Saturday, March 29, 2014

Craft Beer is a brewin'

So, I will start off this blog with an apology for not writing in quite some time.  It seems like the New Year rushed in with a bang, between traveling and changing jobs, I barely had time to put the Christmas decorations away.  However, I did have time to visit Boulder Brewery on a January get-away ski trip to Colorado.  It's sort of funny how taste evolves over the years.  In college and even towards the end of college, red wine would be my drink of choice.  I mean, it is full of antioxidants like resveratrol, full of sophistication, and "one glass of wine per day in moderation MAY minimize the risk of heart disease." (Moderation is key here: meaning one glass of day for women and one to two for men per day.  Not exactly the standard college student serving size.)

As a dietitian, I was probably one of the first to be excited about the red wine benefits.  Somewhere along the way though, I began to really enjoy the crisp, cool flavors of a good beer.  I also became really interested in the craft brewery concept, visited a few, and realized something: Beer, just like wine, is fermented and contains ethanol--the same active ingredient in wine.  Upon further research of beer, I found that the hops in beer contains flavonoids that have antioxidant properties as well as slowing the release of calcium from the bones, which diminishes the risk of kidney stones.  Dark beer specifically also contains a small amount of soluble fiber compared to wine that contains none--which may be useful in lowering LDL cholesterol.  Again, beer and wine are similar in the idea of all things in moderation.  Too much of any alcohol in excess of the one five ounce glass per day for women and one-two for men can actually have detrimental effects on the organs and tissues in the body.

These things being said-I also appreciated the fact that beer put less strain on my wallet.  And, I think that a frosted glass filled with a tasty craft brew is just as classy of a libation as wine is.  Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion but I will share with you some of the highlights from my most recent brewery visit in Boulder as well as some of the process of how craft beer is made.
Kegging Process 

We took a 45-minute guided tour of the brewery and afterwards were promised samples of several of the most popular beers.  Boulder Beer is one of the oldest microbreweries, opening in 1979 when two professors at the University of Colorado received the 43rd brewing license issued in the United States.  They are a very sustainable brewery, believing in the power of a small carbon footprint.  They actually take their excess grains to a silo company for seed that is close-by.

     The main ingredients in beer are malt barley, hops, yeast, and water.  Other grains may be used, such as wheat in wheat beer, but most are made with barley as the base.  Malt is made by steeping the barley in water to germinate, then it is halted by heat-drying in a kiln.  Then, mash is made by milling malted barley into smaller pieces and mixed with hot water.  This breaks down the starches into fermentable sugars.  The liquid, also known as the "wort" is drained.
          Hops, which are cousin
to the marijuana plant, (I thought it smelled like Mary Jane simply in there because we were in Colorado, but apparently it is because the hops are kin to weed) are added to the wort and boiled. (Fun Fact: Boiling Point is 206 degrees Fahrenheit due to the elevation in Boulder.)  Once cooled, it is transferred to the fermentation tank, yeast is added, which turns the simple sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide.  The result=beer! Of course, beer is allowed to age, which varies by certain ones, and is passed through filtration to remove residue.  Then, it is packaged in kegs, cans, or bottles and ready to enjoy!

      Beer holds its own to wine in many ways, so as temperatures start to rise and the sun begins to shine, take a chance on expanding your taste buds at a local brewery and then sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold one!

My sister-in-law smelling the hops
Sampling some of Boulder Brewery's best