Five Craft Beer Adjuncts That Are Here to Stay

Five Craft Beer Adjuncts That Are Here to Stay

Craft beer is growing at a fever pitch these days, with breweries crawling out of the woodwork for a chance to make a name for themselves. In recent years, it’s been exceptionally difficult to make it big, with every other brewery producing a solid array of samey stouts and IPAs with punny names. In order to differentiate themselves, lots of breweries have resorted to adding other ingredients to their beers for the sake of uniqueness.

Known as adjuncts, these additional ingredients can elevate an otherwise standard beer into a one-of-a-kind flavor experience – and propel a brewery into instant celebrity. Even if adjunct-laden beers aren’t all that successful, the resultant public exposure and word-of-mouth makes this form of experimentation a no-brainer.

Regardless of what you think of these additions, adjuncts can serve as a wonderful complement to the bright, creamy, sweet, and even bitter flavors in beer. Here are five adjuncts that transcend gimmick and prove to be perfect additions to standard beer styles.

Coffee

Like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and a good stout are a match made in heaven. The roasted notes of a good imperial stout meld wonderfully with the smooth, chocolate notes of a delicately roasted coffee bean. In some cases, coffee beans can even soften the harsh, hot profile of beer as well, improving drinkability considerably while also imparting a rich coffee flavor throughout the entire beer. Traditionally we think of coffee as a perfect element in pitch black stouts. Several breweries have been making “golden stouts,” light-colored beers with heaps of coffee added to create an incredibly unique drinking experience.

Examples:
● Speedway Stout, Alesmith Brewing, San Diego, CA: this strong, flavorful stout provides a heaping helping of coffee in each bottle for unrivaled drinkability.
● Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI: this legendary stout, billed as a “double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout,” is an incredibly easy drinking dark beer with a frothy, creamy mouth feel. As its name suggests, it’s best consumed on a lazy weekend morning with a delicious brunch spread.

Fruit

Fruit is not exactly a new adjunct in the brewing world – Belgian breweries have been adding fruit to their lambics for decades now. Modern US breweries, however, are adding fruits to beers in new and innovative ways to make exceptionally fruity, juicy ales. The newest American-made wild ales and Berliner weisses are brewed with copious amounts of tart fruits such as berries and stonefruits for an unrivaled fruit explosion on the palate. And tart fruits such as grapefruit and pineapple are being used in IPAs to enhance the juiciness and downplay the signature bitterness that comes from hops.

Examples:
● Imperial Bu series, De Garde Brewing, Tillamook, OR: This quaint, rustic brewery in rural Oregon produces perhaps the best fruited Berliners in the nation, with strong, jammy flavors balanced by a perfectly tart backbone.

● Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA: This variant of modern craft beer is brewed with grapefruit to add balance to the hoppy brew. This brew technique places an emphasis on the wonderful tropical notes on the finish.

Chocolate

Another perfect stout adjunct, chocolate might be more complementary to the style than coffee. With flavors ranging from sweet and creamy to bold and roasty, chocolate (in all its forms) is an extremely versatile adjunct. Much like coffee, it helps improve drinkability and can also enhance a beer’s mouthfeel considerably. Best of all, you’ll find great chocolate beers are much easier to come by than coffee brewed beers these days.

Examples:
● Choklat, Southern Tier Brewing, Lakewood, NY: The quintessential chocolate stout, taking a sip of this creamy rich imperial stout is like drinking a glass of smooth, semi-sweet Belgian chocolate.

● Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout, Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, GA: This sweet stout tastes exactly as advertised – it’s pretty much chocolate milk for adults. Deceptively smooth and dangerously drinkable, it’s probably best not to leave this around kids, or they may be fooled.

Coconut

This sweet, tropical adjunct might be the current big thing in craft beer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. Yeah, coconut in beer tends to have an extremely short shelf life, but when it’s good, it’s fantastic. When added to a stellar stout or porter, the result can be heavenly – similar to dipping a coconut macaroon into a cup of fresh coffee. And with coconut becoming more prevalent, it’s only a matter of time before we get a stellar coconut beer that isn’t extremely hard to acquire.

Examples:
● Last Snow, Funky Buddha Brewery, Oakland Park, FL: This coconut coffee porter is arguably the best of its kind available, albeit in highly limited quantities. It’s a coconut explosion from the moment you crack open the bottle, with a powerful aroma and flavor that’s welcoming and not at all overpowering.

Barrel Aging

Okay, this isn’t necessarily an adjunct, but given the large impact barrel aging has on a beer’s flavor and overall quality, it is worth noting. Beers aged in spent liquor barrels gain all the flavors and characteristics of the liquor that was in there previously. Be it bourbon, gin, rum, or even wine, these flavors mix and meld with the base beer to create an extremely delicate, complex beverage that’s more for sipping than for chugging. These are truly unique ales that elevate craft beer into a drink that’s more than just a party refreshment.

Examples:
● Bourbon County Brand Stout, Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, IL: Arguably the reigning champion of bourbon-barrel-aged stouts. Strong notes of caramel and bourbon are followed by a smooth finish and extreme coffee and chocolate notes on the back end.

● Sucaba, Firestone-Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, CA: This limited-release barrel-aged barleywine is aged in American oak barrels for a surprisingly balanced beer, despite its boozy bourbon aroma and a big, thick mouthfeel.

So next time you’re out shopping for your next bottle of brew, take a look at the labels to make note of any adjuncts added to the beers. They may clue you into what to expect out of these artfully created beverages.

Allen Park is a passionate part-time writer (and full-time drinker) of craft beer. As a proud resident of San Diego, the beer capital of the world, you can often find him sharing bottles with friends and drinking world-class IPAs at Toronado. Visit his Untappd profile for a peek at his life in craft beer paradise.

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