In addition to peanut butter beers, I’m seeing tons of Oreo beers in my social-media feeds. I’m definitely not complaining. While fine-tuning Pilsners and stouts and other classic beers is absolutely a mark of excellence in brewing, there’s no shame in having some fun, too!
For this week’s adventures in homebrewing, my game plan was to brew a sweet milk stout, ferment as usual, and add my Oreo-flavored ingredients at secondary. However, some ingredients need hot temperatures to work, and I’ll note those as I go. But if you like the way something tastes at a certain part of the process, that’s where you should add it! I like to split my batch several ways to see which I like best and keep fine-tuning from there. Adjuncts are ingredients you learn to dial in based on your taste preferences, ingredients, and other factors, and I’m only going to get you started.
Of course, you need to start with a good base beer. I probably wouldn’t dunk a real Oreo in an IPA or wild farmhouse ale, but if you think that’s pretty tasty, don’t let anybody stop you. Something sweet, chocolaty, and dry is what to aim for (cloying and malty, probably not so much). Personally, I think something more along the lines of a sweet milk stout or a drier porter is going to be your best bet. We have some great recipes on our website to get you started, but if you have a tried and true recipe, use that.
Next up, you’re going to head to the grocery store for your flavor ingredients.
You want Oreo beer, you add Oreo cookies, right? That’s the most straightforward approach. You can add the cookies at a few different times during the brew process. I’ve heard of some brewers adding the cookies to the mash and of others adding the cookies to the secondary. I like adding my ingredients to the secondary because sometimes the boil and fermentation have a tendency to change the flavor of adjuncts.
Wherever you add them, brewing with Oreo cookies presents some interesting challenges. Yes, you get the authentic flavor of the cookies themselves, which is pretty awesome. But you have some ingredients in the cookies that aren’t too friendly to the brewing process.
For one, there are oils. Oils zap carbonation and head retention. You can make some adjustments to your recipe and packaging to try to counteract that, but you likely won’t know if your method was successful until it’s too late to fix it. Your beer is still going to taste good, but it could be a bit flat and sweet (like chocolate milk you’ve dunked cookies in).
If you keg, you can adjust your CO2 just a bit higher to accommodate. But you’ll want to make sure you really filter out those chunks of Oreos—you don’t want to waste an evening cleaning chunks of cookies out of your draft lines!
Oreos—shockingly—have lots of sugar, so if you’re going to rack them to a secondary, be sure you give them plenty of time in the fermentor. If the sugars kick up yeast activity, you don’t want to have that going on in the bottles. So again, make sure you give it time. Take gravity readings before you bottle, and even then, be sure you store the bottles in a place where you won’t have high traffic for a few weeks. Safety first!
Now that I’ve made Oreos sound terrifying, let’s talk about other ingredients that can make your beer taste like Oreos.
The creamy filling in an Oreo smells just like white chocolate. It’s sweet, soft, and creamy, and while I wouldn’t sit down and stuff my face with a pack of white chocolates, they’re a pretty close second to the creamy filling of the Oreo. I’ve come across three types of white chocolate, and of course, when it comes to amounts and the type of medium to try, your mileage may vary.
White chocolate chips or white chocolate candy are one way to get the flavor. However, white baker’s chocolate is preferable to white chocolate chips/candy because it doesn’t have as much oil, but it does have a little bit of dairy and butter. You’re probably going to deal with some head retention issues and a slightly thicker body, but probably not quite as much as with the chips or candy. Because of the density of the baker’s chocolate, I recommend chopping it into smaller pieces before adding it to the secondary.
And that leads me to cocoa powder. I know of some brewers who’ve had success with white cocoa powder, but you have to take care with this. You run the risk of a chalky texture in your beer, which is…not exactly delicious. Let it sit in the secondary for long enough to settle to the bottom, and don’t slosh it around when you’re getting ready to package. If you can, use an extra-fine filter when you’re running the beer through the funnel into the bottling bucket or keg. You get the picture.
That’s the creamy filling. Now, let’s look at how to get the chocolate-cookie flavor into your beer. We beer lovers love our chocolate so much that we’ve found a ton of ways to get it into our beer.
Cocoa powder is great because it’s easy to add, and you can find brands that don’t have any oils, extra sugar, or preservatives. But as with white cocoa powder, you could run into the chalky texture (see above!)
Cacao nibs, the bean chocolate comes from, are an excellent alternative. They’re rich and flavorful, and for a 5-gallon batch, you need only a few ounces. I think you get a bit of an almond-y flavor from the nibs, so if you think you get that flavor, too, and want to avoid that for Oreo-flavored beer, try one of the other chocolate-flavor additions.
Chocolate malt is a grain that is used in the mash itself. It not only helps to create some of the rich brown color, but it gives the beer a bittersweet chocolate flavor, too. You’ll want to use less than 10 percent of this in your grain bill.
Chocolate extract is another method, and it’s very effective. Be sure you buy a high-quality extract. Add it very slowly to your beer near packaging, tasting every so often, until you’ve made just the right adjustment. You can easily add more of the extract, but you can’t exactly take it back if you’ve accidentally added too much.
Okay, so we’re not using actual milk in the beer. But if you’re brewing up a milk stout, you are going to use lactose, which lends sweetness and body to complement the roastier, heartier malts used in stouts. Yeast doesn’t consume lactose sugar, which means it won’t raise your ABV, unlike corn sugar and candi sugar, for example. Add this in the last 10 minutes of the boil.
Oreos have vanilla in them, which adds just a subtle backbone to the flavor that holds everything together. My go-to for vanilla flavor in beer is always a vanilla bean or two. Yes, it’s more expensive than vanilla extract, but in my experience, the flavors are far more forgiving and less artificial-tasting. You might have some luck with vanilla-flavored vodka, but a little goes a long way.
There’s always more than one way to the top of the mountain. If you have suggestions for using any of these ingredients, or other ways to get the Oreo flavors, we’d love it if you’d share!
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