From the HBD Archive
Subject: ginger-ale, berries, and other weirdness
Date: 1989-11-27 17:02:22 GMT

About 50% of my brewing has involved experimenting with weird flavored
batches. Generally I find that the beer-flavor is pretty robust, and that
minor additions are much more tolerable than you would think.

Strata Rose was asking about a ginger-ale recipe. This is one of my
standards, as my wife isn't a real beer drinker and this keeps her happy. I
think it is about halfway between beer and soda pop. I don't have the recipe
in front of me, but embellishment is the key anyhow. For 5 gal, I start from
about 4 lbs of light extract (usually one can of M&F plus as much spray malt
as I have left over in a bag) and about one lb of honey. I also use .5 lb of
crystal malt steeped while bringing the water to a boil. Go light on the
hops-- about 1.5 oz Saaz boiling and .5 oz Saaz finishing. Sometimes I toss
in about 1 tsp gypsum since the water is pretty soft (bottled stuff, our tap
water is rancid). At the same time as the finishing hops is thrown in (end of
boil, 10 min steep), I add 2-3 tbsp grated fresh ginger, and 1-2 tsp powdered
cinammon. I usually ferment this with Whitbread dried yeast (for historical
reasons). This is a pretty quickly maturing beer. It is drinkable in about
two weeks after bottling, but still pretty harsh. Don't be discouraged if the
ginger taste is too strong. After one month it really smooths out. It might
be great after two, but I never have any left. (Strata - Your address looks
like you are at MIT. So am I. Call me at 253-0885 - if I have any of the
last batch of this stuff, I'll let you try one before you brew.)

Rasberries vs. Cranberries:
Tim Phillips was interested in cherry brew bastardized to cranberries. This
sounded very familiar - I did the same thing with rasberries awhile back. I
used about 6 lbs of light extract in a lightly hopped ale, then steeped 4-5
lbs of frozen rasberries after the boil. I threw the whole mess into the
fermenter and used a liquid culture (Brewers Gold English?). It had no
problem fermenting. I gave it a long secondary fermentation also, after
siphoning off the trub and spent berries. Pretty weird tasting stuff - I'm
not sure I'd repeat it (perhaps with half the berries). The rasberries have a
strong sharp (acid?) taste that competes with the hops bitter, overwhelms it
actually. It is getting gradually smoother after 3-4 months. Everybody who
tries it loves it, but nobody asks for a second bottle. I would really
hesitate to try this with cranberries. They have an even sharper taste, and I
believe are much more acidic.

Christmas Brew:
For Christmas this year, I started with a seven gallon batch resembling
Papazians Cherry Stout recipe. I had to use a big (and expensive) can of
sour cherries for cherry wine, as fresh had long ago disappeared. After
primary fermentation, I thought it was perfect for true stout drinkers,
but too bitter for novices. Since I was planning on giving most away, I
started three gallons of lightly hopped stout, then couldn't resist adding
cinammon and peel from about 4 oranges. When it finished, and the original
seven gallons were well through the secondary fermentation, I mixed and
bottled. After 3-4 weeks I just tasted it, and it is remarkably good.
I'll christen it Fruitcake Stout. The oddball flavors are there, but
subtle enough not to be identifiable. I really like the smooth sweetness
that the cherries add -- very different than the raspyness of rasberries
from the previous recipe.

Others - coffee and peppers:
I've had two other successes in the past. One was adding coffee to a
stout (about 4tsp of Mocha Java beans with the steeping grains). Very
noticable, but good. A little goes a long way, crush but don't grind the
Also, I added some hot peppers (the little skinny ones for Sczechuan (sp?)
cooking) to a red bitter recipe. I was chicken, so I diverted only one
gallon of the ferment to a separate 1 gal jug, with about half dozen peppers
added with the finishing hops. Amazingly good. No "foretaste" from the
peppers, just a clean afterbite that blended well with the rest of the
taste. I used a lot of Tettnanger hops in the finish for a spicy taste,
so that may have helped the balance. Everybody thought I was crazy. Several
times friends turned down the offer of a "Pepper Bitter", but I snuck them
a glass anyhow. They didn't recognize the peppers, and commented on what
a great hearty beer it was. Fascinating.

I regularly threaten my wife with Brussels Sprout Porter, but I don't think
I could go through with it...

I'd be interested in hearing of other weirdness out there, especially the
pleasant surprises. Jeff Casey MIT-PFC 617-253-0885/617-924-0523

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