You’ve likely noticed lately that beers geeks and brewers are going nutty over peanut-butter beers, and for good reason—a well-made peanut-butter beer delivers satisfying flavors that call back to childhood. When adding peanut flavor to beer or mead, there are several options—whole nuts, real peanut butter, peanut-butter powder, and peanut flavor extracts. Here we look at how different brewers and meadmakers are using these alone or in combination to maximize flavor.
Before we get into it, a couple of quick notes.
First, two words: Allergy. Warning. Always let potential drinkers know before sampling your beer that it was brewed using peanuts. Anaphylaxis is no joke.
Also important to remember: beer first, other flavors second. Peanut beer should still taste like a beer. Most brewers innately understand this, but it’s a good thing to always keep top of mind when brewing with unique ingredients.
To the brewhouse!
Tin Whiskers Brewing Company
(Saint Paul, Minnesota)
Tin Whiskers has collaborated twice over the past year with Pearson’s Candy Company, creating homages to two of Pearson’s most popular candies with Nut Goodie Porter (a porter with peanut butter, chocolate, and caramel) and Salted Nut Roll Ale (a cream ale with peanut butter, white chocolate, and salted caramel).
Like many brewers making peanut beers, Tin Whiskers uses PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter (pictured at top) to achieve the peanut flavor. To produce the powder, peanuts are pressed to remove most of the oil—which is important because many brewers find that the oil from peanuts greatly reduces head retention and may give a slickness to a beer’s mouthfeel. While some brewers add PB2 to the boil (see O.S.H.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery), Tin Whiskers adds it at slightly warm temperatures on the cold side, after fermentation. In fact, Tin Whiskers uses this method for most ingredients listed in the beers above to cold-extract flavors into the beer before packaging.
Founder and President Jeff Moriarty says when developing peanut-beer recipes, they experimented using both powdered peanut butter and actual organic peanut butter, removing as much oil as possible through natural separation before adding to the beer. Real peanut butter had a decent flavor, but didn’t pack the big smack of rich flavor they’d hope for, plus it was a huge mess for brewers to clean up.
Meadmakers are also using peanut products to build unique flavor profiles. Superstition Meadery uses PB2 and has a smart way of fully incorporating it into solution. For example, Peanut Butter Jelly Crime is a peanut-butter-and-jelly mead made with wildflower honey, blueberry puree, and powdered peanut butter. According to Production Manager Jared Ro Bear, they mix all of the ingredients with water and circulate it in a closed system for a day or more to keep the peanut butter powder in suspension, before fermentation. The blueberry does something wonderful with the wildflower honey and peanut-butter powder, pulling everything together into the classic flavors of a PB&J sandwich.
On the topic of intensity, Ro Bear uses another mead to explain that a little goes a long way. PieSeas, a collaboration mead with Lost Cause Meadery, is a Key-lime-pie mead made with real Key lime juice and marshmallow fluff to emulate the flavors of the pie filling. However, for the pie crust element, he had to get creative. “Because we as a meadery are not legally allowed to use any grain, instead we used a very low dosage—just a sprinkling—of PB2 to replicate the flavor of the crust. We don’t want it to taste like peanut butter; we just want to give you that experience of the crust at the bottom of a big slice of Key lime pie.” And it works, creating just the slightest hint of a nutty, crusty, graham cracker-y flavor underneath the lime and honey flavors and mouth-puckering tartness.
Junkyard Brewing Company
Junkyard Brewing Company has become well-known for their peanut-butter beers: Peanut Butter Bandit, a peanut-butter stout; King Size, an amped-up imperial peanut-butter stout version; Jelly the Nut, a peanut-butter-and-jelly stout brewed with different fruit purees; and a fun beer called Betsy’s Bright Idea, a blonde milk stout with peanut butter, lactose, coffee, and cocoa nibs, brewed in collaboration with Modist Brewing Company.
After many trials with different peanut- butter options, Founder and Head Brewer Daniel Juhnke says the brewery settled on a blend of natural extracts including Vigon Peanut CO2 Extract, which is naturally extracted in a way similar to how some hops are processed for extract. “At our brewery, we strive to do everything very naturally,” said Juhnke. “When it comes to fruits, we always add real fruits. So, when it came to peanut butter, we wanted to do that same thing. We landed on the blend of natural peanut-butter extracts. It gives all the peanut flavor without any of the extract flavor.”
When developing a solid base recipe for a peanut-butter beer, Junhke says to avoid making a beer that is too thin in body, especially when making 5–6 percent ABV stouts where roasted malts can leave the mouthfeel a bit thin. “Build the body in a way that you like, whether that be with lactose, maltodextrin, or a bunch of Munich malt. There are ways to do this without leaving too much residual sweetness. Stay away from high-Lovibond crystal malts as they may contribute more sweetness than you might be looking for.”
O.H.S.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery
When it comes to their crowd-favorite Peanut Brittle Blonde, the brewers at O.H.S.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery go all in on the peanuts: powdered, whole, and extract. Brewer Dave Burkle explains their three-layer peanut approach to the beer, which is brewed with lactose, honey, and sea salt in the boil. At the end of the boil, he adds PB2 to incorporate into the wort.
After fermentation comes stage two— “dry nutting” the beer.
“Like dry hopping, I dry nut it with honey roasted whole peanuts,” says Burkle. “The honey and the sugar have that great flavor that infuses into the beer. It might jumpstart fermentation, so I’ll let it finish for a couple of days in our warm diacetyl room.”
If you go the dry-nut route, Burkle suggests not letting the peanuts sit in the beer for more than 4 to 5 days or they start to get oily and will create a different, unpleasant mouthfeel.
In a third stage of peanut influence, O.H.S.O. relies on just a touch of peanut extract at packaging, giving the beer three completely different dimensions.
“I’ve tried it all one way—all dry nutting or all in the boil or all extract—and the results are completely different. It’s a combination of all three levels where you get that depth. Just that little bit of extract kicks up the aroma, and that allows you to start tasting things.”