Robert Rivelle George Reveals Secret to Creating Full-Flavored Beverages

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Have you noticed the proliferation of enticing labels in the craft beverage section of your grocery store or liquor outlet? Perhaps you’ve also noticed the breathtaking prices commanded by these handcrafted drinks. Fermentation master and author Robert Rivelle George certainly did, and decided to share his knowledge with those who enjoy craft drinks but balk at their cost.

His new book The Umami Factor: Full-spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century, takes on the task of instructing the aspiring or seasoned craftsperson in the secret to creating full-flavored, satisfying beverages at home, the way it was done for centuries.

Umami is the fifth taste, existing alongside the better-known sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is the savory taste of amino acids ubiquitous in foods such as yeast, grains, fruit, and roasted meat and vegetables. By exploiting the taste sensation of Umami, a craft-beverage enthusiast can create savory, mouth-watering drinks of all types, hard or soft.

Released this May by Schiffer Publishing, Robert’s book The Umami Factor features a foreword by brew master Norm Chapman of Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery in Grand Forks, and more than 100 color illustrations. These accompany 75 original recipes for beverages spanning the gamut of soft drinks, beer, wine, sake, cider, mead, and even hard liquor. Mr. George explores ancient to modern techniques for producing these beverages, while offering a philosophical perspective to their creation and enjoyment.

“Robert’s philosophic approach to brewing in The Umami Factor is more of a lifestyle than a hobby,” says Maarten Lammers, owner of Nelson’s Art of Brewing. “He has a sense of humor that leaves you laughing out loud. I read with the eyes of a novice, and the eyes of a scientist, and I’ll certainly use the recipes, which are delicious.” Harry Davidson of HD Ventures adds “Like any good book there is drama, intrigue, inebriation, and sex. A complete reference guide to brewing, rich with recipes, menus, instructions and photographs, it leaves no stone unturned.”

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

History includes a long tradition of brewing, vintning and craft pursuits of all types. The Umami Factor presents a unique way to follow those crafty impulses, and amaze and impress your friends. Robert’s recipes are complex, for you can’t create a complex flavor sensation without a complex recipe. But the book also suggests easy ways to improve even the most prosaic of concoctions. Beginner and expert alike can find very many ways to challenge themselves.

“These are the creations of a man who is a master of his craft. Read this book carefully and keep it by you. You will be a better brewer as a result.” — Norm Chapman, Brew Master, Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery

Sparkling Dry English Cider

Sparkling English CiderSparkling hard cider may hold only 1% of the beer market, but sales grew 84% in 2012, eclipsing by far the 17% growth rate for craft beer. A well-made cider is certainly a thing of beauty, but even a middle-market commercial cider offers a welcome respite from high amplitude hop bombs.

In the UK and Ireland though, beer and cider taps exist as equals at the pub. Locally crafted brands of cider have been there for decades. The key to these brands’ drinkability is the care that goes into the blending of juices that create a full-spectrum flavor.

English ciders are known for the blend of varieties specifically grown for the purpose. These apples are virtually unobtainable outside the small areas in which they are grown. It’s possible to make a good beverage without them, however, with a little creativity.

The recipe for this cider starts with a base of Cortland, Red Delicious and Gold Delicious sweet apples. Gravenstein and McIntosh varieties provide aroma, and Jonagold offers tartness. Crab apples substitute for English cider apples in furnishing tannins, as well as additional acid. The apples were milled, and pressed to express blended juice, which was pitched with White Labs’ WLP775 English Cider yeast. A malolactic culture was added to the secondary fermenter to make the acid flavor more smooth. Oak chips contribute a mild, woody barrel taste and aroma.

While this doesn’t qualify as an English Farmhouse Cider–it was sweetened a bit with wine conditioner and carbonated with the Charmat process, it is an excellent brut with about 1% residual sugar, well-balanced acid and a full, rich vanilla flavor with very light oaky background notes. The aroma is quite apple-y, and an empty glass retains this for quite some time. It’s disappearing from the cellar very quickly.