Hop to It: Jumping on the Veggie Beer Bandwagon
Whether your preferences in beer run from big-name, mass-produced lagers to hard-to-find seasonal beers, there is no denying the microbrew revolution has dramatically expanded the number of beer styles available to the average consumer.
With consumers now on the lookout for new beers, it could seem like the perfect time to take a chance on modifying a successful base beer to come up with a new product. With more and more homebrewers creating increasingly complex brews, bringing a quality specialty beer to the market has become both harder to do, and more necessary. Many customers will still appreciate a well-made pilsner or brown ale, but the craft beer revolution has increased consumers’ appetites for new and unique offerings.
While perfecting tried and true beers with all their hoppy or malty notes is the first step in getting a great beer, adding flavors and adjuncts can open a wider world of possibilities that will challenge even the best brewer and attract increasingly savvy customers. Fruit beer seems like a natural fit for some beer styles, though this is far from a new trend. Belgian beers such as lambics have been around for centuries. These fruit beers are a perennial favorite for some consumers, though they are not as widely known as the saisons and wheat beers they are loosely related to.
Belgium may be home to many of these styles of beer, but they are far from the only beer-making country to think of adding a fruity kick to the normal malty flavor of beer. And it isn’t just the malty, carmelly flavors of darker beer that sometimes need a little dressing up. Sometimes high alcohol by volume (ABV) beers can be infused with other ingredients to cover the sharp alcoholic notes. The hop bitterness of an IPA is what attracts many people to pale ales, but for people who are looking for a less bitter drink, adjuncts and flavorings in the wort or added during cold crashing can help tame that characteristic hoppy flavor.
Beyond Fruit Beer
Fruit beers have been around for a while, but vegetable beers are just beginning to take off. Staple seasonal beers like pumpkin ales will be familiar to many beer drinkers, but new and unconventional options like jalapeño peppers are beginning to show up in more and more bottles.
More adventurous brewers have found inspiration in increasingly unlikely places. For example, mushrooms and maple syrup probably bring very different flavor profiles for most consumers. To the brewers from Portland, Oregon-based Old Town, the candy cap mushroom was the secret to a distinct, surprising maple syrup flavor in their Mushroom Ale.
Tasting notes on Old Town’s Mushroom Ale include hints of pancakes, and that is far from the only baked good evoked in the increasingly complex flavors found in new beers. Carrot Cake is a carrot and spice-infused beer from Short’s Brewing Company in Michigan that combines the well-recognized characteristics of bourbon barrel aging with a little extra hint of dessert.
Mushrooms are hardly the only vegetable that is gaining headliner status on beer labels. Everything from beets to rhubarb to squash are showing up in beers across the country as brewers look to gain distinction for their product lines, as well as support farmers in their local communities and regions.
Spicing Things Up: Herbs and Spices in Beer
Hops have been the dominant herb used in beer for centuries, but even in this category, attitudes are changing. Before hops became the dominant way to add a balancing bitterness to the malt in beer, a mixture of herbs called “gruit” was used. The exact mixture varied due to what was locally available, and many of these beers had more pronounced effects on drinkers than modern hopped beer. Brewing a gruit beer is not the only way to get herbs and spices into the mix, though. Adding individual flavors like basil, rosemary, or even cilantro can bring about distinct and memorable brews that will appeal to drinkers looking for a beer to expand their horizons.
Gluten-free beer is a new and expanding category that has followed the broader consumer trend to find alternative food and drink options for people who have a gluten sensitivity, or are fully gluten intolerant.
Once you have perfected a recipe, though, ensuring consistency is the next step. This means knowing the quantity, freshness, and cut size of any veggies or herbs you are using to flavor your beer need to be as carefully controlled as the rest of your brewing process. Consistency is paramount in brewing, where the slightest changes in ingredients, time, or temperature can bring about radical changes in the flavor of the final brew.
For homebrewers or small microbreweries with a dedicated local following, a bit of variance might be forgiven. For larger operations, though, consistent results are essential to maintaining a following. This is especially true if your beers need to survive the rigors of shipping and stocking to satisfy large distribution contracts.
Microbial spoilage is always a concern in making beer, and every ingredient you add to the mix increases the chance unwanted microflora are coming along for the ride. This is why it is crucial to trust the process behind every one of the products you include in your beer. Not only will carefully made, quality ingredients help you nail the flavor you are looking for every time, but it can help reduce production costs by lowering the rate of spoilage.
Whether it is a traditional seasonal like a pumpkin ale or a more adventurous herbed beer, if you are trying a new brew or simply looking to improve a long-standing staple, Silva has the products you need to perfect the flavor you are looking for. Let a member of our customer relationship team walk you through our extensive product list to see the possibilities working with Silva can provide.