Hoppy YumYum101: Nerd Out With Us Over Enzymes

Hoppy YumYum101: Nerd Out With Us Over Enzymes

Join brewery nerd Jacqueline Beard as she drops knowledge bombs and explains some trials that we’re doing in the brewery right now.

By Jacqueline Beard, Quality / Sensory Manager

You might not spend much time thinking about enzymes, but you would literally die without them. Or, in the case of craft beer, you’d be drunk all day without them.

What makes the reactions in your cells happen fast enough to keep you alive? And what helps alcohol and its toxic byproduct acetaldehyde break down into harmless byproducts?

That’s right, folks: enzymes. Enzymes are elaborately folded (mostly) protein molecules that facilitate, or catalyze, biological reactions.

Unlike winemakers and cidermakers, who have the easy job of squeezing their sugary juice into a fermentation vessel and throwing in yeast (I know, it’s not quite that simple; we just like to throw shade), brewers have to make our own sugar for the yeast to eat from the starches in barley and other cereal grain seeds.

We (or our maltsters, actually) do that by using the seed’s own machinery for feeding the growing seedling. During the malting process, the growing seedling makes enzymes; then, we grind up the grain and add it to water at the perfect temperature for the enzymes to work efficiently. And voila! We get sugary malt water (or wort), which the yeast ferment to make alcohol.

This is just one example of the applications of enzymes in brewing, and us nerds over at Bale Breaker have been spending a lot of time this winter honing our use of enzymes. Here are some examples of trials we’ve been up to:

  1. Those enzymes that break down starch into sugars that I was just talking about? As it happens, hops have them too. With bigger and bigger dry hop additions, we’ve been adding more and more hop enzymes to the beer, with the unintended consequence that sometimes sugar is made after dry hopping, and the hungry yeast chomp it up and go through a mini second fermentation. Ever cracked a can of beer that was supposed to be hoppy but instead smelled like butter? It might have had a small re-fermentation after dry hopping. This winter, we’ve been hacking the hops’ enzymes by adding Yakima Chief Hops’ American Noble HopsTM into the mash, that part of the brewing process where we add the grain to water the at perfect temperature for enzyme efficiency. That way, the enzymes do all their work early in the process, allowing us to add dry hops to our hearts’ content with little risk of re-fermentation. Look for some changes coming down the pipeline in Field 41 Pale Ale using this process, where the beer will be even crisper, with lower calories, and have more citrus hop character!
  1. As we’ve been making more fruit beers in the Imagination Station (including brand new Underwear on the Outside Tangerine Blonde & soon-to-be-released Golden Girls Raspberry Ale), we’re experimenting with pectinase enzymes to help make the beers clearer (or bright, as we say in the brewing biz). These enzymes break up pectin, which is what thickens jam, into sugars.
  1. For most of our hop-forward beers, we use an enzyme called alpha acetolactate dehydrogenase (or ALDC for short) during fermentation, which helps reduce a buttery off-flavor and lets the hops in our beers really shine. This winter, we’ve been experimenting in the Imagination Station with fermentations using a yeast from Berkeley Brewing Science that produces this enzyme by itself. Some recent examples of beers made with this yeast are Fallen Feather IPA and Turntable Pale Ale.

Hope you enjoyed that trip down Nerd Lane. Until next time, brewery nerds-in-training! 

Want to nerd out more about beer and hone your tasting skills? Join Quality / Production Manager Brian Logan at our next in-person Hoppy YumYum 101 tasting about barrel-aged beers on March 4. Get tickets here.


Posted February 28, 2020

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