Home Brewer's Corner: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing with Adjuncts

Updated: Sep 2



ITS NO SECRET THAT CALI CREAMIN' IS OUR SECRET SAUCE. Our most popular beer possesses something that can be very hard to achieve in any beer, much less flavored beer - Balance. Craft breweries have become well known for our ability to push the envelope when it comes to flavor combinations. Those flavor combos typically only came from the 4 main ingredients - Malt, Hops, Yeast, and water, until a radical new trend saw American brewers including all sorts of interesting additives to create complex and surprising flavors. If you've had a number of these crazy concoctions you've no doubt recognized that there can be some mixed results in terms of consistency. That's not to say they are bad, because that's a matter of opinion, but repeatable? Consistent? Balanced? That's the part that leaves a lot of brewers (especially home brewers) left searching for answers.


From our humble beginnings over a decade ago, to helping brewers in our retail store (RIP), to the scaled commercial versions we brew now, we've taken away some learnings about working with various flavors, or adjuncts. Though our methods now may vary greatly from the batches of the past, many of the principles apply to brewing both small and large scale brews. Hopefully our experience will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of brewing with adjuncts, and possibly even save a batch or two.


LESS IS MORE



This is probably the single biggest mistake home brewers make and there are a couple good reasons. First, the "wow" factor. After all, half of the joy of home brewing is sharing, and there is a temptation to just blow away the drinker at first sip with a barrage of flavors. The problem is that in the real world we all want thing out of beer - drinkability. As soon as one dominant flavor takes over, especially a polarizing one, drinkability suffers. Play it safe until you really understand how that adjunct will affect the finished product. If you did your job correctly on recipe development, the base beer will stand on it's own even if you end up under-shooting the adjunct.


Take Cali Creamin' as an example. If you pull the Vanilla out of it it's still a very delicious cream ale. The goal should be to design a delicious beer with or without the featured flavor. You can always dial it up from there. Everything in moderation as they say.


CONTROL BATCH SIZE



Finished volume is something that is difficult to control on the commercial scale, but even harder for the average home brewer. Assuming most of you reading this are brewing five to ten gallon batches, there is a huge amount of variability in batch yield size. Evaporation, amount of hops used, amount of yeast used, fermentation problems, and bottling/kegging losses can all play a role. Small losses can add up quickly. Here's an example - If you are brewing a 5 gallon batch (target finished yield) and you unexpectedly lose just .5 gallons, which is common, thats a ten percent reduction.


Let's say you are brewing a smoked porter and you are cheating with liquid smoke (not recommended by the way. Use Rauch malt), and your recipe only calls for 3 mL in 5 gallons, adding an adjunct that strong and distinct without an adjustment could make your beloved porter taste like a campfire. Boom. Batch ruined. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what your volumes are like and make adjustments as needed.


PRACTICE WITH ONE INGREDIENT