Author Topic: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise  (Read 1576 times)

S. cerevisiae

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We all know that forums are great sources of brewing misinformation; however, home brewing rags can also be sources of misinformation.  I will give you an example of such information; namely, the use of beechwood chips during lagering operations.  From what I can ascertain, the misinformation first appeared in Mr. Wizard's column in BYO magazine. 

Mr. Wizard wrote (https://byo.com/stout/item/870-how-do-commercial-breweries-lager-so-quickly):

"Time saver number two: Yeast contact is a good thing. The key to flavor maturation is yeast. Increasing the contact between yeast and the compounds they are modifying can reduce lagering times. Some people think beechwood chips are just for marketing, but in reality they are a traditional method of improving lager times. Oddly enough, they are such a pain to handle that very few breweries in the world continue this tradition (chip trivia: most American lager brewers in the 1800s used "chip tanks" for lagering)."


With that statement, Mr. Wizard implied that beechwood chips were used to improve lagering times by keeping the yeast cells in contact with the beer longer; thereby, reducing amount of time that it took for the yeast cells to clean up after themselves. American breweries used chip casks in the nineteenth century, but that is not why chip casks were employed in breweries.

It is clear to me that the information published in the Mr. Wizard column was propagated by Kai on his site (http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php?title=Fermenting_Lagers):

"Anheuser Bush for instance produces Budweiser with only one week of primary fermentation and 3 weeks of secondary/lagering. The key to this is their Beechwood ageing process where the porosity of the beechwood allows for a greater contact area between the yeast, which flocculated onto the beechwood strips, and the beer resulting in a shorter maturation time."

However, anyone who has read the seminal brewing publication1 by Wahl and Henius from the period knows that beechwood chips were used for the opposite reason.  The use of chip casks was a standard practice back in the nineteenth century because beechwood chips helped to clarify the beer more rapidly.  The chips were added after the maturation and krausening steps.

[1] R. Wahl, M. Henius, "Chip Cellar Operations," American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades, page 760
« Last Edit: October 14, 2015, 05:45:01 PM by S. cerevisiae »

Offline a10t2

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2015, 05:56:53 PM »
What's the old saying? A lie can go around the world, but the truth has to pay extra for that?

Edit: Although, anecdotally, I don't think I've ever heard this particular piece of misinformation, so I doubt it's all that widespread.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2015, 06:33:44 PM by a10t2 »
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2015, 06:18:01 PM »
What is interesting is that the most popular lager yeast culture in the United States during that period was Carlsberg Unterhefe No. 1 (a.k.a. Carlsberg Bottom Yeast No. 1).  J.C. Jacobson (owner of Carlsberg) was generous with Emil Christian Hansen's discovery and the design of the Carlsberg pure culture propagator.   The strain is available today from CBS-KNAW as CBS 1513.  A descendant of the strain is available as Wyeast 2042 Danish Lager.  This strain came from the old American brewer formerly known as the Miller Brewing Company.  I am willing to bet that AB's strain is a descendant of Carlsberg Bottom Yeast No. 1, as are a large number of production strains that are currently in use.

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2015, 06:20:44 PM »
I have certainly primaried lagers before, kegged them, and served them 3 weeks grain to glass and had delicious and clear beer. I think if you do it right, you shouldn't have to primary for more than 7-14 days and shouldn't have to lager more than a couple weeks. It might not be cleared without finings after a couple weeks, but it will certainly taste good.
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2015, 06:29:26 PM »
I wouldn't necessarily blame Mr. Wizard's misinformation on Kai.  Mr. Wizard has been capable of doing it on his own for a long time.  My first encounter with him was around 2000, when I wrote my original batch sparging article for BYO.  He kept insisting that batch sparging couldn't work...even though he had never tried it!  Kudos to then editor Chris Colby for listening to me and allowing the article to be published.
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2015, 06:30:42 PM »
I have certainly primaried lagers before, kegged them, and served them 3 weeks grain to glass and had delicious and clear beer. I think if you do it right, you shouldn't have to primary for more than 7-14 days and shouldn't have to lager more than a couple weeks. It might not be cleared without finings after a couple weeks, but it will certainly taste good.

