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Beyond Barley: Embracing Alternative Grains

Every time the identify of a extensively distributed American adjunct lager lingers pejoratively on the tongue, a prevailing knowledge tends to put the blame of any perceived “cheap” or “poor” tastes on adjuncts like corn and rice. The Brewers Association, a trade affiliation that works to define and advocate for craft beer, as soon as excluded brewers who used them from its coterie.

That modified in 2014.

“As time went on, from the definition being in place, I think there came a heightened sensitivity to the fact that things aren’t so black and white,” says Julia Herz, the craft beer program director on the Brewers Association.

To define adjuncts: In all instances, they are unmalted sources of fermentable sugars and may embrace grains, honey, fruits, agave nectar and extra. So, yes, barley could be an adjunct, while rye often isn’t (it’s most often used within the type of rye malt).

A few of the concepts about them are true: Adjuncts can make beer cheaper to supply, and even the early brewers who embraced them drew a flavor line. However adjuncts have been a definite attribute of American beer because the industrial age as a result of they made beer higher.

“I think there’s a lot of name and quality and emotion wrapped up in the use of adjuncts,” says Aaron MacLeod, who has studied brewing grains as director of the Hartwick School Middle for Craft Meals and Beverage in Oneonta, New York. “I think that the U.S. has a long and proud history of adjunct brewing, especially with corn and rice.”

It’s a press release with which Herz agrees, and part of the rationale adjuncts now adjust to the “traditional” totem of the Brewers Association’s definition.

“Adjuncts played a huge role in the history of beer styles in the United States,” she says.

The following sections explain how a few of the commonest adjunct grains emerged and provide somewhat info as to what they add to—fairly than detract from—beer.


“In North American brewing, if we look at the history up to craft brewing, the major adjuncts were corn and rice,” says Paul Schwarz, a professor at North Dakota State University who research malt and cereal grains. In the Americas, corn’s ubiquity and high starch content made it a simple selection for brewers trying to loosen up lagers made with high-protein (and restricted) barley. Even some Colonial brewers turned to corn to make beer, in response to Schwarz.

(File Photograph)

Anton Schwarz, a Czech-born brewery marketing consultant and manager (of no relation to the above-mentioned professor), started advocating for using corn in industrial brewing within the 1860s and was extremely influential in its current relationship to brewing. In 1868 he immigrated to america, where he opened Schwarz Laboratories for analysis and coaching and edited The American Brewer.

Appropriately, it was Schwarz who beneficial brewmaster J.F. Theurer to Pabst—Theurer was behind Pabst’s famous exposition-winning (and corn-including) beer in 1893.

“In theory, the starch in corn is similar to the starch in barley. So in theory you could make a beer with malt and corn that has a similar carbohydrate profile to a beer made with 100 percent malt,” says Schwarz, the North Dakota State professor.

Corn appears in basic American adjunct lagers akin to Yuengling’s signature beer (now thought-about craft by the Brewers Association), as well as in newer-wave beers like Fullsteam Brewery’s El Toro cream ale and three Floyds Brewing Co.’s Corn King IPA. Corn lightens physique and colour whereas sustaining alcohol content and can be utilized in brewing in the form of grits, flakes or syrups.

Anthony Accardi, brewer at New York Metropolis’s Transmitter Brewing, makes use of corn for a cheeky twist on a farmhouse ale in his brewery’s F6.

“Basically [it’s] in some ways mimicking High Life as a reference point,” Accardi says. “We’re adding some Brettanomyces to it that would give it some funkiness or earthiness that would never be appropriate to an American light lager.”


As an adjunct, rice was used often amongst brewers in industrial America. As a result of rice’s limited availability and its fussiness, nevertheless, corn overtook it in giant measure toward the close of the 19th century.

Rice, like corn, is low in fat and protein and excessive in starch, making for beer that is lighter in shade, flavor and body. However while most corn is pretty simply converted into fermentable product by the extra enzymatic activity of barley, rice needs just a little something additional (greater cooking temperatures, additional bacterial enzymes) to be added into beer.

For some of the basic beers made with rice, look no further than Anheuser-Busch InBev’s famed Budweiser. Like corn, rice’s utility can also be being rediscovered amongst smaller producers. As an example, Melvin Brewing Co. and Monkey Paw Brewing Co. partnered for a double IPA referred to as “This One Goes to 11,” brewed with sticky rice and Minute Rice, as a gibe at huge beer.

At Transmitter, Accardi works with rice as a part of a wider effort “to use all the colors on the palette” on the subject of brewing with grain. “To me there aren’t rules to what a beer should be or shouldn’t be,” he says.

Transmitter’s S8 saison uses rice to maintain the beer’s physique and colour mild and refreshing, with the rice providing a mild canvas for the spicy saison pressure and German fragrant hops within the ale.

