The question that pops up (in my mind at least) is ‘where did infusion or blending get its popularity?’ Honestly, the mighty Dogfishead brewery is the first main brewery that I know of to kick-start this idea; whether this was started officially elsewhere is debatable. However, this article from drink.seriouseats.com is what got me intrigued in the world that is infusion in the first place.
I have had over 1600 different beers. Translation: I know what I like. As the revolution that is craft beer increases in magnitude, however, I am always willing to broaden my horizons, expand my palate; basically I like to try new things. Some creations just seem ridiculous, while others seem fun and intriguing but all are worth the investigation. Unfortunately many of these marvelous brews can be damage the wallet.
At times, I come across certain brands that I prefer to indulge in more-so than others, and I wish they made a certain infusion-style beer. What if I want to try a my favorite go-to stout but with the compounding flavors of a bourbon barrel? or even a porter with my favorite coffee roast? or make my extra beer in the mix pack that I had to purchase with the rest taste better? THAT my friends is where infusion comes in!
Of course, if you were to research beer infusion you will stumble across different techniques, as well as many suggestions on the “how’s,” but today I will share with you a few ideas on blends and also some techniques that I have found that worked for me.
The French Press
Have you ever had that perfect stout? I mean it needs nothing added, it’s just perfect. Yet you say to yourself, “It’s 9am, and even though this Stout hits the spot, I need some caffeine if I’m going to be productive today.” I’m sure we all have at some point, and do I have the solution for you! Simply, a French Press. Here’s what you do, get your favorite stout or porter (preferably a 22 oz bottle), your favorite coffee (in whole bean preferably), a French press and a coffee grinder.
Treat the beer as you would a coffee, add your fresh finely ground coffee beans to the press. Pour in your dark beer and stir slightly, and let it steep. When it comes to the amount of time spent “steeping” you can be the judge, but I give it about 4-5 minutes. When 4-5 minutes, or your patience, is up press the “plunger.” Afterwards you have a delicious stout that’s slightly caffeinated with your favorite coffee roast. For the freshest quality grind your beans right before adding them to the press.
2. Tea Infusers
Any tea lovers out there? I mean real tea lovers. You know who you are, the ones with your own infusion devices to put your loose leaves in. Tea infusers are wonderful for herbal infusion. I tried this with Saranac Summer Pils. It’s really not my favorite beer, but it’s not a horrible beer. It’s one of those beers that unavoidably come in a mix pack, that kind of get pawned off on friends or pushed to the back of the fridge. It’s flavoring is light, but it just seems to match a pork or chicken meal in my mind.
Thinking about those pairings, I thought about rosemary and how it enhances a good chicken or pork meal. The only down side is it can be quite potent. I happen to have some tea infusers around the house and figured I would experiment. I put some rosemary needles in the infuser and dipped it into the beer. After about 3 minutes I removed the infuser and tried the beer and was pleasantly surprised as a subtle essence of rosemary swirled about my palate while not overpowering the beer.
Now let’s talk blending. Whether it’s Black & Tan’s (don’t say this in Ireland), Black & Blues, Dirty Pennies, and whatever else you have locally; here’s something fun you can do at home with almost any beer style. Purchase your favorite Lambic, the tangier the better; I suggest a Framboise. Pour this low ABV beverage into and ice tray and freeze (be careful because they expand as you can see below). You now have the means to add some pizzazz to whatever beverage you’re drinking, and hopefully it’s a beer. For winter, a nice chocolate stout with a Framboise cube is :::sigh::: a nice treat. Let the cube sit for a minute, and as you sip you will enjoy the hidden nuances of the raspberry Lambic in its subtle yet complementary way as it merges with the roasted chocolaty finish of the stout.
Or if you are into wit-biers or Belgians or Saisons, adding that flavored cube of goodness will disperse its juices slowly as you enjoy each sip. This leaves you satisfied especially on a hot summer day. For a nice menu of different blends, you should visit J. Timothy’s in Plainville, CT.
You naysayers out there can go on with your ridicules on how this ruins beer, or that real beer drinkers wouldn’t do that. Honestly though, how do you think the brewers who come up with their new flavors you love so much get their ideas? They experiment and sample. In fact, some of them even bring their kegs with little infusers and at times will share their infusions at public tastings (thanks Lefty’s).
The next time you pick up a beer with some weird combinations and leave your palate just quivering for more, remember it all starts with having some fun. So get your presses, infusers and ingredients and create a new beer flavor. Who knows where it might take you!
I love the history of beer and how its made, the whole beer experience. My philosophy is, finding your beer is like finding your soul-mate, you may have a long search, and learn some lessons, but there is a beer that’s just right for you.