Tim's Gravel Grinder, perceived bitterness and this whole gluten reduced thing

Gravel Grinder.jpg

I stopped by the brewery the other day in search of answers, and I knew the Beer Geeks would be able to explain things to me.

Please understand that I use the term Beer Geek in a loving and respectful manner. Randy Clay, Justin Holden, Jared Allerson, Tessa Rogers, Stephen Vander Wal, Derek Myers and Laura Myers all know quite a bit about beer either from their experiences with home brewing or from their education, or combination of both. I myself have a pretty limited knowledge of the ins-and-outs of beer and what makes things what. These people are a tremendous resource for a guy like me, so I have a nickname for their little group. They are Beer Geeks.

Anyway, I was confused. Last week we unveiled our newest beer, Tim’s Gravel Grinder. It’s a Chinook IPA, which means this is a very hoppy beer made exclusively with Chinook hops. It’s also a gluten reduced beer, but we’ll get to that in more detail a little later.

My problem was that I didn’t like Tim’s Gravel Grinder and I couldn’t figure out why. My palate was telling me that this beer was far too bitter for my liking, but it was only hitting about 40 on the IBU (International Bittering Unit) scale. I don’t know much about beer, but I do know that 40 IBUs means the beer isn’t overly bitter.

So, when I got to the brewery, the first person I bumped into was Jared. I told him why I was there, and he attempted to explain the concept of “Perceived Bitterness” to me. Now, I realize that this is a little bit technical speak for many of you, but work with me here.

“IBUs aren’t necessarily going to tell you how bitter a beer tastes,” he said, “because it’s a scientific scale that measure the amount of [iso-alpha] acids. The acid content will have a lot to do with how bitter a beer is, but you also have to factor in things like malt character and some of the other ingredients. It could also be that you just don’t like the flavor of the Chinooks.”

Okay, so that made sense to me. Even though this beer doesn’t really rate high on the IBU scale, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to have a bitter flavor.

Eventually, Randy and Justin came over and joined our conversation. I still was a little unsure about using bitterness as a reason for not liking the beer. I like a good IPA. In fact, our double hopped Double Down IPA is one of my favorite beers ever. So, after a while, Randy asked me when had I tried the beer, and I told him that it was probably a week ago. He pulled a small sample of the Guard Down IPA and a sample of the Gravel Grinder for me, and asked me to compare the two. I tried the Guard Down, of which I am very fond, first. It was just what I expected. Guard Down is not what they call a “hop forward” beer; most of its flavor is in the aftertaste.

So, then I tried the Gravel Grinder again, and lo and behold, this was almost a completely different beer from what I had first experienced. It had mellowed, and in fact tasted sort of like the exact opposite of the Guard Down. All the flavor seemed to be up front, and it finished very subtly.

Randy has tried to explain this to me before: when beer ages, it changes. The flavors open up and evolve a little bit. I had tried the Gravel Grinder almost as soon as it was ready to be tapped, and didn’t care for it. A week later, whatever was going on with that beer was working for me. This was suddenly a very good beer.

The moral of the story is this: don’t be so quick to judge a beer. You might not like something on your first visit to Imminent, but try it again the next time you come in. You might be pleasantly surprised.

We should also discuss this Gluten Reduced thing.

Tim’s Gravel Grinder has been treated with something called Brewers Clarex. Essentially, it’s an enzyme that breaks down the gluten proteins in beer. The additive has been used by brewers for a long time to eliminate haze and make the beer look clearer, but only recently have people figured out just exactly what it’s doing. By eliminating the amino acid chains that create gluten proteins, not only is the beer clearer, but most of the gluten has been removed as well.

We cannot legally use the term “Gluten Free” for reasons that pass my understanding, however I can say that the FDA calls anything with less than 20 gluten parts per million as gluten free. The Gravel Grinder came in at less than 10.

We’re also in the process of having the Gateway Cream Ale tested for gluten as well, and we anticipate that it will come back with the same results. Stay tuned for more information there.

So, that’s the story on Tim’s Gravel Grinder. Far more complicated than one would think for such a simple beer, but it made for some interesting conversation and I learned some stuff I thought you guys should know.

We’ll be open at 4 pm today. Come get yourself a Gravel Grinder.