Saturday, January 30, 2010

Drink of Angels

The district of San Miguel in the City of Manila is genteel and old world. In the shadow of Malacanang palace, the houses are well preserved, though unlike their storied past, must now contend with growing colonies of informal settlers. At its heart is the Church of San Miguel where mass confirmations are regularly held. It is dominated by figures of the archangels with Michael predominant and triumphant over a serpentine Lucifer.

It is the district for which what is touted as "the national beer" is named. It was founded by Don Enrique Ma. Barretto de Ycaza in 1890 as La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel. Barretto later took on a partner, Don Pedro Pablo Roxas, who brought with him a German brewmaster. San Miguel's brew won its first major award at 1895's Philippines Regional Exposition, and led its imported competitors by a five-to-one margin by the turn of the 20th century. The company was incorporated in 1913 following the death of Don Pedro Roxas.

The story goes that in World War II, the Americans pursued the retreating Japanese through Manila, but made a detour to free the District of San Miguel, before pushing on to Ermita and ultimately the Intramuros dead end. But it wasn't a tactical detour. The thirsty GIs wanted some of the beer. And they got it, after liberating the area, drawing them from the factory taps into their helmets. There was also an ice plant in the nearby district and that fit in wonderfully with these last minute plans.

It may have been just as well. The battles that followed go down in history as the bloodiest of that war, with civilian casualties soaring, particularly in the Intramuros. It was also during this time, when the carpet bombing of Manila increased in ferocity, with lamentable destruction -- the National Museum, for instance, took a direct hit and thousands of the country's artifacts and relics were reduced to ash and rubble.

The consumption of beer and other alcohol is so ingrained in Philippine customs, it comes with its own etiquette. An invitation to drink is extended to any person, stranger or not, and it is insulting to the drinkers, to be refused. Many a crime has been comitted in the name of such a refusal. Why this is so, requires some investigation, however.

For most Filipinos, eating and drinking are communal activities. Eating alone, even in modern times like today, will elicit unkind comments from the more traditional minded. In Tayabas, Quezon, there are particular phrases one must use to accept a drink, to pass on a round and to make one's excuses to leave the group. Failure to observe these practices rankle on the host and the other drinkers. Some theorize that ancient Filipinos were a classless society or one where mobility was always possible through industry and later, education. However, the growing class distinctions during the Spanish colonization, drew responses from the masses. An invitation to drink, when denied is considered an insult because person refusing is believed to be too snobbish to join in, or perhaps a bit wary of sharing a communal cup. Of course, the state of inebriation of the drinkers would also be a major factor in determining just how fatal the insult would be. .

Beer Making
Beer is made using water, fermented sugar, hops and yeast. Bryce Edding of says:


Every beer begins with barley grain. Each grain is a seed and contains all the chemical properties to sprout into a full barley plant under the right conditions. It is the maltster’s job to manipulate this potential into a usable product for the brewer.
The process of malting barley involves tricking each grain into believing that it is time to sprout. This is easily done with a little warm water. The sprouting process activates enzymes in the grain that will later be used by the brewer in the mash. As soon as the barley begins to sprout the maltster quickly but gently dries it completely in a kiln putting the enzymes in suspension. The sprouts are removed and the remaining grains are sent on to the brewer.

When the malted barley reaches the brewer it is full of naturally occurring starches and the enzymes activated during the malting process. The brewer then takes the grains and adds them to a bath of warm water, typically between 148 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This is called a mash. It is at these temperatures that the enzymes are reactivated. A chemical reaction begins whereby the enzymes attack and break down the starches in the barley to simpler sugars. These sugars are the goal of the mash.
This is all done in a special brewer’s container called a lauter tun. The lauter tun is designed to contain the mash without leaking while being able to gently filter away the water through its bottom when the mashing process is complete. Lauter tuns are often insulated or use some other method to maintain a constant temperature mash.

Once the brewer decides that most of the starches have been converted, which usually takes an hour or so, the temperature of the mash is raised to around 165 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit to halt the enzymatic process. Then the water is drained away and collected leaving behind a bed of grain. More warm water is sprinkled or sparged on to the grain bed at about 165 to 168 degrees Fahrenheit. This rinses more sugars from the grains. The water is then drained and collected with the original water from the mash. This water with sugars, unmodified starches and proteins dissolved or suspended in it is called wort.


The wort is then boiled. Boiling the wort improves the beer in a number of ways. It kills any enzymes remaining from the mash that could later make the beer unstable. It sterilizes the wort reducing the chances of contamination. It reduces the amount of water which increases the concentration of fermentable and unfermentable material extracted from the grain. The fermentable sugars will be converted to alcohol during fermentation and the unfermentable sugars and proteins will contribute to the final beer’s color, head, aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor.
Hops are generally added during the boil which extracts the resins and oils. Hops added early during the boil contribute a bitter flavor to the beer which is valuable because they add a balance to sweetness from the unfermentable sugars. Hops added to some beers during the final minutes of the boil contribute aromas and very little bitter flavor to the beer.

Next the wort is cooled to 46 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for lagers and 60 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit for ales. It is then transferred to a sterile fermentation container where the yeast is added. Yeast is a living organism that feeds on sugar. The byproducts of the lifecycle of yeast are alcohol and carbon dioxide. At the top of the fermentation tank is an airlock that both allows the CO2 to escape and prevents foreign material from entering. It will usually take a day or two for active fermentation to become evident. Most fermentation is completed within seven to fourteen days.

The beer is then drained off of the yeast sediment that collects at the bottom of the fermentation tank and transferred to a secondary lagering or aging container. Ales are usually aged in the secondary container for one to four weeks. During this time any remaining material drops out of suspension clearing the beer. Aging also blends and mellows the flavors. Lagers are similarly aged for months, some even up to a year, at very cool temperatures.

The result is bright, or uncarbonated, beer. There are two ways to carbonate beer. Natural carbonation involves transferring the beer to it final container – bottles, casks, or kegs – and just before sealing it adding a small but measured amount of sugar. There is enough yeast that remains suspended in the beer that this little bit of sugar will be fermented. This will not significantly contribute to the alcoholic content of the beer but in the sealed container the second byproduct of fermentation, CO2, has no place to go and so is absorbed by the beer. This method of carbonating beer is popular among homebrewers that typically don’t have the equipment to force carbonate their beer. It is also the correct way to carbonate certain styles of beer such as hefe-weizen.
Forced carbonation is the method preferred by many breweries. Before the beer is packaged it is filtered and pasteurized. This removes or kills any yeast that might have been in suspension. It results in a more stable product than natural fermentation. The CO2 gas is then forced into the beer container before it is sealed where the beer will absorb it.


Anonymous said...

Love it!

juliuscesar103 said...

the best beer in china is qingdao (tsingdao)beer named after the seaside city that produced it. the beer production was started in 1903 by germans who were residing there. by 1972, qindao beer was one of the best selling beer in america. i visited the qingdao brewery once and we were offered all the beer you can consume within 30 minutes free of charge. needless to say, some of us left the place in an inebriated state.