“Some people feel like they taste a little bit of sake-ness to it. … I’m not sure that I ever perceived that,” says Accardi.
Stillwater Artisanal has also used rice to make its Additional Dry saison (although that brewery’s beer is supposed to think of sake), and Bayou Teche Brewery uses rice to keep its snappy Ragin’ Cajuns Kölsch mild and fluffy.


Wheat’s excessive protein content—and in addition the soluble nitrogen present in wheat flour—has made it a go-to selection for brewers in search of larger head retention. Unmalted wheat helps constitute lambics and witbiers, and supplies a extra pronounced cloudiness and uncooked, grainy style over malted wheat. That cloudiness is one cause flour has sometimes been used in making New England-style IPAs like Drained Palms Brewing Co.’s Milkshake., a collaboration with Omnipollo.

Wheat didn’t initially take off in American brewing, professor Schwarz says, because it was too priceless of a food crop to justify turning it into beer. Now, although, brewers are going past normal wheat to heirloom varieties like spelt to add a new degree of rusticity and complexity to their beverages.

Let’s be clear: German hefeweizen and Berliner weisse beers predominantly use malted wheat, not adjuncts. However within the instances of beers like Blue Moon or Lindemans Cuveé René, unmalted wheat helps produce the fluffy head and bready taste.


Some papers recommend using oats in European brewing was pretty current till the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity regulation). It will make sense given the context of how different adjuncts emerged: Oats are a hardy crop that grow properly within the chilly and moist climes of nations like Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The most typical fashion of beer to which Schwarz has traced using oats can be the British oatmeal stout, the place he has found references courting again to the 1800s. A distinctly clean and creamy type, the beer has a distinguished mouthfeel that comes from oats’ excessive ranges of a non-fermentable fiber referred to as beta-glucan, Schwarz says. Beta-glucan not solely produces viscosity in beer, it additionally occurs to be the factor that Cheerios advertises as heart-healthy.

The oats in Terrapin Beer Co.’s Rise-n-Shine coffee oatmeal stout, which is aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels, serves for instance of how oats may give what may in any other case be a syrupy beer a lighter texture just like aerated cream. Oats additionally serve as a base to the beer’s intense nostril and taste profile, laying down an oatmeal-like canvas to bind together notes of bittersweet chocolate, darkish fruit and warming booze.

Really helpful utilization ranges of oats are low in beer. One 1943 research paper argues that round 10 % in the mash is sufficient, and solely with “good malt.” And Randy Mosher, a columnist for this magazine and writer of books akin to The Brewer’s Companion and Radical Brewing, has advised in his writing oat usage of somewhere between 5 and 10 %.

Accardi says he adds oats to beers like his G2 Belgian pale ale if “we want to give it a little extra something in terms of how it feels.”

“We try to consider all the aesthetic angles,” he continues. “We’re still using mostly barley, ’cause that’s what
beer is.”

Buckwheat, The Pseudo-Grain

Although sometimes mentioned in the same breath as spelt, emmer and durum, one ingredient displaying up in beer lately, buckwheat , isn’t truly a grain at all.

“It could be considered a pseudocereal,” stated Prof. Paul Schwarz of North Dakota State College. Cereal grains come from grasses; buckwheat does not. Nevertheless, buckwheat does think of a profile just like rustic wheat in beer, and might be malted or used as an adjunct.

“Buckwheat is really beautiful […] with an earthiness and nuttiness that are not really found in the same way in much else,” stated Brian Buckman, co-founder and head brewer of Illuminated Brew Works in Chicago, Illinois, whose 2016 Pareidolia Belgian Pale Ale incorporates unmalted buckwheat, Asian pears and amchur (dried mango powder).

Buckman described buckwheat as “a very big, bold flavor,” and bold it’s indeed (it’s also the rationale Buckman makes use of pears in Pareidolia as a stability). Shut your eyes while consuming Pareidolia, and it’s straightforward to think about a freshly minimize hunk of whole-grain levain bread instead of your beer glass.

What About Rye?

Rye use dates roughly again to medieval occasions, appearing in German roggenbiers and various Scandinavian fermented beverages. But given that the majority rye used in beer is malted, rye isn’t often an adjunct.

The usage of rye in Europe fell out of favor across the begin of the 20th century, stated Paul Schwarz, because rye is notoriously troublesome to work with. It has an identical excessive protein content material to wheat, which will increase the problem of sparging, and in addition incorporates excessive levels of pentosan, a posh carbohydrate that makes rye wort “thick and sticky.”

U.S. brewers are re-embracing the grain for its distinct spiciness, adding it to beers from stouts to saisons and IPAs for stability and complexity.

Anthony Accardi, of New York’s Transmitter Brewing, adds rye to his NY1 Danko Rye saison for “a little edge.”

“In terms of layering the spice from the grain and the yeast choice, and then maybe picking a hop that has a peppery finish to it […] you’re blending distinct but various layers of a certain flavor,” he says.

Bo McMillan is the former editorial assistant for All About Beer Journal, and is presently pursuing his PhD in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia College.

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