Craft beer brew­ing

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents -

Beer used to be con­sid­ered mainly a guy’s drink, with that first draught as a youth even seen as part of the pas­sage into man­hood. But nowa­days more and more women are drink­ing beer, es­pe­cially with the growth of craft beers, and some are even brew­ing their own.

Rose Sch­weikhart be­gan home brew­ing a few years ago and liked it so much she de­cided to open a brew­ery, and now pro­duces mul­ti­ple kinds of beer as the owner and head brewer at Su­pe­rior Bath­house Brew­ery and Dis­tillery in Hot Springs Na­tional Park, uti­liz­ing its name­sake ther­mal wa­ter.

“There is a grow­ing cul­ture of craft beer and women are a rapidly in­creas­ing per­cent­age of the beer drink­ing mar­ket,” Sch­weikhart told HER.

“We get a lot of com­ments from peo­ple com­ing in who say ‘I don’t usu­ally like beer, but I like this one’” as they sam­ple some of Su­pe­rior’s nu­mer­ous and con­stantly chang­ing beer va­ri­eties.

“I think it ties into our phi­los­o­phy of va­ri­ety, and I think brew­eries and beer com­pa­nies in gen­eral are putting out a range of prod­ucts to ap­peal to as wide an au­di­ence as pos­si­ble,” she said.

“Part of that is mak­ing lighter beers and fla­vored beers. We’ve found a lot of peo­ple will try a lighter beer and then start feel­ing brave and will try some­thing hop­pier or some­thing darker.”

Sch­weikhart said one ma­jor point is that the color of the beer “has noth­ing to do with how light or heavy it is. You can have a light-bod­ied dark beer or a heavy-bod­ied light beer.”

She said all beers have three main in­gre­di­ents: the malts “or the grains it's made with,” the hops, “kind of an herb or spice,” and the yeast, which is “the voodoo part. Where the magic hap­pens. A micro­organ­ism turn­ing sugar into beer.”

Jimm Pow­ell, co-brewer at Su­pe­rior, said brew­ers start with a base malt and then add spe­cialty malts “to change that base malt into what you want. Darker malts give it dif­fer­ent fla­vors. Roasted malts give it a roasted fla­vor and it ac­tu­ally smells like toast.”

He said the “choco­late” beers “are al­most as dark as you can get” and have a choco­laty fla­vor that comes from the vary­ing de­grees of roast­ing, which changes the color and fla­vor­ing.

A pale ale uses no rice and has “a nice am­ber color” and more hops than a lager. Ales use a top fer­ment­ing yeast while lagers and pil­sners use a bot­tom fer­ment­ing yeast, Pow­ell said, not­ing al­most all of the beers Su­pe­rior of­fers are ales.

Sch­weikhart said beer mak­ers skew fe­male ad­ver­tis­ing to­ward lighter beers and fruity beers, which are “a gate­way to craft beers in­clud­ing pale ales, lighter browns or am­bers.”

Asked to de­fine what a craft beer is, she said. “It's qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. Smaller scale productions. Hand­made. It's al­most riskier if that's the right word. Craft brew­eries push their lim­its as far as how strong or hoppy to make a beer. There is a creative push­ing of bound­aries that comes with craft beer. They are will­ing to go out on a limb for an idea.”

An ex­am­ple of that cre­ativ­ity can be found in some of Su­pe­rior's re­cent of­fer­ings, in­clud­ing their Ar­ling­ton Lawn Sai­son, which is French for “sea­son,” which is a pale ale. “It's not nec­es­sar­ily geared to­ward women, but it is made with real laven­der so it's got a flo­ral fla­vor. It's got lit­tle flow­ers in the beer,” Pow­ell said.

They also have Bee's Knees, which is a honey basil kolsch, made with Arkansas honey and basil from the lo­cal com­mu­nity gar­den, Sch­weikhart said.

Pow­ell noted the strength of the beers vary, too, and again color does not cor­re­late to how strong it is al­co­hol wise or taste wise. “A hoppy beer might be strong tast­ing, but not high in al­co­hol. You can have a beer high in al­co­hol that's very sweet tast­ing, but heav­ier and more fill­ing.”

Asked why craft beers are more ex­pen­sive than a com­mer­cial do­mes­tic like Bud Light, Sch­weikhart said the com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions pro­duce beer in mass quan­ti­ties.

“They buy grain by the train load and they use grains that are less ex­pen­sive and buy in mass vol­ume. In the same amount of time it takes us to make 200 gal­lons, they can make 200,000 gal­lons,” she said.

She said their beer at Su­pe­rior is very fresh be­cause “we don't pas­teur­ize or do any­thing to shelf sta­bi­lize.” She said most of the beer sold by the com­mer­cial brew­eries “is fresh too be­cause they sell so much of it. You won't find a Bud­weiser that's six months old.”

A unique as­pect of craft beer is “it's just more alive. Lit­er­ally alive. Be­cause it's not pas­teur­ized, our beer tends to change over time. Even af­ter it's in the keg, ready to drink. We may have a slow seller and it might take a month or so to get through a batch, and the taste ac­tu­ally changes and de­vel­ops.

“It's kind of cool. It's still a liv­ing or­gan­ism even in it's fin­ished form.”

She said the ap­peal of craft beer is the va­ri­ety of­fered. “There is a per­fect beer for every oc­ca­sion. You can get what­ever you are in the mood for with a craft beer.”

Story by Steven Mross, pho­tog­ra­phy by Mara Kuhn

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