Author Topic: When is it cheating?  (Read 2488 times)

Online Kaiser

  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Imperial Brewing Geek
    • View Profile
    • braukaiser.com
When is it cheating?
« on: March 21, 2010, 08:33:30 PM »
The "souring fermentation" thread (http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=1718.msg20739;topicseen#msg20739) got me thinking: When is it an acceptable shortcut when when is it cheating?

I assume that everybody will agree that adding lactic acid to sour a beer to taste might be cheating. But what about starting a lactic only fermentation and add the result to the beer to taste? Isn't that also a shortcut that allows you to control the sourness w/o having to control the actual fermentation? Or adding acid malt to the mash which allows you to make a sour beer w/o having to deal with the bugs otherwise needed for that.

How different is this from using specialty malts instead of going through a decoction mash to get the same flavor. And to take it even further, how about adding pure alcohol to a moderately yet high FG beer to create a high alcohol beer w/o having to deal with the fermentation complications of such a beer?

Are there any rules to brewing that would disqualify a Berliner Weisse which was simply a low gravity neutral wheat beer that had lactic acid added?

I think these are interesting questions worth pondering. Beyond the Reinheitsgebot: Where is the line and who decides what's ok and what not.

Kai

Offline abraxas

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 191
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2010, 09:28:33 PM »
Are there any rules to brewing ....

No.


Maybe for a specific competition, but I have no idea about that.

From my perspective there is no real reason why anything should be right or wrong.  Whatever you do to achieve the flavor you are looking for is ok in my book.  Many of the things we do, like bourbon soaked wood chips in place of a bourbon barrel allow us to get a similar flavor on a practical hobby level.

For many people doing things naturally (or historically accurately) is part of the fun of the hobby.  While making a sake many people add lactic acid instead of using lactobacilli, but for myself part of the fun is understand how to balance the lacto with the yeast.  I also believe that there is probably some other byproducts that will result in a more authentic final product (but I would have to brew one each way to compare).  I would never look down on somebody that just chose to add the lactic acid nor would it affect how I would judge the quality of their product, the only factor that is really important in my eyes.

I think there are a lot of examples of this sort of thing in the hobby of homebrewing.  Water adjustments, hops extract/ pelletization, pure O2 addition...


Offline MrNate

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 967
  • Bridgewater, NJ
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2010, 10:11:08 PM »
I make it a rule not to tell anyone else how to brew. Well, I try not to anyway. Your beer, your call. Cheating is when you know or have good reasons to believe there are negative consequences to the shortcut you're taking; otherwise, it's just streamlining.

Me, I'm a big fan of old-fashioned things. But I don't drive a horse and buggy. Everyone draws the line somewhere.
“If one's actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception.”

Offline babalu87

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Grand Brewbah
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2010, 04:22:56 AM »
Kai

The Berliner Weisse with Lactic Acid added is going to be sort of one dimensional. Cheating, no but it wont have the flavor profile of the beer that is brewed in a more traditional manner. Its not really about just the sour, there is more to it.

I would think the same holds true for adding alcohol.
For instance, say a Bock was brewed with specialty grains, no decoction and had grain alcohol added to get it to the proper ABV. for a Dopplebock.
I doubt that beer will be anything close to a well brewed Dopplebock that employed a decoction mash, 2 hour boil and a long lagering/maturation schedule.
Jeff

On draught:
IIPA, Stout, Hefeweizen, Hallertau Pale Ale, Bitter

Primary:
Hefeweizen,Berliner Weisse, Mead

Online Kaiser

  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Imperial Brewing Geek
    • View Profile
    • braukaiser.com
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2010, 07:25:19 AM »
Looks like you guys are more relaxed that I am about this. I would even consider adding flavor extracts as taking a shortcut that should be avoided. But then again I don’t make fruit beers, so that issue is moot for me. Arguably, unless you are growing your own grain you are always taking a shortcut.

One of my fellow club members made a good point: It’s only cheating when you lie about it. Meaning that you have to declare your ingredients and the consumer has to make the decision for him or herself. But here in America even Breweries are not required to list ingredients and we don’t disclose them for competitions either.

About  the lactic acid to sour a beer. The result may have less dimensions but I expect it to do better than a poorly brewed beer which used an actual sour fermentation. 

Kai

Offline narvin

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1232
  • Baltimore
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2010, 07:39:32 AM »
Blending is a part of the world of sour beers, at least in Belgium.  I think people don't just add lactic acid because it's not going to taste very good.  I believe Jeff Sparrow talks about this in "Wild Brews".
Please do not reply if your an evil alien!
Thanks
Chris S.

Offline MrNate

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 967
  • Bridgewater, NJ
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2010, 08:00:58 AM »
It does kind of come down to the implicit contract between the brewer and the consumer. When they're one in the same, there is no cheating. In competition, process should not matter, only results. Without objectively measuring the results of a new process, how are we to know what constitutes a legitimately better technique?

