Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dosing Beer at Bottling

Back in July, I posted about being selected to be part of the Iron Brewer competition.  The three ingredients the competitors in my round had to use were melanoidin malt, galena hops, and rose hips.  I had brewed with the first two ingredients before, but not with rose hips.  The turn-around period to brew an Iron Brewer beer was fairly short and I needed to come up with a recipe fast.  I settled on an American brown ale, because it could feature both the melanoidin malt and galena hops easily.  As for the rose hips, I decided to take a gamble and add them at bottling.

Dosing beer at bottling time is not an original methodology that I came up with.  Mike "Tasty" McDole, of Brewing Network fame, has discussed the idea at length.  His basic process is to take a base beer, add a precisely measure amount of flavoring to each bottle, cap and ship the beer.  Mike is fond of doing this because he has done very well in competitions with an apricot-flavored Dortmunder Export lager.   But, he personally dislikes drinking the beer and prefers to dose exactly the number of bottles needed for the competition and keep the rest of the base beer untouched.  I have also seen this process done in flavor demonstrations at homebrew club meetings, where generic industrial lagers are dosed with flavorings to help tasters identify specific flavors and beer flaws.

I have never dosed a beer at bottling before, but the above sources showed me the basic process.  The key is to pick a methodology to deliver the flavor and then determine precisely the amount of the flavoring to add.  One common method is to make a strong "tea" of the ingredient by steeping it in hot water or boiling it for a period of time.  In doing this with the rose hips, the resulting flavor was rather weak and uncharacteristic.  The other method is to add a concentrated extract of the flavoring.  Extracts can be made at home by soaking the ingredient in a neutral spirit and allowing the alcohol to extract the flavor.  I followed this method by filling a mason jar with 4 or 5 ounces of rose hips and topping up with vodka and letting the mixture sit for two weeks.  When it was done, I strained it through a coffee filter into a clean mason jar.

To determine the amount of extract needed, I took an experimental approach.  I pulled multiple 2 ounce samples of the carbonated base beer off of the tap and lined them up.  Then, I used a BBQ flavor injector syringe, which was clearly marked with mL on the side, and put drops into each sample.  In the first round, I added 3, 6, 8, 12, and 16 drops.  For the second flight, we did 10, 12, 14, 16, and 20 drops.  My wife, mother-in-law, and I smelled and tasted each sample, attempting to see which one was the best.  The general rule of thumb is to progressively add drops until the flavoring can just be tasted, which keeps it as a balanced flavor.  However, it is a very subjective process.

In the end, we liked 14 drops best.  That concentration allowed a significant rose hip character to come through, but preserved some of the dark chocolate flavor that we liked in the base beer.  I ramped this amount up to the full 12 ounce bottle volume by multiplying by six and then converting to mL, as that larger scale was easier to work with.  Then, at bottling time, I added the full 4 mL of extract to each bottle, topped up with beer using my beer gun, and capped on foam.  A total of 24 bottles were prepared this way, which allowed for enough beer to send to the Iron Brewer competition and some to hold in reserve.  The remainder of the keg of base beer could also be enjoyed in its own right.

If you have never tried dosing beer at bottling before, I recommend you give it a try.  It is a great way to work with unknown ingredients in a precise fashion.  You could also use this method to split a single batch into multiple variants by using different flavoring agents.  The limit is really your imagination.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...