Corn's Fraught Status
Pete Dunlop alerts me to what turns out to be a fantastic article on the question of "craft" beer by Jason Notte in The Street. It's really worth a read if you're obsessed (as, obviously, I am) by the whole craft versus crafty debate. But what interested me in this piece was how Notte honed in on one practice the Brewers Association frowns upon:
To avoid some messiness, the Brewers Association points to the fact that Yuengling uses corn in its mix and accuses it of cutting corners and trimming costs. The problem is, as fellow blacklisted brewery August Schell Brewing in Minnesota pointed out, older breweries founded by German immigrants tend to use a bit of corn in their recipes because they didn't have access to two-row barley from home and had to cut into the higher protein found in the native six-row barley.If you want the full details on that incident in brewing history, check out Maureen Ogle's indispensable Ambitious Brew. She relates the fascinating story of how brewers pioneered the use of corn and rice to offset the crap quality of American barley. It was more expensive, made the beer harder to brew, and was an all around pain in the ass--not a shortcut. Notte points out that that's again the case, and further dismantles BA's reading of the "adjunct" debate.
Given how much craft beer snobs shriek and howl when it's even suggested that a brewery might change recipes when it expands, one would think they'd welcome a brewery such as Yuengling sticking to its original formula for all these years. Oh, and if they think Yuengling's cheaping out, check the price of corn after the biofuel push of the 2000s and compare it with the price of malt. Nobody's getting a break by subbing in corn....The status of character-sapping adjuncts has always been a fraught one. Because, when it saps character, we hiss. On other hand, there are tons of way to sap character. Sugar works pretty well. French brewers used to use potato starch to lighten their beers. Of course, corn and rice can add character just as well. I doubt very much, for example, that Steven Pauwels is using corn in his Tank 7 to save money. Corn is an ingredient like any other. It is not morally suspect. And it has been an unfortunate scapegoat in the attempt to come up with a definition of bad beer. And yet, one can't ignore the fairly recent past and how corn was misused, either:
[I]t takes a huge pair of stones for an organization that came into existence in 2005 to call a brewery that's been in existence since 1829, survived through prohibition and is still family owned "non-traditional."
|A railcar full of corn syrup in front of |
the old Blitz-Weinhard brewery.