Water is by far the largest constituent of beer, determining by its local character (source and mineral content) which styles are most appropriate to a particular region. The world’s classic beer styles have arisen because of these factors—hoppy pale ales native to Yorkshire in England, dry Irish stout to Dublin, and crisp spicy lagers to Pilsen in the Czech Republic. The water in Seattle is extremely soft—there are almost no dissolved minerals in the Cascade snowmelt which provides its municipal source—making it the perfect blank slate on which to design any style of beer.
At Elysian we use Seattle city water filtered with activated charcoal in order to maintain seasonal consistency and remove municipally added chlorine. Elysian is best known for its ales—IPA, ESB, Porter and Stout, but its lagers and Belgian styles round out a selection unparalleled by other local breweries. We occasionally add minerals like gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) or salt to synthesize the brewing water used in other parts of the world.
Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Saccharomyces Pastorianus
(Side note: As of 2014, most authorities agreed that the “bottom-fermenting” yeast S. pastorianus was created by the inter-specific hybridization between S. eubayanus and S. cerevisiae, but had not reached consensus on whether the mating event took place in Asia or Europe. Neat-o.)
Yeast are single-celled micro-organisms that reproduce by budding. Biologically classified as fungi, they convert fermentable sugars to alcohol, Carbon Dioxide and other flavor forward compounds. There are literally hundreds of varieties—or strains—of yeast, of which in general there are two types, ale and lager. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century all beers were brewed with naturally-occurring yeasts, which were re-pitched for batch-to-batch consistency. Most were ales, and many were mixtures of ale and lager—whatever varieties were native to the air at the point of brewing origin. Around 1850 the research of Louis Pasteur and others led to the isolation of pure yeast strains—single varieties and families of yeast that would yield specific results when used for brewing. Lager brewing came to be dominant in Germany and central Europe (as well as those parts of the world later settled by these peoples), while the British Isles held to brewing ales. So-called Belgian yeasts are often a mixture of yeasts, and sometimes benign bacteria, maintaining a more rustic and idiosyncratic style of brewing.
Ale yeasts are often referred to as top-fermenting, since they undergo a vigorous, warm (typically around 70°F) and relatively quick fermentation, resulting in a dense head of yeast driven to the surface, from which in traditional settings the yeast is often collected for re-use. The fermenters at Elysian Fields are open, in the older style, while the fermenters at Elysian Capitol Hill, Airport Way, and Tangletown are closed, requiring that yeast to be re-pitched is drawn from the bottom. Characteristics of ale yeasts are fruitiness (the result of esters generated by warm fermentation) and a general warmth of flavor. Beers using ale yeasts are IPA, ESB, Pale Ale, Porter and Stout, as well as many Belgian varieties and Wheat beers.
Lager yeasts, since their fermentation is cooler (about 50°F) and less violent, tend to settle to the bottom of their fermenters, thereby earning the classification of bottom-fermenting yeasts. Lagers are characterized by a more neutral, crisper flavor, a palette against which spicy, herbal European hop varieties can be appreciated. Most of the world’s beer is lager, of the loosely-interpreted pale Pilsner style. Other lager styles include Bock, Double Bock, Oktoberfest, Helles (our Helios) and Dortmunder (Loki Lager). An interesting hybrid is the style best exemplified by Anchor Steam Beer, which is brewed with lager yeast at warmer, ale-fermenting temperatures.
Hops are the flowering cones of a perennial vine plant which contain bitter resins that balance the sweetness of the malt in beer, impart flavor and aroma, and act as a natural preservative. Hops can also be added to finished beer (dry hopping). There are many dozens of hop varieties, each appropriate for particular effects in beer. Washington’s Yakima valley is one of the world’s preeminent hop growing regions, providing hop varieties like Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo and Simcoe that we use in many of our ales. Our lagers (Pilsner, Loki, Ambrosia) are made with German, Czech and Slovenian varieties—Northern Brewer, Saaz and Styrian Goldings.
A few of the HOPS WE USE
AMARILLO (AMERICAN) Citrusy, flowery and eucalyptus aroma. Used in Avatar Jasmine IPA, BiFrost Winter Ale, Elysian Fields Pale Ale.
