Thursday, April 4, 2013

Doctoring Beer Post Kegging

I have posted previously about my experiments using tinctures and other elements to alter the flavor of finished beer.  The general idea is that by tasting small volumes of beer, and adding measured amounts of flavorings, you can more precisely control the final blend of flavors.  When the desired flavor profile is reached, the flavorings can be scaled up to the final package size (bottle, bomber, keg, etc.).  I have used this method half a dozen times and found it quite a bit of fun.

Last weekend I thought of an idea to extend tincturing and flavor additions further.  We have a keg of a Dead Guy Ale clone that is about a third full.  The beer is very mild tasting and comes across the palate slightly watery.  It has not been the most popular keg on tap and we have grown slightly bored of it.  While pulling a pint, I wondered if I could alter the flavor of the keg to make it more interesting.  The process would be similar to adding tinctures before, with a few differences.  First, you would need to brainstorm what flavors would be compatible with the beer, as it already exists in a finished state.  Then, after tasting a variety of flavor additions and picking the desired one, you would have to sample for concentration and ramp up the flavoring addition to match the amount of beer left in the keg.

For the Dead Guy Ale clone, we tried the following flavorings:

  • Lemon extract
  • Rosehip tincture
  • Hazelnut extract
  • Islay scotch that had soaked in oak cubes
  • Kahlua
  • Cinnamon tincture
The lemon extract was the winner by far, though the Islay scotch had enough oak tannins in it that it smoothed and blended with the beer in an interesting way, as well as adding a distinctive mouthfeel.  After selecting the lemon extract, my wife and I dosed 2 ounce samples until we ended up with the dosing rate of 5 drops in a sample.  This scaled up to 320 drops in a gallon (or 9 mL per gallon).

However, with a sealed keg, we had no idea of how much beer was left.  To estimate the amount, I pulled the keg out of the kegerator for 5 minutes or so.  After that time, a condensation line was clearly visible on the outside of the keg.  Measuring the number of inches the line was from the bottom, versus the total height of the metal part of the keg, provided me with estimate of 1.5 gallons remaining.  I used this volume to come up with the dosing amount of 14 mL, which we added to the keg.

After shaking the keg up to mix the lemon extract in and letting settle for a day, the altered beer has a very distinctive lemon character and gives the impression of a shandy.  I must say that we both like it a good deal more now and I think the keg will not last much longer.  It was a change for the better.

Have you ever altered the flavor of a partially full keg, whether through adding flavorings or blending with another beer?  If so, leave us a comment and let us know your experiences.




  1. Great idea! We have a keg of Hefe we have grown bored with. We'll have to come up with a few options and doctor it up this weekend.

  2. Keith,

    Thanks for the comment. Let us know how it goes and what options you end up trying.



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