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Spice Lessons

Formulating, sampling, describing, reformulating, sampling again—the lessons Forbidden Root’s BJ Pichman learned perfecting first Forbidden Root and later Fernetic are equally useful when making a beer with just a few spices or, in fact, one with none.

Stan Hieronymus Jan 9, 2018 - 10 min read

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Randy Mosher’s job title at Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery (Chicago) is creative partner and alchemist. Robert Finkel’s title is founder and rootmaster. BJ Pichman’s title is head brewer. Among his responsibilities is making sure nothing gets lost in translation.

Consider Fernetic—a beer Forbidden Root brewed in collaboration with Fernet-Branca, the Italian company that has been producing its intensely bitter brand of fernet (an Italian bitter aromatic liqueur) since 1845. It contains more than twenty herbs and spices. A team of six spent an afternoon at the Chicago brewery, sampling different mixtures of even more ingredients, before finding just the flavor that suited them all.

Mosher, who has been writing about how to use tinctures and recipe formulation for more than twenty-five years, took his notes and did the math. He handed the calculations to Pichman and told him, “Here are the numbers. You have to give it the sanity check.” Pichman made some adjustments, in particular considering the size of the pile of star anise that would be added and discarding a portion.

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