There's a guy in our club who makes incredibly good beer.  On several occasions, he's won comps with a 3 week or less old lager that has never been lagered!
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2015, 07:10:16 PM »
I wouldn't necessarily blame Mr. Wizard's misinformation on Kai.

Hopefully, people are not reading my post as Mr. Wizard obtained his information from Kai.  I believe that Kai obtained his information from Mr. Wizard.

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2015, 08:00:56 PM »
I toured an AB brewery years ago and the tour guide mentioned settling was the reasoning for using the wood in the lagering tanks. The way the wood is cut into ribbons produces a lot of surface area without compaction. Basically it gives the yeast a short path to a surface to land on.

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2015, 09:41:24 PM »
That is exactly how Wahl and Henius explain the technique.  I am assuming that chip casks were the German answer to finings.  I believe that the purity law prohibits the use of finings that are not purely absorptive and cannot be removed from the finished product.   Why AB continues to practice this technique is anyone's guess.

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2015, 10:27:12 PM »
  Why AB continues to practice this technique is anyone's guess.

They like being able to stamp 'Beechwood Aging' on the cans. Sounds like there's some old world craftmanship to the layman. Horse pee to me.  ;)
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2015, 11:32:08 PM »
I toured an AB brewery years ago and the tour guide mentioned settling was the reasoning for using the wood in the lagering tanks. The way the wood is cut into ribbons produces a lot of surface area without compaction. Basically it gives the yeast a short path to a surface to land on.
This is what I had heard as well. I think I either heard it an interview with Mitch Steele, or from someone on the BN referring to Mitch as his source.
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2015, 12:09:44 AM »
Wahl and Henius state the chips are “pieces of wood so cut as to present a maximum of surface with a minimum of volume and weight” and go on to note that they clarify the beer “through the force of adhesion exercised by the surfaces of the same upon the small particles of matter suspended in the liquid.”
 
If the wood provides a greater surface area for sedimenting yeast to land on, wouldn’t there be more sedimented yeast still in contact with the beer than there would be if it was all compacted in the bottom of the fermentor?  Perhaps that idea is the source of the possible misconception?
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2015, 01:22:13 AM »
If the wood provides a greater surface area for sedimenting yeast to land on, wouldn’t there be more sedimented yeast still in contact with the beer than there would be if it was all compacted in the bottom of the fermentor?  Perhaps that idea is the source of the possible misconception?

However, they state that the wood chips are added after aging (a.k.a. lagering) and krausening to carbonate.   The chips are there to remove the residual yeast cells from fermentation and the new yeast cells from krausening. I do not see how what Wahl and Henius wrote could be misconstrued as speeding up the lagering process.  If anything, the chips are there to speed up the packaging step.

With that said, it took me a while to find it on-line, but Micheal Jackson starred in a set of VHS tapes back in 1989 called the Beer Hunter (I last watched these videos back in 1993).  In one episode, he visits a German brewery that still practices beechwood clarification; however, they use split beechwood logs.

https://youtu.be/PnwnEStukcs?t=22m10s
 

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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2015, 11:52:56 AM »
With that said, it took me a while to find it on-line, but Micheal Jackson starred in a set of VHS tapes back in 1989 called the Beer Hunter (I last watched these videos back in 1993).  In one episode, he visits a German brewery that still practices beechwood clarification; however, they use split beechwood logs.

https://youtu.be/PnwnEStukcs?t=22m10s
 


I remember those videos - loved them. They actually ran those on PBS back in the day, too.
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Re: Misinformation spreads like wildfire, the truth gets buried in the noise
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2015, 11:56:28 AM »
However, anyone who has read the seminal brewing publication1 by Wahl and Henius from the period knows that beechwood chips were used for the opposite reason.  The use of chip casks was a standard practice back in the nineteenth century because beechwood chips helped to clarify the beer more rapidly.  The chips were added after the maturation and krausening steps.

Budweiser themselves tell you this on the AB tour in St. Louis.
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