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

FAQ: AKA The Umami Factor Elevator Pitch

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WHAT IS THE UMAMI FACTOR?

It’s two things. It’s the title of my new book, and it is the principle for making fermented beverages that provide a complex, mouth-filling, satisfying flavor sensation by balancing multiple aromas with the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

WHAT IS UMAMI?

Umami is the taste sensation of savory foods. The word is Japanese for “delicious” taste. It’s provided by receptors in your mouth, throat, esophagus, and even stomach that detect the presence of glutamates, which are derived from amino acids. The umami sensation is pleasant for the same reason that “sweet” is pleasant.

The body is cued to detect vital, high-engergy nutrients: carbohydrates with sweet taste, and proteins with umami taste. Natural, unfiltered fermented beverages are packed with umami-producing compounds from the fruits, grains, and yeast they are made of.

WHAT IS FULL SPECTRUM FERMENTATION?

Full-spectrum fermentation describes a process of techniques combined with intricate ingredient formulas that create complex flavor arrangements evoking the response “There’s so much going on there! How did you do that?”

Full-spectrum beverages are complex and improbable, but ultimately well-balanced drinks.

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WHY IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT?

It takes a full-spectrum look at beverages from soft drinks to hard liquor. It thoroughly discusses the components necessary for flavor balancing. It examines related spectra, such as the inebriation spectrum and the commitment spectrum. It has a textbook approach to data, with a multitude of tables for ingredients and supplies. It provides recipes and detailed instructions, but more importantly it is a call to chefdom for aspiring fermentation artists. Tally Ho!

Buy The Umami Factor now for a substantial pre-release discount here.

Announcing! UMAMI Factor–The Book!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

You’re about to be introduced to the UMAMI factor, the secret to sensational homemade beverages, including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks, kombucha, and more. Chances are you may not have heard of umami, the taste impression created by certain amino acids in a food or beverage. Now you know. Starting the novice off right with a thorough understanding of “full-spectrum” fermentation theory,the book dives into the various preparation techniques and shows how umami-producing ingredients create beverages with a sensation of balance and roundness on the palate, tongue, nose, and even throat. More than 75 recipes, including all the beverages here, plus sharp insight, and handy tips help the amateur fermentation chef conquer the next frontier in beverage science. Even the most experienced of fermentation aficionados will discover a philosophical yet practical approach to further exploration. Pre-order now from Amazon.com and save 21% over the cover price!

Kratom Bomb

Kratom BombPWYou don’t light the fuse of this bomb. You suck the explosive contents through dual intake ports. Kratom leaves have a unique dual personality. If they are ingested in small quantities, they are a stimulant. If they are taken in large quantities they are a depressant. Different strains have various combinations of stimulation/sedation properties, making them useful in a wide range of applications from relieving anxiety and stress to reducing the pain of chronic infirmities such as arthritis.

Kratom is the fresh or dried leaves of a tree in the coffee family (Mitragyna speciosa) that grows all over Southeast Asia, most notably in Thailand where it is illegal despite being widespread in the wild. Kratom use is also prohibited in Malaysia. Kratom is legal to possess in almost every other area of the world. The leaves are typically eaten fresh where the plant grows wild. They can also be dried and brewed into tea by simmering them in boiling water. Leaf powder can be consumed in capsule form, or washed down with fruit juice.

Kratom Bomb uses stimulating Maeng Da leaves from Thailand, mixed in equal proportion with the more mellow Kratom from Indonesia. The syrup base for Kratom Bomb starts with coconut water sweetened with coconut and raw cane sugars. Spiciness is provided by adding fresh grated galangal and turmeric roots. Makrut lime leaf adds subtle aroma. Goji berries contribute a fruity background, and lime zest and juice provide a tangy finish. The drink is notably stimulating, and imbibers should indulge cautiously until they have established its specific effects for themselves.

Germano-Bohemian Lager

GB PilsPWGermano-Bohemian Lager marries the idea of rich, full Bohemian Pilsner with the crisp bitterness and clean flavor characteristic of North German lager.

The recipe uses floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt, made from Bohemian spring barley. This malt shows a wider color range among individual grains than malt processed by modern pneumatic malting methods, with their tighter temperature control. The result is a fuller malty flavor, with a bit of residual sweetness. It is slightly under-modified however, and will benefit from an acid rest and protein rest.

The mash bill uses 3% acidulated malt to lower mash pH, in the German manner, which prohibits additives such as organic acids to do so. In soft water this is enough to bring the pH down to about 5.2 in a full-grain recipe.

