Ches – Beer Aficionado (and Server)
Ches had been a spectacular addition to our Tap Room Staff. Born and raised in Bedford County VA, Ches moved to Tidewater in 2017. With a degree in History, Ches has a passion for both teaching and learning about the past and how that might influence our future.
Ches's other passions included Soccer and Beer... often combining the two!! Her current favorite obsession in the beer world is "anything sour" and she was the driving force behind Brass Cannon's release of Puckered Melon, our first ever sour.
When not serving you all th ebest beer in Williamsburg from The Cannon Tap Room Ches enjoys spending time at home with her husband and cat, or, at her "other" job as a group educator and living history interpreter at The Jamestown Yorktown Foundation.
Engage Ches in a conversation and we promise you will come away from it having learned something!!
Alcohol By Volume
Pretty self explanatory and oh so important because it determines pretty much how "heavy" the beer is or, how many you can drink before you give up your keys or schedule an Uber/Lyft/Taxi, or, the brewers favorite, how much tax must be paid!
In the end ABV is a measure of how much space (volume) of the beer in the glass you are drinking is taken up by alcohol.
We brew beer for flavor, but lets not be cheeky about it, we also brew it because a pint or two makes us feel good and it is a highly social thing to share a beer with a friend!
That alcohol is made by the yeasty-beasts which are live organisms that we introduce into the fermentation tank, and which eat the sugars creating the by products of alcohol and carbon dioxide (the bubbles). See.... carbon dioxide is our friend and with more of it we could extend the hops growing season or at lease extend the fields North.
All that aside, Brass Cannon asks that you respect the ABV, as a well crafted and balanced beer may very well have near 8% ABV and not taste that way. Please drink responsibly.
How Do You Brew Beer?
Beer is a grain tea steeped to convert starches to sugars through natural enzymatic processes, and then fermented by introducing yeast to convert the sugary liquid to one containing alcohol and CO2.
You start with grains, typically barleys or wheats, that have been partially germinated and then dried and/or roasted to stop further germination and to create certain flavor profiles, in a process known as "malting". Malting creates the enzymes necessary to convert starches to sugars during mashing.
The malted grain is milled (cracked open) and stirred with hot water, typically for about an hour and typically at a temperature of 150-160F. This temp is optimal for activating the enzymes to convert available starches to sugars. This unfermented sugary liquid is now called "wort".
Filter the wort from the mashing grains and boil it. Boiling sterilizes the wort and during the boiling you add hops. Bittering hops typically boil the longest and aromatic or finishing hops are added toward the end of the boil.
Cool the wort to below 78F and transfer it to a fermenting tank fitted with an airlock. Throw in the yeast. aka "pitch the yeast" and let the yeast convert the sugars to CO2 and alcohol. Fermentation will take between 10 days to 3 weeks (or longer) depending on the beer you are trying to make.
When the fermentation process is done you now have beer. What you do with it then is up to you, as it can be filtered or unfiltered, further conditioned, bottled, canned or kegged, but in formats it should be enjoyed!
Guidance on storing beer from The Brewers Association's Julia Herz:
1. Not all beers age the same, so know what you’re drinking. Unfortunately, there’s no real timeline for when a certain beer will age into the “not fresh” category. But there are a few good rules of thumb you can use to know whether you should be worried about a beer's freshness or if you can stash it and still have a delicious beer one year down the road.
First, check the ABV: if it’s higher than 8%, you generally don’t need to worry about rushing to drink it (more on cellaring beer later!).
Next, check the style. If it’s a sour or a smoked beer, then it falls into the same category as high-alcohol beers. However, if it’s an IPA or another hop-centric beer, like amber lagers, American pale ales, or American strong ales, you’re holding a beer that’ll age quickly (IMPORTANT: this even includes some of those 8+ percenters that fall into these styles!). Herz says these should be consumed fresh because of their hop aromatics, which add to the distinctive flavor of the beer and fade over time.
Lastly, look for pasteurization. Herz points out that most craft breweries in America don't pasteurize their beers, so their shelf-life is shorter than mass-produced lagers, which are pasteurized.
2. If it’s not going into storage, drink the beer within three months of the bottling date
At least if you’re holding an unpasteurized beer. Can't tell when the beer you're holding was brewed? Check out FreshBeerOnly.com, which will educate you on how to find a bottling or packaging date on a ton of breweries' cans and bottles.
For pasteurized beer, well, you've got more time than a few months. In a course that Herz and Chef Adam Dulye taught about food and beer, they cited research from MillerCoors that stated that "storing beer in the following conditions will result in equivalent flavor loss: 1) 3 days in the trunk of a hot car (90 F), 2) 30 days at room temperature (71 F), and 3) 300 days in the refrigerator (33 F)." Which means you have almost an entire year to drink that can of pasteurized beer before it goes bad! Also, if you can't find time to drink a can of beer in 300 days, maybe beer isn't your thing.
3. During those three months, keep the beer in the fridge
As soon as beer is made, the aging process starts. The best way to elongate its lifespan is to go ahead and throw it in the fridge as soon as you bring it home -- even if you don’t plan to drink it until two months later. "Store your precious beer cold (38 degrees F) until it's ready to drink," advises Herz. "Think of beer like bread or milk. It will advance, but when stored cold (not room temperature) that advancing of flavors and oxidation is slowed down."
Only Two Types of Beers-Ales or Lagers
There are many many styles of beers but arguably there are only two types. Ales or Lagers.
Ales use a yeast that is "top fermenting" forming a protective cap over the beer and is happy working in warmer temps not requiring refrigeration or cooling during fermentation. It was the original beer because there was no refrigeration back in the day.
Lagers are made with "bottom fermenting" yeast and the yeast is happier at lower temperatures and takes longer to do its work.
Ales are unbelievably varied in color and flavors and ABV and IBU. From Amber Ales, to Golden Ales, to Stouts, to Wheat Ales to Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines we are talking Ales.
Lagers tend to be lighter in color and lighter in flavor, but not all. Some of the early Lagers or Pilsners (a type of Lager or, arguable just another word for Lager) were light brown or darker straw colored and were quite flavorful.
But in the end, beer is beer and we don't stand on ceremony or get too caught up in styles and terminology. Find what you like by tasting them all and then go with the ones that make you say "I'll have another!".
Brass Cannon endeavors to make traditional Ales and full flavored Lagers, the way they really were meant to be.
Simple acronym, tough topic.
IBU stands for International Bittering Units.
IBU is supposed to advise you of how bitter a beer will taste. But no two people in the world taste beer the same way. And after a certain point, most people will acknowledge that it is not possible to taste more or more intensity of bitterness.
Technically, IBU is the measure of the isomerized and oxidized alpha acids, polyphenols, and "a few other select bittering chemicals" that make you taste what we humans call "bitter".
Most beers are made with IBU ratings of between 15 - 80 with IPA typically in the 40-80 range. But we all know that some beers that are still called or sold as IPAs are available with much higher IBU and some light beers can have IBU ratings as low as 5.
So in general, the higher the IBU the more bitter the average person (if there is such a thing) will perceive the beer, but it is crucial to understand that a higher IBU may not taste as bitter to you as a lower IBU beer, as it is all about you the individual and the balance achieved in the beer.
A well balanced beer with good malt profile balanced against strong IBU might very well taste less bitter that a lower IBU IPA.
Brass Cannon focuses on the malt first and then tries to craft balanced beers. "Craft" being the operable word!