Getting unique and novel flavours into a beer can often pose a challenge to a brewer. When using natural ingredients such as fresh fruit, oak chips, herbs and spices, it can be difficult to predict the flavour impact they will have on your brew and there is a risk of infection from wild yeasts and bacteria on raw ingredients which could spoil the beer so here at Brewstore we explored brewing beers with flavour essences by adding Still Spirit Essences as a quick, clean and effective way of introducing exciting flavours to a beer. Flavour essences are designed primarily to be added to a neutral vodka spirit to replicate any commercially available spirit, liqueur, or schnapps for a fraction of the cost of brand names. Used in baking, non-alcoholic cocktails, and cooking yields great results from these essences. As a beer brewing ingredient essences offer up the tempting opportunity to introduce a riot of flavours to your beers. We've used an all grain beer recipe but these should work in beer kits too. We tested four different flavour essences chosen to match the rich malty character of our Small Batch Brewery 90 shilling recipe. Brewing an all grain 25 litre batch of beer on The Grainfather all in one brewing system, which was fermented as one and then split into 5 separate 5 litre demijohns. We added the Flavour essences to each demijohn and left them for a week while the yeast flocculated. The beer was bottled and left to condition and mature for 4 weeks before sampling. We chose Still Spirits Top Shelf Amaretto, Classic Navy Dark Rum, Drambuie, and Oak Cask. Each one of these essence phials is designed to make up to 2.25 litres when added to a plain spirit so we only used one essence phial per 5 litres aiming for a subtle and balanced flavour in the finished beers. The Control The base Small Batch Brewery All Grain 90 shilling Beer kit is rich and malty but not overly sweet with toffee, caramel, raisin, and date flavours from crystal malts, and the lightest chocolate and coffee flavour from roasted malts, supported by earthy, honey, and grassy hop aromas from Goldings and Fuggles hops. Amaretto This liqueur essence has an outstanding flavour with soft and distinctive almond taste and aroma - pleasant and rich but not overly pronounced. The almond and vanilla flavours of the essence paired well with the rich strong malt flavours of the beer and it tasted pretty comforting. It would be perfect drinking around Christmas time. Some of our testers wanted a stronger Amaretto flavour, which could be achieved by adding more of the essence. Navy Dark Rum The navy rum essence came through with a strong, very sweet dark fruit aroma. The dark fruit flavours matched the malty caramel and dried rich fruit flavours of the base beer, while contributing further molasses and unsurprisingly, rum flavours. Next time we'd use a bit less of this essence as the pronounced flavour of this very concentrated essence was a little overpowering in this beer but offered the potential to make a brilliant dark rum and raisin ale with a little fine tuning next time. Drambuie This essence is sold under the variations of ‘Skybuie’ and ‘Scotch Heather’. Like other liqueur essences it is usually mixed into spirit with a sweetening and thickener base pack, we didn't do this here as we didn't want to alter the consistency of the beer and this came out much less sweeter than expected of a Drambuie however this did allow the distinctive herbal and honey flavours of the essence to shine through, making this soft and malty rich beer seem surprisingly bright and refreshing. The 90 shilling took on the character of herbal gruit beer - an acquired taste for some, but if you are looking for a herbal finish in your beer this is by far the easiest method we have found. Oak Cask- The Winner For the final beer we contemplated using one of the many different whisky or bourbon flavourings in the range but settled on using the most subtle and most commonly enquired about flavour to add to a beer - ‘oak cask’ easily obtained as a component essence from the whisky profile kit . As before, the aroma direct from the bottle was a little underwhelming but once in the beer it took on another life and lifted the brew from good to great. The flavours of the oak bridged and softened all the flavours together while contributing woody and light vanilla flavours to give an overall delicious beer. Side by side with the control it was universally the preferred brew, and though the flavour more subtle than the others trials it definitely gave the beer another life. Still Spirits essences offer an absolutely fantastic resource for the beer brewer. Used in the right levels with the right type of beer they can produce distinctive flavours with ease. Some of the flavours available in the range are near impossible for many homebrewers to achieve, so offer up an opportunity for brewing fine or outlandish beers. We'll be trialling more of these combinations below in future brews and do let us know about your own experiments with essence flavoured beers.
Lager - Tequila (Desperados), French Brandy, Ouzo, Lemon Vodka I.P.A - Grande Marnier, Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Triple Sec, Pina Colada Wheat Beer - Melon Liqueur, Mango Schnapps, Irish Cream, Strawberry Schnapps.\ Belgian Ales - Cherry Brandy, Apple Brandy.