For myself, brewing is a hobby. I brew the way I enjoy brewing. I don't use extract because mashing feels more genuine. I don't do decoction mashes because I'm too lazy. Drawing a hard line as to what constitutes "cheating" is only an exercise in pointless divisiveness. Personally, I can't understand home distillers who risk legal consequences just to produce a sugar-and-water based alcohol when they can buy  a bottle of Diesel for a couple bucks, but hey... do what ye will.

Would my sour mash porter be the same with a simple lactic acid addition? I don't know and I don't care. I like making it they way I make it. That's why I brew.
“If one's actions are honest, one does not need the predated confidence of others, only their rational perception.”

Offline euge

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 7225
  • Estilo Casero
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2010, 10:54:12 AM »
There's good practices and bad practices in brewing. Or maybe better described as ill-advised practices. And for the homebrewer the field is wide open as far as I'm concerned. Authenticity vs expediency compounded by method. The homebrewer can make their choices as they see fit.

IMO, adding lactic acid may be expedient and maybe safer but it isn't authentic. Doesn't matter on our scale but the brewer shouldn't represent it as historical or representative of authenticity either to the public. I have my doubts about this on the competitive side as well.

euge
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 11665
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2010, 11:16:49 AM »
AFAIC, since we're homebrewers, we each have our own goals and practices to achieve those goals.  What might be "cheating" to one person is standard practice for another.  An example....we have a lot of great brewers on our club, but there's one guy who consistently blows everybody else away.  When we had a club comp for lagers, he entered a lager that had just come out of primary.  It was incredible and easily won the comp.  People started shouting foul because it hadn't been lagered.  From my point of view, if he achieved the desired results, who cares?
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

Offline euge

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 7225
  • Estilo Casero
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2010, 11:28:15 AM »
I'd love to know what this guy's secret is.

All sorts of ideas going through my head. Doesn't the Widmer Brewery produce lagers in only a few days as well?
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline denny

  • Administrator
  • I must live here
  • *****
  • Posts: 11665
  • Noti OR [1991.4, 287.6deg] AR
    • View Profile
    • Dennybrew
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2010, 11:48:35 AM »
Does Widmer even make lagers??

We'd all like to know his secret.  No doubt it has something to do with years of experience and the right equipment.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

www.dennybrew.com

The best, sharpest, funniest, weirdest and most knowledgable minds in home brewing contribute on the AHA forum. - Alewyfe

Offline euge

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 7225
  • Estilo Casero
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2010, 12:05:00 PM »
And the magic dust he sprinkles on everything... :)
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline babalu87

  • Brewmaster
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Grand Brewbah
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2010, 12:07:44 PM »
Not to thread jack but didnt Jamil say somewhere (BYO........?) that Old Rasputin Imperial Stout is less than a month old when it hits the shelves?

Mine was still in the primary at 3 weeks.........................one thing homebrewers all have though is time.
Jeff

On draught:
IIPA, Stout, Hefeweizen, Hallertau Pale Ale, Bitter

Primary:
Hefeweizen,Berliner Weisse, Mead

Offline nicneufeld

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1049
    • View Profile
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2010, 12:17:10 PM »
I'll tell ya when its cheating...when I get lazy and rack a cider straight into a just emptied keg (also that had cider) without cleaning it or sanitizing it.  Used the same yeast, kept at fridge temps, we'll see if my laziness gives me vinegar, I'll deserve it if so!  :D

Seriously, I've done a lot of wild and wacky stuff as a homebrewer that I consider very, very unauthentic, but occasionally interesting.  I like authenticity but I like experimenting too.  The rules change, of course, when you start selling and marketing a beer, or when you enter into contests judged by guidelines.  But if you and the mooches who drink your beer are all you have to please, do whatever you want to do to get your beer tasting good.  Look at the Aussies with their BIAB methods, and Sam Calagione and his...well...creative recipe formulations.  Remember that centuries ago all the wacky things those Flemish blokes did was probably considered VERY inauthentic, right? 

"What, Henrik?  You are putting that sack of sour cherries in our ale?  What new madness is this?"

Offline majorvices

  • Global Moderator
  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *****
  • Posts: 6308
  • Polka. If its too loud you're too young.
    • View Profile
    • Yellowhammer Brewing Company
Re: When is it cheating?
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2010, 12:26:14 PM »
FTR in the afore mentioned thread I never said that adding lactic acid to the beer to sour it was cheating. I just said you can't achieve the same affect as adding bugs. There are a lot more things going on in a sour beer fermentation than just lacto.

That said, if you can get the desired effect by just adding acids, sure - do it! I'm highly skeptical it will stand up to a good soured beer, though.
Keith Y.
Self appointed "All Grain" section pruner