Brewer’s Per­spec­tive: 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.

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By Stan Hierony­mus

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.

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.

The first pass was 95 per­cent of what Mosher and Pich­man wanted in Fer­netic. The sec­ond was spot on. Asked if this con­firms that Pich­man has learned to speak “Mosher,” the al­chemist replies, “I’ll say it’s a mov­ing target, and we’re all grow­ing to­gether.”

Not Done un­til It’s Right

The first beer that Pich­man worked on with Mosher was a root-beer beer that shares its name with the brew­ery. It was equally as com­pli­cated as Fer­netic, and the recipe took sev­eral months longer to fi­nal­ize. Those two beers are out­liers. Although For­bid­den Root opened—ini­tially the beer was brewed un­der con­tract, and the brew­pub came on line in 2016—as the first botan­i­cal brew­ery in Chicago, the brew­pub’s beer menu is a mix­ture of rec­og­niz­able styles and beers brewed with some—but never as many as Fer­netic and For­bid­den Root—herbs and spices. The best-sell­ing beer, as at so many other places, is an IPA.

“BJ’S done a great job for us, and the beers just get bet­ter and bet­ter. We have a mix be­tween th­ese very com­plex and highly botan­i­cal brews and ul­tra sim­ple styles such as Kölsch and Pils,” Mosher says.

It shouldn’t be a sur­prise that the lessons 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. “Whether it is a crazy col­lab­o­ra­tion with twenty botan­i­cals or a new IPA, we’re not done un­til it is right,” Pich­man says.

Pich­man got to know Mosher when he joined the Chicago Beer So­ci­ety, a club for both home­brew­ers and beer en­thu­si­asts, in 2006. He was sit­ting at the bar at Goose Is­land’s Cly­bourn brew­pub be­fore a meet­ing when he saw Mosher walk in. “There’s the guy who wrote Rad­i­cal Brew­ing,” he

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