Whisky & Beer : The perfect match !
Ever wondered how your favorite alcohol came into being? What exactly goes into the making a single malt whisky or what are the specific ingredients of gin? The nice thing about alcohol is, you don’t have to know a whole lot about it in order to enjoy it. Of course, knowing a few things might help you enjoy it even more.
In this series, we will tell you about some of world's favorite drinks. How they are made, which ingredients go into making them and how long do they take to reach your table ! We are starting with everyone's favorite; Whisky and Beer. I mean who doesn't love these two? Beer and whisky are serious business. The two are natural companions, after all. Both are made from the same basic ingredients – grains, water and yeast, but there are plenty of important differences that still make pairing them together an intriguing exercise. So let's get started.
Whisky Business !
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It is not considered an old man’s drink anymore. It’s everyone’s drink in the 21st century.
Whisky is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains like barley, maize, wheat, rye, etc. These grains are malted and fermented, and then used to make whisky, either in their original or in combinations. The type of grain used varies with the kind of whisky being made, but all whiskys contain at least a small amount of malted barley, which is needed to start the fermentation process. Every whisky-maker keeps a supply of yeast available, grown on barley malt and kept free from bacterial contamination. Some whisky-makers use several kinds of yeast to control the fermentation process precisely.
Ground malted barley is soaked in warm water to extract sugars. The sweet is drained and transferred to fermentation tanks. Yeast is added to this to break down the sugars. The fermentation results in a liquid called wash, which is then distilled. Most companies distilled the liquid twice but sometimes it is distilled thrice. The distilled whisky is then stored in wooden barrels for maturation.
In India, most of the whisky is made from molasses, the dark by-product obtained by refining sugar from sugarcane. Fermented molasses are boiled to extract alcohol, which is distilled. The distillation results in a neutral spirit with 96% alcohol by volume, which forms the base and it is blended with a small amount of Scotch for flavor which results in Indian whisky.
There are certain basic precautions that all whisky-makers take to ensure quality. The water used must be taken from an appropriate natural source and must be filtered so that it is free from organic matter. The grain used must be very clean. The yeast is carefully grown to avoid contamination by other microorganisms. The temperature of distillation is monitored with thermometers in the boiling liquid. During aging, samples of whiskey are evaluated by experienced tasters to determine if it is mature. The blending process is supervised by master blenders to produce a final product with the proper taste.
So what’s a difference between scotch and whisky? Scotch can’t be made or matured outside Scotland. For a whisky to be called Scotch, it has to be made in Scotland, with set raw materials, and has to be aged within the country for three years or more.
Whisky distillation came to India with the British in the 19th century. Edward Dyer, was the pioneer of whisky making in India. Dyer senior set up a distillery in Kasauli in the 1820s. Kasauli, in the Himalayan highlands at 6,000ft above sea level, has climate similar to Scotland, with the added advantage that there was fresh spring water nearby.
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Amrut Fusion acclaimed as world’s third best single malt whisky is a brand of Indian single malt whisky, manufactured by Amrut Distilleries, and launched on 24 August 2004 in Glasgow, Scotland. It is the first single malt whisky to be made in India. The demand for Amrut whiskies is so high that the company is not able to keep up with it.
So what are the pros and cons of drinking whisky? Whisky is extremely low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. There isn’t much to whiskey except for a large amount of alcohol, but in terms of its organic compounds, whiskey is rich in ellagic acid, which is a very powerful antioxidant and is responsible for a lot of the benefits.
The health benefits of whiskey include its ability to help in weight loss (doesn't mean you drink it everyday), slow down the onset of dementia, improve heart health, prevent and manage diabetes, increase HDL cholesterol, fight against cancer, eliminate blood clots, and strengthen the immune system. Generally, whisky is one of the healthiest forms of alcohol available. Whiskey can reduce that mental decline and improve our quality of life as we get older. Though this is useful when consumed in moderation. tToo much alcohol kills brain cells and does the precise opposite of protecting the cognitive activity.
