Beyond Barley: Embracing Alternative Grains

Whenever the title of a extensively distributed American adjunct lager lingers pejoratively on the tongue, a prevailing knowledge tends to put the blame of any perceived “low-cost” or “poor” tastes on adjuncts like corn and rice. The Brewers Association, a commerce affiliation that works to outline and advocate for craft beer, as soon as excluded brewers who used them from its coterie.

That modified in 2014.

“As time went on, from the definition being in place, I believe there got here a heightened sensitivity to the truth that issues aren’t so black and white,” says Julia Herz, the craft beer program director on the Brewers Association.

To outline adjuncts: In all instances, they’re unmalted sources of fermentable sugars and might embrace grains, honey, fruits, agave nectar and extra. So, sure, barley may be an adjunct, whereas rye normally isn’t (it’s most regularly used within the type of rye malt).

Some of the concepts about them are true: Adjuncts could make beer cheaper to provide, and even the early brewers who embraced them drew a taste line. But adjuncts have been a definite attribute of American beer because the industrial age as a result of they made beer higher.

“I believe there’s a whole lot of title and high quality and emotion wrapped up in using adjuncts,” says Aaron MacLeod, who has studied brewing grains as director of the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food and Beverage in Oneonta, New York. “I believe that the U.S. has an extended and proud historical past of adjunct brewing, particularly with corn and rice.”

It’s a press release with which Herz agrees, and a part of the rationale adjuncts now adjust to the “conventional” totem of the Brewers Association’s definition.

“Adjuncts performed an enormous function within the historical past of beer kinds within the United States,” she says.

The following sections clarify how among the most typical adjunct grains emerged and supply a bit data as to what they add to—fairly than detract from—beer.


“In North American brewing, if we take a look at the historical past as much as craft brewing, the most important adjuncts had been corn and rice,” says Paul Schwarz, a professor at North Dakota State University who research malt and cereal grains. In the Americas, corn’s ubiquity and excessive starch content material made it a straightforward alternative for brewers trying to loosen up lagers made with high-protein (and restricted) barley. Even some Colonial brewers turned to corn to make beer, based on Schwarz.

(File Photo)

Anton Schwarz, a Czech-born brewery advisor and supervisor (of no relation to the above-mentioned professor), started advocating for using corn in industrial brewing within the 1860s and was extremely influential in its present relationship to brewing. In 1868 he immigrated to the United States, the place he opened Schwarz Laboratories for analysis and coaching and edited The American Brewer.

Appropriately, it was Schwarz who advisable brewmaster J.F. Theurer to Pabst—Theurer was behind Pabst’s well-known exposition-winning (and corn-including) beer in 1893.

“In principle, the starch in corn is just like the starch in barley. So in principle you would make a beer with malt and corn that has an identical carbohydrate profile to a beer made with 100 p.c malt,” says Schwarz, the North Dakota State professor.

Corn seems in basic American adjunct lagers akin to Yuengling’s signature beer (now thought of craft by the Brewers Association), in addition to in newer-wave beers like Fullsteam Brewery’s El Toro cream ale and three Floyds Brewing Co.’s Corn King IPA. Corn lightens physique and shade whereas sustaining alcohol content material and can be utilized in brewing within the type of grits, flakes or syrups.

Anthony Accardi, brewer at New York City’s Transmitter Brewing, makes use of corn for a cheeky twist on a farmhouse ale in his brewery’s F6.

“Basically [it’s] in some methods mimicking High Life as a reference level,” Accardi says. “We’re including some Brettanomyces to it that may give it some funkiness or earthiness that may by no means be applicable to an American mild lager.”


As an adjunct, rice was used regularly amongst brewers in industrial America. Due to rice’s restricted availability and its fussiness, nonetheless, corn overtook it in giant measure towards the shut of the 19th century.

Rice, like corn, is low in fat and protein and excessive in starch, making for beer that’s lighter in shade, taste and physique. But whereas most corn is pretty simply transformed into fermentable product by the additional enzymatic exercise of barley, rice wants a bit one thing additional (increased cooking temperatures, additional bacterial enzymes) to be added into beer.

For one of the crucial basic beers made with rice, look no additional than Anheuser-Busch InBev’s famed Budweiser. Like corn, rice’s utility can also be being rediscovered amongst smaller producers. For occasion, Melvin Brewing Co. and Monkey Paw Brewing Co. partnered for a double IPA referred to as “This One Goes to 11,” brewed with sticky rice and Minute Rice, as a gibe at massive beer.

At Transmitter, Accardi works with rice as a part of a wider effort “to make use of all the colours on the palette” on the subject of brewing with grain. “To me there aren’t guidelines to what a beer ought to be or shouldn’t be,” he says.

Transmitter’s S8 saison makes use of rice to maintain the beer’s physique and shade mild and refreshing, with the rice offering a delicate canvas for the spicy saison pressure and German fragrant hops within the ale.