Munich malt contributes a mild toasty bread flavor to the brew. Carapils is a high dextrin malt that provides foam stability and full body to the beer while adding very little flavor.

Because the starting gravity is a bit above the high-end of the range typical for North German Pilsner (which is around 13 Plato), the hopping rate is also a bit higher than the typical example (which is 35-45 IBU).

Malta Macho

MaltaPW
Malt-flavored soft drinks are popular in Latin America, where they go by the name Malta. The drink originated in Germany, where it was called malzbier. In that early version, the beverage was fermented to less than 2% ABV, then bottled and pasteurized, leaving considerable residual sugar. Modern commercial versions use corn syrup, malt extract and artificial carbonation.

This recipe calls for an all-malt approach with no fermentation, and adds a bit of herb tea to expand the flavor sensation. Easy to make, it is prepared as fully non-alcoholic syrup, and carbonated with club soda. The recipe is inexact with regard to herbs, so experiment with proportions to suit your taste.
The accompanying photo shows a malta made with two grams of whole Fuggle hops for every four liters of beverage. They have not been boiled with the malt, and so the flavor and aroma are prominent, but the bitterness is quite mild. The sweetness is there, but is subtly balanced by the hop addition.

To create a drink with even more complex flavor, with considerably more effort you can try an all-grain version. Mash base and specialty grains as you would for beer, collecting about 1.5 liters of liquid.

Heat water to 70 C, add cracked caramel malts in grain bag, steep 30 minutes and remove. Drain liquid from grains and add water to bring back to 1.2 L. Heat water to 100 C, remove from heat. Stir in malt extract and herbs. Cool one hour. Dispense 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing-top bottles.

Freeze syrup in bottles, top up with soda water, store in refrigerator. When the frozen syrup has thawed, gently agitate the bottles to suspend the ingredients. After 24 hours any grain flour or trub will again sink to the bottom, leaving the flavor and color components suspended. The liquid can be decanted off the sediment to serve a more clear drink.

Agua Fresca Flor de Jamaica

JamaicaPWAguas frescas (“fresh waters”) are popular soft drinks sold primarily by street vendors in Latin American countries. They can also be found in taquerias and bodegas (convenience stores) throughout the region, and into North America. They are made with a variety of fruit, sugar, and water. The most common flavors are horchata (almond), tamarind and roselle (hibiscus), which in Spanish is known as Jamaica (pronounced ha-MAY-ka.)

Put allspice, ginger, zest and cinnamon in 2 liters of water; add the sugar and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Add the roselle and allow the mixture to steep covered for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a storage jar and add the lime juice. Store this in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. To serve, fill a glass with crushed ice, add the syrup to half fill the glass and top up with club soda.

Agua de Jamaica is the classic version of an agua fresca, and certainly the easiest to make. The roselle is high in Vitamin C, and is tangy yet floral in character, almost like a berry or grape drink. The spices are subtle, and create background complexity. It can be prepared as a still beverage, or, as in this example, topped up with club soda to create a sparking (gaseosa) version. Refrescante y delicioso!

Coachman’s Double Andover Stout

AndoverDstoutWIn 1973 an American with a taste for good beer and little money to buy expensive imports had few options. There were some widely scattered retail shops selling wine-making supplies. At that time brewing beer was illegal, but buying the makings was not. A look inside these shops revealed that they often sold the ingredients for beer too. In fact, since the ingredients were food items, there wasn’t even a tax on them.

Along with ingredients such as canned malt extract, and perhaps some crystal and black malt, there were dried ale yeasts by Edme, and Red Star. Vierka offered light and Munich dark lager yeast. There were also a couple of books available that were pretty simplistic by today’s standards, but were enough to get one started. With a bit of reading it was possible to brew a first batch that was excellent.

C.J.J. Berry’s Home Brewed Beers and Stouts was first published in 1963, shortly after the law changed in England making home brewing legal without a brewer’s licence or duty payment. This was the first book in modern times to deal with the process in sufficient detail to ensure a successful enterprise. An instant success, it sold more than 300,000 copies over four editions.

The recipe names in the book reflect the locale from which a beer example has been drawn. One of these is the town of Andover, Hampshire. A major stage coach stop on the Exeter-London road during the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s no surprise that Andover was known for its heavy, satisfying stout.
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In England, circa 1963, it was possible to find numerous bottle-conditioned beers containing yeast samples from their respective breweries. In that sphere at least, the home brewer was afforded a respectable range of possibilities, and Berry’s book suggests exploiting the situation. This recipe similarly takes advantage of the 21st Century’s availability of obscure English yeast strains by employing a Platinum English strain from White Labs’ yeast bank. East Midlands yeast, with its dry finish, low ester production and moderate alcolol tolerance, is comparable to the more familiar Nottingham strain.