Although these health benefits sound wonderful, there is also a dangerous side to drinking whiskey. Alcoholism and binge drinking are very detrimental to your overall health and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts of whiskey can impart. Therefore be careful on how much you drink it, particularly if you try to drink small amounts every day. Your tolerance will increase, and you may feel the desire to continue drinking until you feel that buzz. This is a dangerous and unhealthy progression.
Beer me !
Beer is one of the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world, and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. Yup, you heard it right.
Brewers combine barley, water, hops and yeast, these four simple ingredients to make beer. People have been brewing beer for thousands of years. Beer especially became a staple in the Middle Ages, when people began to live in cities where close quarters and poor sanitation made clean water difficult to find. The alcohol in beer made it safer to drink than water. Surprising isn't it? Here is how your favorite alcohol is made.
It all starts with barley. Barley is malted by drying and roasting process, similar to that of coffee beans, the extent of this process decides the color and flavor of the malt. Next step is mixing the malt with hot water in a large vat. The starches begin to break down and convert into sugars that will later be fermented into alcohol by the yeast. Once the mash is ready, the sweet liquid is separated from the grain husks. The resulting mixture is called the wort, which is rich in sugars. Now the wort is put into a kettle and brought to the boil.
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During the boil hops are added at various times in order to impart bitterness while hops added later in the boil will provide more aroma and taste to the final beer. After the wort has been boiled and the hops and other ingredients like spices, honey, etc are added for flavor and have left their mark, filtering is carried out for any leftover materials from the barley and hops. These materials settle into the center and can be separated from our lovely clean wort.
Now the liquid has to cool off to a temperature between 8 to 15 degrees Celsius, dependent on beer style. The hot wort is run over pipes and plates filled with cold water – making the water hot, and the wort cold. Afterwards, this hot water is used in other parts of the brewing process. Yeast is now added to the brew. Inside the fermentation tanks, the yeast eats up the sugars and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide (gas), and delicious beer flavors. Now, once all the sugars are gone, the brew is cooled to stop this process. The yeast is then filtered out of the brew. Like all good things, flavour takes time to reach its potential. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months depending on the beer style.
Now it’s time to filter the beer removing the remaining unwanted particles. This creates a sparkling clear beer called ‘Bright Beer’. After filtering and the critical final taste tests, it’s ready to go to the packaging line. Breweries handle beer under hygienic conditions and use packaging technology that prevents bacterial contamination. And that's how your beer is made.
Now a days, a lot of people are brewing beer at home. One can make beer at home using a brewing kit and supplies that are easily available in the local market or online. But you need to go through the process in detail.
Beer has a greater protein and vitamin B content than wine, while its antioxidant content is equivalent to that of wine. Hops, a major component for brewing this beverage, are rich sources of flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. It is a very good source of certain minerals that play essential roles in various metabolic processes. If taken in moderate quantities, it can definitely boost your health in a number of ways.
The health benefits of beer include its anticancer properties, a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and an increased bone density. It helps in the prevention of dementia and coronary diseases, aids the digestive system, has anti-aging properties, as well as treats diabetes, gallstones, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and hypertension. It also acts as a stress buster. Though a word of caution, drinking beer in excessive amounts (addiction) is dangerous to health and can negate any and all beneficial effects.
The Perfect Pair !
Ever thought of pairing whisky and beer together? Like a whisky and beer chaser? Well the Australians have. Bars around Australia take to pairing beer and whisky together like never before.
The simple practice of enjoying a beer with a whisky is called the 'half-and-half', the 'boilermaker', the 'one and one' and the 'nip and a half'. The boilermaker: a shot of straight whiskey chased by a beer. It was a favorite of Glaswegians and old men on the Scottish west coast who'd order a half pint of beer with a whisky chaser in the late 19th century.
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Many Australian bars have been offering carefully curated beer and whisky pairings over the last few years. Boilermaker House opened in Melbourne's CBD in 2015, Australia's first venue entirely dedicated to beer and whisky pairing with over 750 whiskies, around 40 different beers to work with, and small food garnishes served with each pairing on the list.
In India, we often end up having a pint or 2 of beer followed by whisky or just enjoy them respectively. But now, how about you try a boilermaker? Google which combinations of brands of whisky and beer can be paired. Share this idea with your friends and let us know. See you soon with an another favorite alcohol of yours.
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