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This Beer is Crafted! Old World Technology, New Tastes Brewing

Published September 3, 2009
Tech News Arizona
By Mae Lee Sun
TNAZ Regional Correspondent
Dennis Arnold

Dennis Arnold of Barrio Brewing and Gentle Ben’s in Tucson is here “metering-in” beer through a stainless filter chamber.
Credit: Mae Lee Sun
Brew master Dennis Arnold is really a chemist seeking to clone his creations.
If a craft brewer doesn’t understand the intricacies of balancing ingredients, Arnold, co-owner of Tucson’s Barrio Brewing Co., said, “You’ve got nothing.”
“Every beer style has its parameters in a dozen different objective and subjective tastes, aromas and mouth-feel observations,” he said. “The beauty about any given beer style is that you will end up with thousands of different beers crafted even when every brewer is looking at the same definition of a given style.”
Skilled brewers recognize the variables and how to counteract combinations so one’s beer is as close to a clone as possible to the last batch, Arnold said.
“Not even Budweiser can brew the exact beer every time, so they as a practice, blend 10 different batches every time to homogenize the end product,” he explained.
Arnold said he has been blending and brewing various lambics, ales, lagers and stouts since he graduated from college in the early ‘80s and visited brewpubs in San Francisco.
The craft-beer “movement,” as he called it, was on the fringe and considered a tradition of the past, relegated to the basements of European homes and monasteries.
Beer connoisseurs, though, who felt the quality of beer suffered in mass production, started to go back to the basics by either investing in or opening their own breweries, according to the Brewers Association, based in Boulder, Colo.
Julie Herz, the association’s craft beer program director, said the American palate is changing and craft brew masters have the flexibility to experiment.
“Americans now want different style beers for different occasions and not just the standard lager for everything,” she said. “If you look at what’s going on with wines, chocolate and coffee, it’s the same thing, right?”
For example, Papago Brewing Co. in Scottsdale, which sells brews made for them by Oak Creek Brewing in Sedona and Sonora Brewing Co. in Scottsdale, sells “Coconut Joe” milk stout with desserts and Hawaiian-style pizza. Old World Brewery in Phoenix crafts its own Summer Saguaro Wheat Ale, which has fresh saguaro fruit pulp added, to pair with fish, Italian food, burgers and hot dogs.
During University of Arizona Wildcat’s basketball season, Barrio Brewing offers NCAALE, an English double-strong ale with a full-bodied malt flavor.
Old World Brewery

Stainless fermentation tanks at Old World Brewery in Phoenix.
Credit: Perry Parmely, Old World Brewery
Again, it’s all in the chemistry.
Is that sudsy, golden, slightly bitter taste of your favorite ale on tap from the malt? Is it the proportion of hops and measure of bitterness? Live cultures and morphing bacteria?
Considered an old-world technology, aging beer in used, wooden barrels is the newest development, Herz said, in the craft-brewing arena because of the fermentation process that takes place in wooden barrels.
The barrels are inoculated with wild bacteria to impart additional flavors that may already be present in the wood, like the rum or chardonnay previously stored in some.
“It’s taken awhile for beer quality to get to this level, but it’s a good example of the way in which the allied trade and suppliers have adjusted to smaller, craft brewers becoming players in what’s available in varieties of beer,” Herz said.
“We don’t have any beer under wood right now,” says Barrio’s Arnold. “Barrels make a great brew, and we’d been making one we really liked from bourbon casks. But as soon as casking got popular, barrel prices have gone way up, and the good ones are tough to get now,” he adds.
And as the quality of ingredients – the main three always yeast, barley and hops — has changed through more advanced farming techniques and the addition of spices and exotic flavors, so too has the available quantity of these.
Vermont, widely known for its rich, agricultural land, has the greatest number of breweries per capita and an article in the summer 2009 edition of Local Banquet magazine reported that many of the ingredients in those beers, like barley, hops, wheat, raspberries, pumpkin and honey are now being sourced within the state by encouraging local farms to become more sustainable.
The number of U.S. breweries is the highest it’s been in 100 years. Although 56 breweries closed throughout the country last year, another 122 opened. The microbrew sector in general has grown to approximately 1,500 breweries in the U.S., generating close to $6 billion a year.
There are approximately 30 craft breweries across Arizona.
In this state, breweries have suffered a bit by the global increase in pricing and shortage of hops and barley. Electric Brewing Company, a boutique brewery in Bisbee, closed after seven years of doing business.
“Survival depends on thinking globally and drinking locally,” Arnold said.
For more information on Arizona craft breweries, brewpubs and seasonal beers:

Written by maeleesun

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