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The importance of beer balance

Brewers have a wonderful job, perhaps the best one in the world. Although it includes some less glamorous aspects like cleaning, sanitizing and lifting heavy stuff, the reward in form of a glass of beer poured straight from the fermenter is hard to beat. On this happy, ever-evolving journey, there are things that brewers always strive to achieve. For brewers at Staropramen, one of the most important ones is brewing a truly balanced beer.

In theory, balanced beer means that the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of hops are in perfect balance. It is important to note that balanced beer does not mean in any sense empty or bland. It is simply a term that is used to describe the harmony of two prominent beer ingredients. Obviously, beer balance is much more complex because yeast and water play an important role in the end product and their interplay with hops and malt creates a whole range of flavour and aroma possibilities. Some beer styles, like sours, feature yeast as the hero. However, in most cases malt and hops display the main beer flavour and aroma characteristics.

Balance depends on the beer style. Imperial stout has a different kind balance than i.e. an American IPA. In the former case the heavy, malty body is the hero. Some imperial stouts use up to six or seven types of various grain in order to get the desired profile. No wonder that the malt is the hero. Still, to bring balance to an imperial stout, a certain amount of high bittering hops is often added at some point of the boil. In the latter case, American IPAs are heavily hopped and dry hopped in order to bring out the bitterness and hop flavour forward. This hop-forward sub-style calls for some sweetness, and this is where a specialty malt like caramel/crystal in small amounts does the job. In the case of premium Czech lagers, like Staropramen, the goal for the brewer is to create a complex, yet smooth, well balanced and refreshing beer. This profile is achieved by using fine Moravian malt that is responsible for the very specific malt character and noble Saaz hops that display clean, crisp bitterness. The special yeast strain and Prague water profile are both there to further enhance the interplay between the malt and hops resulting in a delicately balanced lager beer.

The technical way to measure beer balance is to compare the hop bitterness with malt sweetness. This is measured by comparing the ratio of Bitterness Units (the B.U.s) to Gravity Units (the G.U.s). In order to reach the correct ratio, the brewers have to know their ingredients as well as the perfect ratio for the beer style they are brewing. Most of all, brewers have to have a trained sensory palate in order to understand when and how to reach balance inside the style they are brewing.

The interplay between water, malt, hops and yeast creates the most beautiful drink in the world. When the balance between the ingredients is achieved, beer reaches a whole new level. That is exactly what our brewers always strive to achieve.