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“Spicing” Up Your Homebrew: The Dos and Don’ts

Editor’s Note: This is another of what we hope are many contributions from our readers. These guest posts come from our friends, followers, and fellow beer geeks who have something they want to share. If you’ve attended a great event, tasted a rare beer, want to give your favorite brewery some love, or share anything else beer related feel free to send us an email at thebeercircle@gmail.com and let us know! This post specifically is from Jake Metzler, a home brewer who loves to experiment with brews, whether it be from beer brewing kits, or from recipes from his head. He writes about his hobbies in order to satisfy both his need for attention and his desire to keep eating.

SpiceUpHomebrew

Some Potential Ingredients

I’ve been brewing for a few years now, and I’m always experimenting. I don’t think I’ve ever made the same beer twice, even when it was my starting intention to do so. Whether I’m trying to replicate a beer I enjoy, or coming up with a new flavor combination, there are just so many things to try that it doesn’t seem like there’s time to waste with doing what I’ve already done.

Now, when it comes to flavored beers, there are a lot of different methods and theories as to which method is best. If you’re adding spices, can you add them straight to the mixture, or should you infuse the flavor in there before fermentation? What’s the best way to add fruit flavor? Just throw the fruit in? Use juice? Or a concentrated extract? Or with citrus, the zest?

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have read up on the subject quite a bit, and have experimented a few times. Below are some of the tips I’ve come across concerning adding flavors to home brews.

Terminology

When you add ingredients to a brew besides malt, yeast, and hops, they are known as adjuncts. Adjuncts can be used to improve the consistency, flavor, or color of your beer. Some people try to use grain adjuncts to replace malt in order to cut costs. Since we’re focusing on flavor, the two types of adjuncts I will discuss are spices and fruit.

Spices

Using spices in a brew is actually pretty simple. You just add the flavors you want to the wort in the initial boil and let it steep. You then strain out any remaining grains and spices and continue with your business.

Spices can be used in creative ways though. Most pumpkin ales, while they do have pumpkin in them, utilize the spices associated with pumpkin pie (nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon) to get their flavor across. Some spices, such as ginger, open up the palate to enhance accompanying flavors. This can also be achieved with citrus zests.

Fruit

There is a lot of debate about the best way to impart fruit flavor into beer (without making it a cider). Some say that extract is the only completely efficient and sanitary way. Others decry the artificial taste of extracts and tout purees as a happy medium ground between extracts and fresh fruit. Store bought purees have the benefit of already being sanitized. Most people add purees after a few days of fermentation, so that the beer has already started to develop a flavor of its own. Adding fruit to the process does take longer, since the yeast has to work its way through the sugars of the fruit as well.

Some add fruit juice to their brews. While fresh juice can be hard to sanitize, store bought juice needs to be checked for preservatives and additives that you don’t necessarily want mucking up your brew.

Adding zest to a brew seems like the simplest method, but zest alone probably will not bring much flavor. It does enhance the aroma though. What I have done is used a fruit puree for the fermentation process and then add some zest or extract right before bottling.

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Written by Jake Metzler (Guest Author)

Jake Metzler started brewing in 2010 because he was trying to spend less money and not give up his nightly beer with dinner. He’s willing to try just about any beer, but prefers IPAs and Amber Ales. Lately he has merged his passion for writing with his passion for brewing by writing for Midwest Supplies, purveyor of beer brewing supplies.

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