Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In my Monday post about the definition of the term "craft brewer," I mentioned adjuncts. More specifically, info from the Brewers Association stated that adjuncts should be used to enhance, rather than lighten, flavor. So, I'm sure some of you are wondering, "What are adjuncts?" Read on to find out.
Beer is typically made with 4 ingredients: Water, malt, hops, and yeast. These are considered the essentials for modern brewing, due in large part to the German beer purity law called Reinheitsgebot. (This law deserves its own post, so look for it at a later date.) There can be many variations in those 4 ingredients that effect the end result. The water source could have different minerals in it, which can effect mashing and fermentation. Malts can come from all different types of barley, wheat, rye, etc. and can be kilned or roasted in multiple ways. There are different varieties of hops and each has their own acid levels, aromas, and flavors. There are too many strains of yeast to even count, and each one will ferment differently and can create unique flavors. Through all these variations, a brewer already has an unbelievable number of possible ingredient combinations to create tasty beer.
It is generally accepted that an adjunct is any ingredient used to make beer other than the essential 4. Adjuncts can be viewed as good or bad depending upon the beer and your own preferences.
For instance, beers like Coors, Miller, and Budweiser replace some of the malt that could be used with the adjuncts of corn and/or rice. Because they contain easily fermentable sugars, these adjuncts lighten the body and flavor of the beer while maintaining the alcohol level they desire. I personally am not a fan of adjuncts being used in this way, as it can make beer watery and less flavorful.
However, there are other ways to use adjuncts which are happily accepted by the craft beer world (and myself). You need to look no further than Belgian beers. Belgian brewers throw anything and everything into their beer, so long as it enhances the flavor to their liking. For example, the Witbier style is traditionally made with orange peel and coriander. Belgain Candi Sugar is another common adjunct used to add sweet flavors and raise alcohol levels of beers that already have a huge malt addition. Adjuncts used in this way are intended to give the brewer the chance at an infinite number of flavor possibilities in their beer.
I'm a fan of adjuncts being used to add flavor and richness to beer, in case you couldn't tell. However, there are some people that are very happy the big brewers use them to lighten beer. Maybe I can convert a few of those people. After all, they don't know what they're missing!