It all begins with the Reinheitsgebot, or as some of you may be more familiar with, the German Beer Purity Law of 1516. A law that was passed by Germany, stating that beer can only be made from water, hops, yeast, and barley. Historians have rumored that the purity law was put in to place not so much to protect beer. But to primarily protect bread, by having grains such as wheat and rye unfit for beer making this kept prices down instead of being used in production of the countries favorite beverage(1). While Germany was busy cracking down on the use of other ingredients in beer making, other countries such as Belgium were obtaining fermentable sugars from a wide variety of sources, and these are what we label as adjuncts today.
This leads to the question, what exactly are adjuncts? Typically adjuncts can be broken down into two categories; kettle adjuncts and mashable adjuncts. Kettle adjuncts are things added during the boil of the brewing process, such as honey and candi sugar. Which contain fermentable sugars. Whereas mashable adjuncts are things added during the mash of the brewing process, such as rice, corn, rye, and wheat. These grains contain starches that must be mashed in order to convert those starches to fermentable and unfermentable sugars and dextrins(2). However most of these adjuncts(rice, corn, sugars) being used contain little to no protein value, meaning that the addition of these adjuncts effectively dilute the amount of protein in the wort, since protein mainly comes from malted barley. This leaves the final product with increased clarity, and holds off the onset of the chill haze(2). Furthermore, we can break down mashable adjuncts into two categories. Malted adjuncts, such as malted wheat and malted rye, which contain the necessary enzymes in order to breakdown starch, whereas unmalted adjuncts like corn or rice, lack the necessary enzymes and therefore rely on the surplus of enzymes from malted barley in order to convert the starch of both the barley and adjunct. Nowadays, everything used in the production of beer that isn’t part of the Reinheitsgebot is considered an adjunct. This includes artificial flavoring extracts, fruits, nuts, cacao nibs, pumpkins, bacon, or even oysters and all sorts of wacky ingredients used to impart unique flavors in beer!
For a long time, the use of adjuncts in beer has been a popular topic of discussion for brewers across the world, and whether or not the use of adjuncts is considered craft or not. In America, the use of adjuncts took off after the end of prohibition, due to the low costs of adjuncts like rice and corn available at the time and the expensive cost of barley, the big, multi million dollar breweries took full advantage of adjuncts and used them religiously in their beer recipes. Today, many smaller, craft breweries still shun the idea of using mashable adjuncts such as corn and rice since they add little to no valuable flavor character to a beer but take full advantage of using kettle adjuncts, or even adding flavoring adjuncts during the fermentation phase of beer production. Now let’s take a look at a few pros and cons when it comes to the use of adjuncts.
Pros: Why do brewers use adjuncts?
- The reduced protein and tannin levels found in adjuncts such as corn and rice help increase microbiological stability. While the reduced amount of fatty acids will also diminish the staling reaction, further improve flavor stability.
2. Foam Retention
- The reduced lipid material in certain adjuncts also assists with foam retention. Adjuncts, like wheat and oats, contain different protein proportions that will actually enhance foam quality.
3. Beer style/Flavor Profile
- Adjuncts can be used to both lighten the flavor profile of a beer, or add varying levels of complexity. As mentioned earlier, adjuncts such as corn and rice can be used to create a wort with milder features, creating a very drinkable beer. Whereas malted or unmalted cereal grains may be used in recipes to add flavor complexity and mouth-feel. And of course, the use of what I’d call quirky adjuncts(Nuts, fruits, syrups) can add flavors simply unattainable by the use of malted barley alone.
4. Improved Wort Viscosity
- Reduced cell wall material such as beta glucan has the effect of improving wort viscosity and thus throughput during lautering.
5. Increased Brew Capacity
- When brewers’ syrups are used, they are generally added either during kettle boil or wort cooling. Because they are not added to the mash, this reduces the load in the Lauter Tun/Mash Tun, freeing up brew capacity.
Cons: The drawbacks of using Adjuncts
- Over-use of certain raw cereal grains can add a dry, or harsh taste profile to a beer.
2. Raw cereal grains often require additional handling and processing which means an increase in equipment and labor costs.
3.Adjuncts typically contain no enzymes for the conversion of starch to sugar, and therefore rely on the surplus enzymes provided by the malt. Which means when adjunct levels are too high, the addition of a commercial enzyme may be necessary to complete saccharification(conversion of starch to sugar) in the mash.
4.Certain adjuncts like wheat are considered allergens.
5. Over-use of adjuncts like corn and rice can dilute the free amino nitrogen(FAN) and other nutrients in the wort which are essential for good fermentation performance. Low FAN can result in stuck fermentations and undesirable flavors.
6. The social stigma attached to the use of adjuncts used in beer making. Many folks around the world simply won’t drink a beer that doesn’t follow the Reinheitsgebot, and many get shunned to the wayside.
Although many might disagree, I’m all for it. Breweries who use adjuncts, big or small, are simply creating more variety in an industry that’s traditionally been confined to the use of only four ingredients. For the macro breweries out there, using more discreet adjuncts like corn or rice, the fact of the matter is they’re culturing massive, living batches of beer that stay incredibly consistent to a degree unnoticeable to human taste-buds. Or to the smaller craft breweries out there, using a wide array of adjuncts, creating flavors in their products never thought imaginable. I say truck on dudes, truck on.
- (2) https://byo.com/mead/item/94-adjuncts-explained
- (1) http://www.mooseheadbeeracademy.com/truth-adjuncts/