Ingredient Approach B: Brew Religiously to Style Guidelines Utilizing/Substituting Local Ingredients

The example I gave previously for this approach was a Belgian Golden Strong brewed with yucca starch as the sugar used to boost original gravity. This approach is basically driven by locavore sympathies, and to some extent economic ones. In a food-producing country like Bolivia, it actually makes a lot of sense to use local ingredients simply because it’s cheaper. Taking the example, you would usually brew this with a fairly simple ingredient bill: Pilsner malt, perhaps some Vienna, and a sugar addition. With all the sugarcane grown here in Santa Cruz, there are lots of options for using sugar in its various stages of processing. Or, you could go with ground yucca starch in the mash for a potentially cheaper option. Same thing with chicha flour, potatoes, or any other starch that can be mashed.

The key to this approach, though, is not creativity in design, but creativity in substitution. Granted, all beer styles do not have especially fixed ingredient bills, but certain ones do. Unfortunately, the example of sugar above is a bit too easy because there are plenty of other starches here that add very little flavor-wise. Try this with, say, and Hefeweizen, and the distinction of something being “Bolivian” is exclusively in the geographic sourcing of the ingredients. In other words, you brew a Hefeweizen with Bolivian-sourced pilsner and wheat. The problem is that represents a certifiably “local” beer, but not a uniquely Bolivian beer. So, inevitably, you’re going to have to push those ingredient boundaries a little.

Applications

Let’s apply this to the Scottish 60/-70/-80/ ale style. The BJCP guidelines state that, “Traditional Scottish session beers reflecting the indigenous ingredients (water, malt), with less hops than their English counterparts (due to the need to import them). Long, cool fermentations are traditionally used in Scottish brewing.” Ingredient-wise, it calls for a Scottish or English base malt, a small amount of roasted barley for color, and un-attenuative yeast, and potentially small amounts of an adjunct. Noting that these beers reflect indigenous ingredients sets you up to easily create a Bolivian interpretation of the style. Bolivia has a decent-sized barley industry and besides brewing, Sureña is also a maltster providing Pilsner malt. That’s your base. Roasted barley could be locally sourced, or, a traditional grain that has been roasted could provide your color hue. Let’s suggest roasted quinoa for that role. Hops will still have to be imported, and a cool fermentation means this really ought to be brewed in a cooler part of Bolivia, but the final addition of a “crystal, amber, or wheat malts, and adjuncts such as sugar” leaves room for another point of interpretation. Perhaps a toasted quinoa to keep with the theme, or an amber amaranth. This is where creativity is acceptable.

Ironically, it’s the more rigid styles (in the sense that they have more specific ingredients) where this is an easier interpretation to apply. One more example, but let’s use, say, Blonde Ale (BJCP #6B). This is a kind of introductory craft beer, a counterpart to mass-produced lagers that doesn’t go too crazy with the possibilities (like a Saison might), but still has a set of guidelines: “Generally all malt, but can include up to 25% wheat malt and some sugar adjuncts. Any hop variety can be used. Clean American, lightly fruity English, or Kölsch yeast. May also be made with lager yeast, or cold-conditioned. Some versions may have honey, spices and/or fruit added, although if any of these ingredients are stronger than a background flavor they should be entered in specialty [categories].” Each of those guidelines suggest Bolivian possibilities, especially the final note of spices and/or fruit. Without analyzing each, here’s a potential example: Pilsner base with 10% malted quinoa, and 5% yucca starch, and a Trimate tea blend added at 15 minutes and knockout for aroma. Those combinations would give you a beer brewed with identifiably Bolivian ingredients within the guidelines of the style.

Trimate: with chamomile, anis, and coca leaves.

While this second ingredient approach is really useful and applicable, I still think it offers a weaker argument for a “Bolivian style,” because it really is not a style in and of itself—it quite obviously is only an interpretation of an established style. Indeed, this really is more of a beer that can be marketed for its locally-sourced qualities, if not necessarily it’s locally identifiable qualities. So it still has value as part of this extended discussion even as I would say it’s not an adequate answer.

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