At Crooked Run, we brew a lot of adjunct beers. Adjuncts are any ingredient other than water, malted grain, or hops. Adjuncts can be anything from corn to fruit to artificial flavoring. Adjunct beers are ubiquitous, from light lagers made with rice to flavored IPAs. At Crooked Run, we steer clear of artificial flavoring or extracts, though. A lot of fruit beers have turned people off to adjunct beers due to heavy use of flavor extracts, which can create a beer that tastes like cough syrup or candy. A common compliment that I get is: “I was expecting not to like this, but everything is really well-balanced.” Fresh ingredients and balance are key.
Start with fresh ingredients. No extract will taste as good as real fruit. Dried peppers or herbs will not be the same as fresh. Our adjunct beers are incredibly labor-intensive and expensive to make. Our Cherry Cayenne IPA costs $6 for a 12 ounce tulip. Some people may think that is expensive, but it should cost even more–the adjuncts alone cost nearly $40/barrel, a dollar value that cannot just be passed on to a consumer or retailer. Plus, it’s all Galaxy hops.
The reason that fresh is better than processed is that when ingredients are processed, you lose aromatics. Aromatics are really important to getting good flavor. A juice concentrate created using evaporation loses most aromatic compounds. Extracts are even more heavily processed. Sometimes ease of use and cost are an issue, but if you can use raw ingredients, the results are almost always better.
Whichever adjunct you are using, a good rule of thumb when determining the rate of usage is, “can I take a bite out of this?” You can bite a peach, a cherry, or a pineapple. It’s going to be very hard to overdo anything that you can take a bite of. Using too little is more likely. Even less obvious ingredients like basil, you can still pop right in your mouth.
So conversely, since you don’t want a mouthful of cloves, you’d have to be really careful putting cloves in your beer. With this rule of thumb, you can use common sense as a guideline when deciding how much to use.
At Crooked Run, we really can’t afford to have a batch turn out poorly, but we are also trying to experiment as much as possible before we open the new location. I’ll usually relegate experiments to our 1 BBL pilot system rather than the 3 BBL, just in case something goes wrong. In all honesty, however, nothing ever has. I have not had a single beer not hit the marks other than maybe not having enough of a certain flavor, and too little is way better than too much.
So without further ado, here are a bunch of rates and preparation methods for adjuncts:
Hot peppers: 1 lb per barrel, de-stemmed, rinsed in acid sanitizer, roughly chopped and added in an autoclaved mesh bag on day five of fermentation. Depending on the pepper, you may need to remove some seeds to reduce the heat. I use a Chili Twister for this. Wear gloves and eye protection…a habanero seed hitting you in the eye is incredibly painful, trust me.
Stone fruit: 0.5-1 lb per gallon is a good starting point. You may think this rate is too low, but the key is to puree the fruit. We’ve been using a Vitamix, which works on a small scale. We even used one for a 15 BBL collaboration we did. In the future, we’re planning on purchasing one of these. Like peppers, we sanitize the outside of the fruit first, remove any unwanted skin or seeds, roughly chop, and puree. The puree is added directly to the fermenter on day three of fermentation, to allow yeast to get a foothold since the puree is not aseptic.
Berries: 1-2 lbs per gallon is a good starting point. Some berries have seeds that don’t sink easily, so it’s best to freeze berries and add them in a mesh bag.
Citrus: We make a puree by first sanitizing the fruit, then zesting it, then juicing it, and then mixing the zest and juice. The acid in the juice helps sanitize the zest, and both add flavor. Oranges: 20 oranges per barrel. Limes or lemons: 3 ounces of zest per barrel, with just enough juice to cover it in a jar. I usually add citrus after fermentation has subsided, since it can be very acidic.
Basil or mint: 8 ounces per barrel, placed in a mesh bag and boiled for 5 minutes.
Hibiscus: 2 lbs per barrel, made into a tea by boiling in water for 5 minutes. The flowers should be “sparged” afterwards, and all the runnings collected and allowed to cool. Add on day three of fermentation. Our hibiscus saison won gold at World Beer Cup this year using this method.
Pumpkin spice: 3 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp allspice 1/2 tsp nutmeg 2 cloves per barrel, boiled for 5 minutes. This is a relatively low rate, but produces really good results.
Coffee beans: 0.5 lbs per barrel, steeped in a mesh bag. Coffee beans go a long way.
Vanilla beans: 20-30 beans per barrel, pulverized in a blender with a little bit of vodka, added directly to the fermenter. Make sure to get Madagascar beans.
Cacao nibs: 2-4 lbs per barrel, steeped in a mesh bag after fermentation. There is some evidence that nibs are anti-microbial. I’ll do some tests on our golden stout next time to see if nibs can be added to the cold side with no problems.
Salt: 180 grams per barrel in our gose. Noticeable, but not too much.
So, there’s a good list for a lot of usage rates. I could go on about fruit, and may do a separate post in the future. Something to keep in mind when preparing your ingredients is that you will never fully sanitize your adjuncts, but by sanitizing them as much as possible and adding them after fermentation has been going on for a few days, you reduce the risk for contamination. A beer with adjuncts added to the cold side probably isn’t the best beer to bottle or barrel-age, but if consumed quickly, there should be few problems.