what just about everyone drank in the Middle Ages, employing various herbs in place of hops for both flavor and preservative properties. Some of today’s adventurous brewers are bringing these brews back and using foraged or local ingredients to capture a sense of place.


Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

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