Spice Is the Spice of Life
So, how do you make a spiced beer? “Brew a beer and add spices.” If only it were that simple! Spice opens up an enormous range of flavors to us, and shows you how to deploy various spices to get something you’re going to love drinking!
So, how do you make a spiced beer? “Brew a beer and add spices.” If only it were that simple! Spice opens up an enormous range of flavors to us, and Josh Weikert shows you how to deploy various spices to get something you’re going to love drinking!
FOLLOWING IS A TRANSCRIPT of an actual exchange between my wife and my grandmother:
“Nanny, how do you make your baked macaroni and cheese?”
“Well, first you make macaroni, and then you add the cheese!”
Clearly, Nanny was holding may never know what.
When someone is well-practiced at something, the subtle details that a less-experienced practitioner needs to be aware of to have the same kind of success are often left out, not out of malice or to preserve proprietary information but just because we gradually come to regard such things as second nature. “Stir until mixed, but don’t over-stir.” “Cook until done.” “Make macaroni, add cheese.”
So, how do you make a spiced beer? “Brew a beer and add spices.” If only back. We
it were that simple! Anyone can throw ingredients into a beer, and yes, you’ll get a “spiced beer” if some of those ingredients are spices, but if we want to make something that highlights the flavors of the spice in a way that meshes seamlessly with the base beer, then we need to approach it a bit more deliberately. The ingredients, process, and recipe all require us to take a beat and think about what we want and how we get it. Spice opens up an enormous range of flavors to us, and it’s worth knowing how to deploy various spices to get something we’re going to love drinking!
Sourcing Your Spices
On the one hand, spices are just about the easiest brewing ingredient to find. While most people don’t keep barley, rye, hops, and yeast on hand in their kitchen (present company being much more likely, but I bet a lot of you don’t!), nearly everyone does have access to a wide range of dried (and maybe fresh) spices and herbs in a convenient cabinet or rack. That’s a terrific place to start, but you’ll also probably want to cast a wider net to get just what you want in your beer.
The best part about using dried spices is that they’re both available and persistent. I’m confident that everyone reading this could pretty rapidly lay their hands on cinnamon, allspice, cumin, and/or cloves, any one of which might come in handy in a brewing application. Even if that’s not true for you (or if you don’t have exactly what you need for your recipe), it’s pretty easy to hit the baking aisle at the nearest grocery store to find a staggering assortment of dried herbs and spices, all neatly arranged in alphabetical order. Then, once you identify what you need and where to get it, dried spices have the added benefit of being exceptionally storable and stable over time: one cabinet + a couple of dozen small containers = a universe of flavors for you to play with.
You’ll still want to consider other options, though. For one thing, although it takes a while, dried spices will go stale and lose their potency. When we’re talking about pre-ground or powdered spices, all of that oxygen-exposed spice will gradually dull in flavor and will be less effective and harder to use because the intensity of its actual flavor contribution will be harder to predict. That cinnamon will still taste