Today was one of the more interesting lectures that we have had so far. Our teacher for today was John Mallett from Bell's. Our topics spanned adjunct brewing, milling, mashing, lautering, and mash filters.
One of the things that I found most interesting was that in a class of 40, most of the students being craft brewers, that we had the director of operations of one of the best breweries in America teaching us about how to use adjuncts (any source of carbohydrates in wort that doesn't come from malted barley such as corn, rice, oats, rye, wheat, etc.). It made me think back to the "I'm a Craft Brewer" video that Stone uploaded a few years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev5OZS75qaY).
The bit about "I don't use corn in my beer" and "I don't use rice in my beer" always stuck out to me as being a little bit blind to the benefits of using adjuncts in moderation. Particularly, adjuncts can be used to improve shelf stability, produce clearer beer, and yes, lighten the body of beer without adding too much flavor. It is worth noting that the best selling craft beer in Wisconsin (Spotted Cow) is brewed with a significant amount of corn. It is also worth noting that New Glarus is the 17th largest brewery in America and they only distribute in one state. I'd be willing to bet that any of the breweries featured in that video would love to have that kind of demand.
This is not to say that all beers should be brewed with corn, but rather that craft brewers should probably stop shooting themselves in the foot by saying "I will not brew with adjuncts" and rather we should be open to using all the tools available to us to make the highest quality beer possible. One of those tools could potentially be the moderate use of adjuncts. I know I personally would love for my beers to be clearer without filtering and have better shelf life. And to the point of using adjuncts to lighten the body of a beer without adding flavor: What do you think light belgian candy syrup does for Belgian Triples? I don't know of anyone that says that they will not drink Belgian Triples because they use sucrose to lighten the body of the beer without adding flavor.
After the adjuncts discussion, we moved on to milling and mashing. We began to do our first brewing calculations today when we were talking about mashing (mostly talking about the mixing formula and how to calculate flow rates using differential pressures). John was a great teacher, very animated, and very knowledgeable. Luckily, he is going to continue to teach tomorrow and it sounds like he will be back later in the program to teach another module.