This adaptation of Andover Stout, while inspired by the C. J. J. Berry book, also pays homage to William Black’s Brown Stout of 1849, a recipe discovered by the Durden Park Beer Club. That brew featured amber and brown malts, along with the black malt.
Coachman’s adds a full-spectrum touch by taking advantage of the even wider variety of ingredients now available.

A double stout, coming down the highway at 7.8% ABV, this is a monumental beer. A coach and six taking you to the coast.

Lotus Infused Makgeolli

MakgeolliWp

Until recently the Korean rice beverage makgeolli has been thought of as the working man’s mildly alcoholic lunch drink. It has long had its refined versions of course, but mostly it’s been “farmer’s wine.” Recently though, makgeolli has become trendy and sought after among young consumers in Asia for its refreshing and smooth tang.
Nurukw

The secret ingredient for makgeolli Korean rice wine is a blend of Aspergillus mold-inoculated wheat, barley and rice. Called nuruk, it can be purchased on line or in the bagged-ingredient section of a well-stocked Korean grocery store. One brand is shown here. The large characters in the middle of the package window say nuruk in Korean. The package also says “Enzyme” in English.

Historically, makgeolli has been little more than nuruk, yeast, rice, and water. The rice is carefully prepared as it is for all fermented rice beverages, by steaming to keep the grains intact. Nuruk and yeast starter are kneaded into the steamed rice. Water is added and the mixture is allowed to ferment.

But now, boutique-made versions have appeared that feature infusions of herbs which provide further aromatic depth. Makgeolli is suddenly hip. This recipe reflects the new makgeolli trend, using lotus petals to add flavor and a bit of mellowness. Drink it warm in the winter and cold in the summer. It is nicely effervescent, creamy smooth, tangy without being sour, and provides a real kick to accompany your Bulgogi beef barbecue.

Cherry Apple Sky Cyser

cherry apple skyW1When it comes to creating full-spectrum recipes, it’s important to be open to inspiration at all times, during the random events of life. For example: you are in a nice grocery store and see a bag of dried Montmorency cherries. Perhaps you’ve never heard of them, and have no idea what to do with them. Grab a bag anyway, buy them and put them away for later.

Then, say you are driving through spring orchard country just before sunset. Rolling hills, air fragrant with blossoms, and the words “cherry apple sky” pop into your head. What does that mean? You have no idea. Don’t dismiss it; put it away for later.

When later comes, and you’re casting about for something creative to do, perhaps some leisurely Sunday, you look about for what’s on hand: some Winter Banana apples you bought because you were intrigued by their name; some farm-stand apple juice you bought for later; the bag of Montmorency cherries; a jug of honey.

Suddenly you remember “cherry apple sky” and you know what it means.

Cyser is a hard apple cider that is made with honey. It is among the many different varients in the mead family. Apples originated in Central Asia, from where the spread to Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece and the Roman Empire.

Now, apples may taste sweet but they are comparatively low in sugar, making the juice by itself capable of producing a fermented beverage of about five percent alcohol. While sugar was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, it was exotic and scarce. Fortifying apple juice with it would have been prohibitively expensive. Adding honey then, to the natural juice of apples to boost the alcoholic strength of a fermented beverage, must have been an inevitable choice.

The term “cyser” is derived from cicera, which was used as a way of spelling in Latin the Hebrew word for “strong drink,” shēkār, in the Old Testament. It was only after the early 12th Century that sugar replaced honey in Europe, which up until then had been the only available sweetener. Thus, if you had plenty of apples, and you wanted a strong drink in Classical times, you made a cyser.

The Montmorency is a sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L), most often used in making cherry pies, but also available as a healthy snack in dried form. Though they are called “sour” they are actually quite sweet, but with a serious tang to them that balances the sweetness. In this respect they are similar to the varieties of crab apples that are grown for eating.

They have strong anti-oxidant properties, containing flavonoids which inhibit cancers by scavanging reactive oxygen ions from the body. Their red pigment adds to the color of the cyser, giving it hints of a rosé wine.

This cyser certainly lives up to that expectation, with a starting gravity like a good wine. It has a beautiful rosy orange color like a mountain sunset, and a nice aroma that suggests pineapple and a flavor just hinting of the mildest mint. Because the tartness of the cherries comes from their considerable acid content, it can be sweetened to taste before bottling. It will continue to improve for many years.