Adjustments during the brewing process

by Jamie Martin, Brewmaster, Dells Brewing Co.

Whether you’re a new brewer, or an experienced one working with a new brewing system, the best calculations in the world can fail from time to time. Don’t worry there are back up plans.

Going lighter – You’ve mashed in or got to the boil stage and the color of your beer is too dark. Maybe your red looks brown or your blond is a little orange; dilution with water can bring your beer back to the color you want to achieve (remember you either haven’t boiled or are not done boiling it). The dilution will lower your gravity and affect your flavor profile but just slightly and that can be fixed with concentrated brewer’s wort or sugars during the boil. If you get all the way to the cold side and the color is just a little too dark adding a BBL of a lighter beer can be just the thing to bring the color down from brown to red.

Going darker – If your brown looks like an amber or your porter looks like a brown, there’s an easy fix. If you catch it during the mash, vorloff or sparge, add darker malts; the darker the better. I like Carafa¨; a very small amount is needed to darken the color. Add small amounts just a pound or two at a time and see where that takes you; you can always add more. Roasted barley and chocolate also work but they will alter your flavor profile more. If you can wait until the sparge to make your color adjust you’ll have the least amount of flavor profile change.

If you need color to increase only slightly during the boil, you can also extend your boil time; this will increase the caramelization of the sugars in the wort, resulting in a darkening in color (Maillard Reaction). If you need a little more help than these natural processes provide, then some CBW¨ (Concentrated Brewers Wort by Briess) dark or amber will increase the color. It also increases the gravity and flavor but not to a point where it drastically changes the beer into a different style. Addition of CBW¨ is a minor adjustment with small effects on flavor and gravity.

During the whirlpool, Sinamar® from Weyermann Malts is perfect for color adjustment it also works on the cold side if you need a last minute adjustment.

Another option on the cold side is the addition of a BBL of a dark beer; for a slight color adjustment this will push your color up to the next level.

Blending – Blending is not a bad word! Blending beer has been done for hundreds of years to create complexity of flavor. This allows the brewer to achieve a flavor profile that the natural brewing processes can not. Blending can also help you manage inventory and supply. For example; if nobody seems to want to drink pumpkin beer after Thanksgiving, blend that holiday seasonal with another beer to create a completely different beer that does sell. There is nothing wrong with adding one good beer to another good beer to create something unique and interesting.

Renaming your beer – Mishaps happen during brewing; call it like you see it. If you meant to brew a porter but in the end it is more like a brown ale; what’s wrong with just calling it a brown ale? No one knows what your original intentions were.

Rename a seasonal, after the season. Consumers don’t seem to like to drink Holiday Ale after December 25th. It’s not that they don’t like the beer; the name just throws them off. If you rename it, they’ll love the beer again.

There are a few buzz words that seem, for whatever reason, to scare some customers; bitter, spicy, mild and others. If you have a tasty beer that is not selling, try renaming it, the solution might be just that simple.