Tag Archives: adjunct

What is this Stuff: New Mexico Pinon Coffee

Trader Joe’s is a wonderful store to find oddities. Especially so if you only visit about every six months or so. It’s like a completely different store. Something you loved is gone and replaced by a bizarre product you might just have to try. That’s my Trader Joe’s experience anyway.

I ran across this and was intrigued:

Pinon Coffee

Pinon coffee? What is this stuff?

As a dedicated coffee junky I had to pick up a container and bring it home to try. The most well-known coffee adjunct in the United States has to be roasted chicory, which is popular in the southeast and most notably in Louisiana. If you have sat down for beignets and coffee at Café du Monde in New Orleans than you have had chicory coffee. It is said that chicory gives coffee a chocolate undertone and softens the bitterness.

Pinon coffee is similar to chicory coffee in that it uses a non-coffee adjunct. In this case it is the edible nut of the Pinus edulis tree that grows in the high desert of the American southwest. The nut of the tree is roasted and incorporated into a ground Arabica coffee.

The result? Pretty damn good. In terms of aroma you would think that you were about to drink a coffee flavored with chocolate or something nutty like hazelnut. None of that follows through in the taste, which is very coffee like.

It’s not something that I would seek out on a regular basis or pay a premium for, but if I find myself in a Trader Joe’s sometime soon I might pick a can. Or two because you never know when Trader Joe’s is going to just yank the rug out from underneath you.

Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

I have been harsh to lagers lately. Most of the lagers I try leave my palette with an off taste that is not quite burnt. It’s not musty or soapy either. It’s just an odd flavor that makes me want to pour the beer out and grab the nearest pale ale.

Since I was such a fan and consumer of Dale’s Pale Ale while in Colorado I brought home some Mama’s Little Yella Pils:

Little Yella Pils

What is this liquid masquerading as a lager? It has none of the bad traits I associate with the breed. It, dare I say, drinks smooth like my favorite ales. What alchemy have the brewers at Oskar Blues conducted to create such a monster?

First off, this beer is true to style meaning that it does not employ the use of so-called “adjuncts” like corn and rice. Say what you want about corn and rice in beer, but the traditional recipes used in Europe do not call for the ingredients. These beers also do not use a lot of the ingredients modern American brewers are using to craft stunning beers—yes, I am looking at you Surly Coffee Bender.

Second, the hop bill consists solely of Saaz hops. This is a very traditional hop for pilsners and seems more in place in this style as opposed to more common American craft beer hops like Cascade, Centennial, or Willamette. A pilsner lager is normally an easy drinking beer—hence the use of this style as the backbone of American light lagers that are meant to be consumed in units measured by 24 cans—so a potent hop really interferes.

The end result is a “smaller” beer that begs to be quaffed. I came home from a three hour long hike with my daughter and enjoyed a beer on the patio as the sun was setting. It fit the moment perfectly.

This all kind of surprised me because Oskar Blues is known for being on the more aggressive side of craft brewing. It’s not Stone Ruination aggressive by any means, but several of their beers are pushing higher alcohol and/or bitterness levels. This is not a brewery known for making session beers. Heck, the main line beer—Dale’s Pale Ale—clocks in at 65 IBU.

It’s a malty, not too hoppy easy drinking beer from a brewery better known for trying to knock your socks off:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

Post Super Bowl Beer Thoughts

For the first time in a few years I actually watched the Super Bowl in its entirety.  With no skin in the game—either team could have won and I would have cared not the slightest bit more either way—the game needs to be entertaining.  Well, we got that in droves on Sunday evening.  It helped that I was pint deep in beer, both of the homebrew variety and commercially produced.

Northwest Ale

Styles of beer are getting to be so muddied.  Is it an amber ale or an IPA or an oak-aged monkey ale?  I don’t know.  One style of beer that is associated with the craft beer renaissance in the United States is amber ale.  I associate this style mostly with New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale, but there are countless varieties.

Homebrewers often cut their teeth on a variation of an amber ale.  Commonly, Wyeast 1056 “American Ale” or 1272 “American Ale II” are used to ferment the beer.  However, those yeasts are known for producing a platform for hops to be showcased in the place of a heavier malt profile.  I wanted to see what would happen if I let the hops take a backseat:

Northwest Ale

So, I started with an American Ale recipe, but instead of the traditional yeasts I chose Wyeast 1332 “Northwest Ale.”  The description, per Northern Brewer, is that the yeast “Produces a malty and mildly fruity ale with good depth and complexity.”  The malty part is what I was going for.  What is the verdict?

Pretty good.  I would be interested to see how two beers brewed the same time using the same recipe, but using different yeasts, would turn out because it is so hard to compare a beer that I brewed in January with one that I brewed in August or February of the prior year.  I lack the palate memory.  The beer is definitely malty.  I would not say that it has a fruity profile in any significant way, which is good because I was afraid of some banana flavors leaking in.  Everyone knows how I hate bananas.

Rye Ale and Rye Stout

I am on a little bit of a rye kick this month.  I have just put a batch of rye ale into bottles and I have a batch of rye stout that is fully krausened right now in a carboy downstairs.

Rye makes an interesting addition to a beer because it is supposed to add a peppery or spicy note to the beer that you just cannot get with malted barley.  I am sure that there are purists who will quote Germanic rules of brewing that say rye cannot be part of a true beer recipe, but I say hokum in my best Sheldon Cooper voice.

Does Fracking Threaten America’s Small Brewers?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing if you want to get all technical, to unleash natural gas in shale formations is booming all over the United States.  It’s part of the U.S. rise to prominence as an energy producer after spending the better part of the past few decades hearing about our dependence on everyone but ourselves for energy.  However, there is a dark side and that dark side is primarily about the impact of the process on the water supply.