“Some individuals really feel like they style a bit little bit of sake-ness to it. … I’m undecided that I ever perceived that,” says Accardi.
Stillwater Artisanal has additionally used rice to make its Extra Dry saison (although that brewery’s beer is supposed to bring to mind sake), and Bayou Teche Brewery makes use of rice to maintain its snappy Ragin’ Cajuns Kölsch mild and fluffy.


Wheat’s excessive protein content material—and likewise the soluble nitrogen present in wheat flour—has made it a go-to alternative for brewers searching for higher head retention. Unmalted wheat helps represent lambics and witbiers, and gives a extra pronounced cloudiness and uncooked, grainy style over malted wheat. That cloudiness is one cause flour has often been utilized in making New England-style IPAs like Tired Hands Brewing Co.’s Milkshake., a collaboration with Omnipollo.

Wheat didn’t initially take off in American brewing, professor Schwarz says, as a result of it was too worthwhile of a meals crop to justify turning it into beer. Now, although, brewers are going past commonplace wheat to heirloom varieties like spelt so as to add a brand new stage of rusticity and complexity to their drinks.

Let’s be clear: German hefeweizen and Berliner weisse beers predominantly use malted wheat, not adjuncts. But within the instances of beers like Blue Moon or Lindemans Cuveé René, unmalted wheat helps produce the fluffy head and bready style.


Some papers counsel using oats in European brewing was pretty current till the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity regulation). It would make sense given the context of how different adjuncts emerged: Oats are a hardy crop that develop effectively within the chilly and moist climes of nations like Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The most typical fashion of beer to which Schwarz has traced using oats can be the British oatmeal stout, the place he has discovered references relationship again to the 1800s. A distinctly easy and creamy fashion, the beer has a distinguished mouthfeel that comes from oats’ excessive ranges of a non-fermentable fiber referred to as beta-glucan, Schwarz says. Beta-glucan not solely produces viscosity in beer, it additionally occurs to be the factor that Cheerios advertises as heart-healthy.

The oats in Terrapin Beer Co.’s Rise-n-Shine espresso oatmeal stout, which is aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels, serves for example of how oats can provide what would possibly in any other case be a syrupy beer a lighter texture just like aerated cream. Oats additionally function a base to the beer’s intense nostril and taste profile, laying down an oatmeal-like canvas to bind collectively notes of bittersweet chocolate, darkish fruit and warming booze.

Recommended utilization ranges of oats are low in beer. One 1943 analysis paper argues that round 10 p.c within the mash is sufficient, and solely with “good malt.” And Randy Mosher, a columnist for this journal and creator of books akin to The Brewer’s Companion and Radical Brewing, has prompt in his writing oat utilization of someplace between 5 and 10 p.c.

Accardi says he provides oats to beers like his G2 Belgian pale ale if “we need to give it a bit additional one thing when it comes to the way it feels.”

“We attempt to think about all of the aesthetic angles,” he continues. “We’re nonetheless utilizing largely barley, ’trigger that’s what
beer is.”

Buckwheat, The Pseudo-Grain

Though often talked about in the identical breath as spelt, emmer and durum, one ingredient displaying up in beer not too long ago, buckwheat , isn’t really a grain in any respect.

“It could possibly be thought of a pseudocereal,” stated Prof. Paul Schwarz of North Dakota State University. Cereal grains come from grasses; buckwheat doesn’t. However, buckwheat does bring to mind a profile just like rustic wheat in beer, and may be malted or used as an adjunct.

“Buckwheat is basically lovely […] with an earthiness and nuttiness that aren’t actually present in the identical method in a lot else,” stated Brian Buckman, co-founder and head brewer of Illuminated Brew Works in Chicago, Illinois, whose 2016 Pareidolia Belgian Pale Ale incorporates unmalted buckwheat, Asian pears and amchur (dried mango powder).

Buckman described buckwheat as “a really massive, daring taste,” and daring it’s certainly (it’s additionally the rationale Buckman makes use of pears in Pareidolia as a steadiness). Close your eyes whereas ingesting Pareidolia, and it’s simple to think about a freshly minimize hunk of whole-grain levain bread rather than your beer glass.   

What About Rye?

Rye use dates roughly again to medieval instances, showing in German roggenbiers and diverse Scandinavian fermented drinks. But given that the majority rye utilized in beer is malted, rye will not be normally an adjunct.

The utilization of rye in Europe fell out of favor across the begin of the 20th century, stated Paul Schwarz, as a result of rye is notoriously tough to work with. It has an identical excessive protein content material to wheat, which will increase the problem of sparging, and likewise comprises excessive ranges of pentosan, a posh carbohydrate that makes rye wort “thick and sticky.”

U.S. brewers are re-embracing the grain for its distinct spiciness, including it to beers from stouts to saisons and IPAs for steadiness and complexity.

Anthony Accardi, of New York’s Transmitter Brewing, provides rye to his NY1 Danko Rye saison for “a bit edge.”

“In phrases of layering the spice from the grain and the yeast alternative, after which perhaps selecting a hop that has a peppery end to it […] you’re mixing distinct however numerous layers of a sure taste,” he says.

Bo McMillan is the previous editorial assistant for All About Beer Magazine, and is at the moment pursuing his PhD in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Beers Brewed With Rice

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