By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
If you love to experiment, it’s no wonder you’re a homebrewer. Anything that we can eat safely can be used to craft your next award-winning beer. But all too often, brewers get stuck with the same old ingredients out of habit. The only way to break the cycle is to try something very different — something that perhaps you’ve never heard of anyone else using before. For example, maybe you want to explore the possibilities of a tropical fruit like a banana. But what about swapping in banana candy? Yes, candy! Using candy in beer is twice as easy as using fruit and you might discover some interesting outcomes in the process of experimenting.
Candy may seem like a cop-out ingredient because it’s basically sugar and flavoring. However, it offers several advantages. Ginger candy, for instance, doesn’t have a sharp bite or taste anything like raw ginger. Licorice is similar. But we can push the boundaries further. Why not step outside the box and brew up a watermelon Sour Patch Kid cream ale? How about a lemon drop Berliner weisse? The best part about deciding what type of candy to pair with certain styles is that the sky’s the limit.
One thing you do need to be careful of is ensuring that the candy doesn’t have a large amount of preservatives. You’ll also want to take into account that candy is mostly sugar and flavoring. The sugar will ferment away and leave behind some of the flavoring. Some candies are not very tasty once the sugar has been removed, so taste testing is a must when selecting the right treat for your brew.
Once you’ve selected your candy and beer recipe, you’ll want to know when to use it during your brew day. Since it’s mostly sugar, definitely add it sometime before or during fermentation. Putting candy in the boil can help dissolve and sterilize it, making sure you get the maximum amount of sugars possible. But if you put the candy in at the beginning of the boil, you run the risk of caramelizing it. This could also ruin the compounds that give the candy its unique qualities that you’re trying to impart on your brew. Tossing in the candy at the end of the boil is optimal, then. Stir to be sure it has all dissolved. If this isn’t happening fast enough, take a bit of the wort and put it in a separate bowl — then add the candy. While chilling the rest of the wort, you can stir the candy with the hot wort and add it directly to the fermenter or pour it back into the boil kettle once it’s dissolved. If you add the candy solution to the fermenter, be sure to have enough chilled wort in the container so that the temperature isn’t affected.
Remember that experimentation is the name of the game. You’re the brewer coming up with new and interesting flavor profiles. If you enter your beer in a competition and it doesn’t fit neatly into a style category, you’re doing something right.
Drop the Lemon [AG]
Drop the Lemon [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are all kinds of new fancy gadgets to make our lives easier these days. This phenomenon is also prevalent in the brewing industry, with homebrewers on the forefront of the innovation. One such advancement in the homebrew world is the use of electricity in brewing. We aren’t talking about using a pump or an extension cord. The technology of using electricity as your primary heat source has become affordable and relatively easy to implement. The future is here and it will shock you…
Bad puns aside, changing your homebrew system to all electric is not as difficult as you may think and can have some benefits. To start with, converting to electric means you can make beer indoors. Apart from needing a window open for the steam, you no longer have to shiver in a cold garage while brewing on a typical, drizzly Northwest winter’s day. Even if you decide to keep operating in your garage sanctuary, you don’t have to open the door, exposing your brew to the elements. With the ability to produce inside comes an even greater control over scaling. That also means going electric is handy if you live in a small apartment or lack access to an outdoor area. Additionally, you can build a system that doesn’t rely on your stove, eliminating excess heat and wasted energy. And if you get space to expand your brewery, you can always use your electric setup as a pilot system.
Unfortunately, as with everything in life there are some drawbacks. The first negative is that converting to electric can be expensive. If you’re just starting out, it’s relatively cheap. However, moving from gas to electric can get a bit pricey unless you can sell your old burners. Some existing equipment can be retrofitted with electrical components, though. Now that we’ve got price out of the way, the next issue to address is uneven heating. Be sure to warm your wort evenly to avoid over-caramelizing or even burning the liquid.
Of course, you need juice to brew. And while power outages are uncommon, it’s something to take into consideration. Perhaps you should postpone your brew day if a giant windstorm is in the forecast. Losing power halfway through the process could mean you end up ruining a potentially award-winning batch.
The most serious concern is electrocution. With gas brewing, there is always the risk of an explosion. But there’s a better chance an exposed wire and liquid could meet with an electric conversion. Check your system carefully before you begin and remember that at the end of the day, brewing was never meant to be easy or completely safe — otherwise everyone would do it. Minimize risk, press on and brew bravely.
Finding an Electric System
Rather than bombarding you with diagrams and multiple steps on how to build your own electric brewing system, I’ll steer you in the right direction. There are a handful of companies that pop up with a simple web search for “electric homebrewing” that will sell you fully operational systems. This can be beneficial if you’re just starting out or have some money to spare. However, if you want to DIY, instructions are also available online — everything from the most complicated, nearly pro-level build-out to something as simple as adding a single hot water heater element to a pot. Also be sure to check in with local homebrew clubs, shops and bloggers. All can serve as an ally in this new, electric world.
House Porter [AG]
House Porter [Extract]
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