What the *%$£ are adjuncts ?
What are Adjuncts? You may well ask.
It's all very simple. If it’s an ingredient in the beer that is designed to alter the flavour, aroma or mouth feel of the finished beer, and it isn't malted barley, water yeast or hops, it's an adjunct.
Other things that brewers add to their beer, such as finings other clearing agents, aren't adjuncts, they are processing aids.
Adjuncts can be grouped in to two broad categories, fermentable and unfermentable. Fermentable adjuncts include other grains, fermentable sugars, and fruit. Unfermentable ones include, spices, herbs, some sugars such as lactose (commonly found in stouts)
Fermentable Adjuncts in addition to directly impacting on the flavour and mouthfeel also affect the alcohol level, whereas unfermentable ones don’t.
A good brewer will use adjuncts to alter the characteristics of their beers to the benefit of the finished product. Lazy brewers will chuck them in because they want something different in flavour but can’t be bothered to re-work their recipe to do it properly and a bad brewer will use something to make the beer cheaper trying to con the drinker they’re getting something they’re not.
Don’t get me wrong adjuncts are good. They help in many modern beer styles and after all where would we be without the mango and lime smoothie sour? (answers on the comments below please and try not to rant too hard)
Good things to do with Adjuncts.
Improve the mouth feel of a beer: - Thin watery beers, no matter how much alcohol and funky flavours can put a drinker off altogether. We like a richer thicker feel to what we drink (although this can go too far). There’s many thigs you can add to a beer at various stages to achieve this. Oats and wheat in the mash are a great example of adjuncts used for this purpose.
Enhance sweetness or reduce the bitterness:- Stout’s are bitter, without a doubt not just from the hops but also from the dark grains, Dark grains can have a harsh tannic bitter or even burnt note that the brewer wants to soften out without loosing the other flavours gained from the grains (coffee, chocolate, liquorice, spice). Lactose sugar (extracted from milk) is a great way to do this. Lactose in it’s own right is low in flavour, and if you try the powder it’s not all that sweet either, but the impact on the overall sweetness (or reduction in bitterness) can be marked. It also has the benefit of increasing the density of the beer and so the mouthfeel. It works for pale hazy beers too where you want to back off the hop bitterness and leave the hop flavours to shine. This is why milkshake pales are called milkshake (they have milk sugar in) if it doesn’t it isn’t a milkshake beer!
Bolster the alcohol content: - When a brewer wants a higher alcohol content (improving mouthfeel and sweetness) but doesn’t want to alter the fundamental flavour of the other grains, adding a neutral tasing grain works, rice is a good example. The addition of rice to some commercial beers, which I shall leave nameless, however is also a way of making them cheaper, rice is a bucket load cheaper than malted barley. But it has it’s place.
Complement or boost a flavour in the beer: Adding mango pulp into a beer can be fab especially if it’s used in conjunction with a hop that delivers a mango like flavour, such as Mosaic. If it’s used subtly is super. Chocolate into a stout complements the natural chocolatiness of the grain.
Add a flavour that you can’t get from the usual beer ingredients: Blackberries in a porter or plums in a stout can be delicious for example. There are many classic fruit beers that are fruit added into a grain base, such as Kreik the Belgian cherry beer. Hazlenut and orange are also often used as adjuncts.
There are bad things to do with adjuncts, but they’re pretty obvious when you taste the finished article. Adding tastes that clash or end up medicinal is not a good thing to do (unless you like beer that tastes like cough linctus).
That’s a brief look at adjuncts, there’s lots more to be said on the subject, but it’s a start.
If you’ve come across anything really unusual (rumours of brewers adding an old pair of socks to the mash I’m sure are apocryphal) pop on a post and enjoy the wild and varied flavours that adjuncts can bring to your beers.