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Fake It When You Make It!

Josh Weikert takes you on a rapid-fire journey through a range of spices and herbs that enhance, augment, imitate, and/or intensify both traditional beer flavors and beer-adjacent flavors that you might want to work into your recipes.

Josh Weikert Jan 4, 2018 - 14 min read

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When brewing, it’s nearly always better to think in terms of flavors, not ingredients. Deciding on a flavor profile is a useful first step, and whether you’re building from a known style/guideline or just winging it, it’s still productive to begin with where you want to end up. That goal—whatever it is—might require you to think beyond the usual water, grain, hops, and yeast.

Once upon a time, relatively early in my brewing life, my wife wanted to make a maple beer. We added maple syrup at multiple points in the boil, in primary, and in secondary, and then tasted: she had made essentially a really hot, really thin English brown ale with not a hint of maple flavor because apparently yeast cells are really into pancakes and had consumed every last scintilla of maple syrup that we threw at them. I knew that maple syrup was highly fermentable, of course, but I made the mistaken assumption that if we added it throughout the brewing process then at least some maple flavor would survive when it came time to package up the finished beer. I was patently wrong, and although we salvaged the beer (oddly enough with a touch of almond extract—that’s a story for another day), we could have made the very maple beer that Barbara wanted if we’d known there was a particular spice that did the job instead of taking the “obvious” route.

So, in that spirit, this article will take a rapid-fire journey through a range of spices and herbs that enhance, augment, imitate, and/or intensify both traditional beer flavors and beer-adjacent flavors that you might want to work into your recipes. Keep your arms and legs inside the tram at all times.

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