It’s one thing to affect my drinking water, but affect my beer and those are fighting words.

Peace Tree Brewing’s Hop Wrangler and Cornucopia

On Small Business Saturday following my trip to the NewBo City Market I made my way over to Benz Beverage Depot to see what looked good on the wall of beer.  The little bottles from Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville looked enticing.

I have seen these little bottles in six packs at several stores in the area, but never pulled the trigger.  What got me this time was that one of the seasonal brews—Cornucopia—was available.  How can a good Iowa resident pass up a beer made with corn?  So, I ended up with two six packs of beer: one each of Cornucopia and Hop Wrangler.


Corn is considered an adjunct in beer and, in general, it gets a bad rap because it is associated with cheap mass market beers.  However, if all we did as beer aficionados was follow the edicts of the Bavarian Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot)we would end up with beers that only contained water, barley, hops, and yeast.  Corn is just another ingredient in the toolkit of the craft brewer.

In this case the results are not promising for corn.  Cornucopia comes across a little thin with minimal carbonation.  I gave the beer the benefit of the doubt on the carbonation, but bottles two and three were no different.  It’s not that I want a beer to be overly carbonated or bursting with artificial bubbles of carbon dioxide, but near flat beers seem to have less life to them in terms of flavor.

Additionally, the beer is overly sweet without a balance of hop bitterness.  Some people like their beer this way, but I would prefer more balance.  It’s one of the reasons I have avoided brewing up a batch of either homebrew recipe from the White House.  Too much sugar for my blood.

Hop Wrangler was a different story:

This is what I consider to be a well-crafted American-style IPA.  Before hop bombs and the obsession with going to the stratosphere in terms of IBU, the American-style IPA was about using non-traditional hops and new methods to break out of stereotypical molds.  Obviously, this was in the early years of the craft beer movement and the frontier has moved farther afield but there is a place for a well-balanced American-style IPA.

Hop Wrangler is dry hopped for aroma and you get a real whiff of that when your nose enters the glass.  It is not overpowering by any means and the bitterness of the actual beer is not overpowering either so the effect is appreciated.  Dry hopping is a nice touch when it is done to a level that is not like a punch in the face that is followed by a bitterness in the beer that is like getting strangled.  Too much of a good thing is definitely possible when it comes to hops.

Batting .500 is pretty good and it left me wanting to try what else the folks at Peace Tree Brewing are up to in Knoxville, Iowa.

Fall Beer Thoughts

It’s fall and with the colder weather I really begin to focus on beer—drinking it, making it, and talking about it.  If I did not always bring a growler or two to share most people would just cringe to see me coming.

Dawson’s Multigrain Red

The first bottles of my Dawson’s Multigrain Red have been cracked:

I do not know how to classify this beer.  The official description from the good folks at Northern Brewer says that it’s a “a smooth, vaguely Irish-style, polyglot session beer that incorporates domestic and German malts, American hops, and British yeast.”  Basically, it’s a mutt.

The beer leans heavily on Willamette hops, but it does not come across as an ale from the Pacific Northwest.  Maybe it’s because Willamette’s best friend Cascade is not present in this beer.  Regardless of the classification this is a great beer to drink.  No one is going to spend hours discussing its relative merits or compare it to other beers.  A person is going to drink the beer and be happy to be doing so.  What more can you ask of a beer?

BTW, I cannot help but almost say Dawson’s Creek every time I talk about this beer.  I also keep seeing James VanDerBeek crying every time as well.  I won’t even think about brewing Dawson’s Kriek.

Bottled and in the Carboy

The latest beer is in bottles as of tonight.  It’s a Petite Saison d’Ete.  It’s usually considered more of summertime beer yielding to the stouts and heartier beer as the temperatures fall.  I had actually hoped to brew this beer for the late summer months—nothing like refreshing beer at the height of the dog days of August in Iowa.  However, I chose to brew some other beers for various reasons.

In the carboy is a Scottish 60 Shilling.  I am hoping that this mild beer can be a real crowd pleaser when I crack open the case of bottles at a get together I have scheduled toward the end of October.  Niche beers are nice to sample, but you want crowd pleasers when everyone has very different tastes.

Does Corn Get a Bad Rap as an Adjunct?

Corn in beer is basically the equivalent of bringing a can of Natural Light to a gathering of craft brewers.  It’s viewed as the ultimate compromise in brewing beer.  The folks over at Guys Drinking Beer have looked at the issue from various angles and come up with a reasoned point of view.

If you use the infamous German purity law as your basis, a lot American beers from the craft movement would be disqualified because of adjuncts.  In beer, an adjunct is not a bad thing on its own.  It’s just a departure from the strict interpretation of the essential ingredients that the Germans have codified.  You put raspberries or coffee or smoked oak chips in your carboy?  Sorry, it’s an adjunct.  Verboten!

Sure, when corn is used to brew Pabst Blue Ribbon or rice is used to brew Bud Light it’s a bad thing.  It’s also a bad thing that water was used because those beers are swill.  Corn and any other “adjunct” for that matter has a place on the potential ingredient list of people looking to make great beer.  If it can make the beer better, it’s allowed.  Pure and simple.

Beer for Backpackers

Why do I fear this creation?  Pat’s Backcountry Beverages is trying to make it possible for you to acquire some clean water, pour a flavor pack in, and end up with a bottle of carbonated beer.  No lugging bottles up the side of a mountain.

I appreciate the effort, but I have the greatest of reservations about the flavor and quality of this concoction.