CITRA (AMERICAN) A new classic from the pacific Northwest with pungent aromas of citrus fruits
CASCADE (AMERICAN) Pleasant, flowery, spicy, and citrusy. Used in Dragonstooth Stout, The Wise ESB.
CENTENNIAL (AMERICAN) Medium with floral and strawberry tones. Used in Perseus Porter, Dragonstooth Stout, Immortal IPA.
CHINOOK (AMERICAN) Medium-heavy to strong, spicy, piney, and grapefruity. Used in Dry Hopped IPA, Wise ESB, Immortal IPA.
EQUINOX Strong herbal, floral, and citrus fruit notes, formerly HBC 366, Elysian has been playing around with this hop since its infancy in beers like Fezzik (Andre the Giant and Breakbeat)
MAGNUM (ENGLISH) Known for bittering value and quality. Used in Great Pumpkin, Dragonstooth Stout, Helios.
GERMAN NORTHERN BREWER Spicy, anise notes, mainly for bittering. Used in Ambrosia Maibock, Perseus Porter, Zephyrus Pilsner.
SAAZ (CZECH) Mild, with pleasant earthy, spicy and herbal notes. Used in Orthrus, Saison Elysee, Zephyrus Pilsner.
SIMCOE (AMERICAN) Intense New World bittering and aromatic hop. Used in Cyclops Barley Wine, Elysian Fields Pale Ale.
SORACHI ACE (AMERICAN) A Japanese heirloom variety grown in the united states with unique woody, lemon, and sometimes dill characteristics.
STYRIAN GOLDINGS (SLOVENIAN) Delicate, slightly spicy. Used in Bête Blanche, BiFrost Winter Ale, Loki Lager, Pandora’s Bock.
Malting is the process by which grains—primarily barley, but others as well—are prepared in large quantities for brewing. In the Malthouse the grains are moistened and allowed to sprout for a couple of days, triggering enzymes which begin the conversion of starches to potential food for the young barley plant. The grain is then dried, stopping the process, and either shipped as pale malt or roasted to varying degrees for the addition of color and flavor.
All beers are brewed with a majority of pale malt; a surprisingly small amount of specialty malt will affect the flavor in profound ways. Crystal (or caramel) malt, for example, provides the reddish color and rich caramel flavor in our ESB; Chocolate and black malts the darkness and rich roastiness in the Perseus Porter; small amounts of Munich, caramel and pale dextrin malt the orangey blush and satisfying mouthfeel of the Immortal IPA.
Beers made with wheat are often cloudy, owing to the fact that there is no husk to aid in clarification during runoff, but even they are usually at least 50% malted barley. Other grains used for brewing include corn, rye and oats; industrial brewers use gelatinized corn or rice to lighten beer and keep costs down. Sugars as well can be used in relatively small quantities.
MALTS WE USE
CHOCOLATE Chocolatey flavor and medium-dark color. Used in Dragonstooth Stout, Perseus Porter, Minotaur Dark Lager.
BLACK Provides very dark color and sharp slightly bitter flavor. Used in Pandora’s Bock, Perseus Porter, Valkyrie Strong Ale, Dragonstooth Stout
CARA-MUNICH Rich, caramel-sweet aroma and full flavor. Used in Elysian Fields Pale Ale, Ambrosia Maibock.
CRYSTAL A caramelized malt, providing rich red color and sweetness. Used in Immortal IPA, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, Orthrus Belgian-Style Dubbel.
MUNICH Lightly toasted flavor and aroma. Used in Whoville Weizenbock, Wise ESB, Avatar Jasmine IPA.
ROASTED Unmalted dark-roasted barley for reddish-dark color and dry bite. Used in Great Pumpkin, Dragonstooth Stout, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.
SPECIAL B Heavy caramel flavor with pruney, raisiny notes. Used in Wise ESB, Great Pumpkin.
TURBINADO SUGAR A medium-crystal unwashed cane sugar for lightness of body and slight brown sugar note. Used in Saison Elysee, Bête Blanche.
BELGIAN CANDY SUGAR Large, cartoon-jewel-sized crystals of rock candy, clear, amber or dark. Used in Orthrus Belgian-Style Dubbel, Yuzu’s Belgian-style Golden Ale, Bête Blanche.