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A Dash of Pepper

In the same way a chef can add a touch of cracked peppercorn to open up a dish with added spice and complexity, a brewer can use the same ingredient to achieve the same result.

Eric Reinsvold Jul 27, 2016 - 7 min read

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Peppercorns are perfect for complementing and enhancing the phenols produced by many Belgian yeast strains. Saisons are most commonly associated with peppercorns, given the natural spicy, peppery character of the yeast, but other styles also lend themselves to the use of peppercorns. The broad spectrum of peppercorns expands the number of styles in which this unique ingredient can be used.

To maintain the peppercorns’ more subtle flavors, freshly cracked peppercorns should be added no sooner than 10 minutes at the end of the boil. A post fermentation addition can bring forth an intriguing bright, spiciness to the beer, but avoid a heavy hand when working with this type of an addition. Along with the pungent peppery quality derived from the alkaloid peperine, a number of volatile terpenes can be found in peppercorns. Interestingly, many of these terpenes (caryophyllene, limonene, and pinene) give hops some of their signature aromas.

Regardless of when you add pepper, a little goes a long way, so keep the overall amount to less than 2 teaspoons per 5-gallon batch. Given the potent nature of the peppercorn, it’s worth exploring different varieties and their potential uses. (I’d like to give a shout out to my local spice shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, Savory Spice, for offering a diverse array of peppercorns and pepper berries.)

Black Peppercorns

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