by Jamie Martin, Brewmaster, Dells Brewing Co.
Adding flavor on the cold side can be fun and adds a whole new dynamic to your beer. Warning though, since this isn’t part of the natural brewing process these processes open the door to contamination. Great care must be taken in sanitation and preparation to ensure product quality is maintained.
Adding Fruit: There are about four ways to add fruit to your beer.
Fresh fruit; first clean it thoroughly, then freeze it and grind it up (Freezing helps lower the microbial count and breaks down the cell walls).
– Fruit puree (there are some really good aseptic purees on the market)
– Fruit juice
– Fruit concentrate.
Now that you have your fruit when do you add it? If you add fruit during fermentation it will increase the alcohol content, giving the beer a milder fruit flavor and a taste that leans more toward tart than sweet. Adding fruit after fermentation gives the beer a sweeter fruit flavor. A benefit of after fermentation fruit addition is there’s less chance of contamination and the addition will have no effect on the beers final gravity.
Barrel aging: When barrel aging beer, changing temperature will help create depth of flavor. Warm temperatures will let the beer into the wood and colder temperatures squeeze beer back out. If you don’t have the space to store a bunch of barrels you can put the barrel into the beer, wood spirals work great for this.
Gas and carbonation: If you end up with over-carbonated beer here’s how you can blow out the carbonation. Take head pressure off, set the gas regulator to 5 PSI, hook gas up to bottom of tank, make sure the blow off value is open, turn on gas for 30 seconds and put head pressure back on. Check & repeat if needed.
If you have time, it is much gentler on the beer to just release head pressure on tank, seal tank back up and CO will come out of solution on its own. Check & repeat if necessary.
Adding nitrogen to beer in a keg: First, don’t carbonate the beer. Fill the keg about 80% full (you need some head space), hook up a nitrogen line to a coupler and set the regulator to over 30 PSI (35 PSI will be plenty), let it nitrogenate for a day and check. Use a 75% N and 25% CO2 to push the beer and attach a nitrogen faucet.
Gas leaks: A simple way to find a gas leak is the bubble test. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water and spray it in the area you think has a leak; if there is a leak, bubbles will form; plus, side benefit, you just cleaned the area! Speaking of gas leaks, I highly recommend the installation of a CO2 alarm in your beer cooler. If a leak does occur you don’t want an unsuspecting employee to walk into a cooler full of CO2 and pass out.