As brewers embrace whimsy in pints, some are looking to a Saturday morning breakfast staple from childhood and adding cereal to their beers. When done correctly they can evoke the familiar flavors contained in the box and even get a boost from specialty malts, lactose, and specific hop varietals to round out a complete AM experience.
Bolero Snort Brewing Company is no stranger to cereal beers. Since its inception in 2011 the New Jersey brewery has been having fun with its beers, brewing ales inspired by (and sometimes containing) cereal, owner and brewer Robert Olson Jr. has learned a thing or two.
Here he shares tips for creating a tasty concoction that pays homage to sugary flakes while still resembling beer.
John Holl: What goes into developing a recipe for a cereal beer?
Robert Olson: Think of the whole concept. We make a beer called Fruity Pebbulls, that is a nod towards a certain cereal and we wanted to make sure that it evoked the flavors and aromas of everyone’s favorite breakfast treat, because using the cereal isn’t enough. So, we added layers in constructing the grist. We add a lot of milk sugar and we also add a lot of fresh lime zest in addition to our hop combination. The end result tastes like the end of the bowl that we all love so much.
JH: What have you learned over time, making cereal-accented beers?
RO: Figure out how best to use it as an ingredient. If you put cereal in the mash, an exorbitant amount of aromas and flavor will be lost by the end. We usually add cereal post fermentation. Using a circulation tank and a lot of screens works best for us because it’s how you get the truest flavors. We also use nylon bags that are more expensive than muslin but can take a beating. Cereal turns to mush in beer and you don’t want a bag breaking. It is tough to clean up.
JH: What about after brewing?
RO: Filtration is your friend. We’ve had a few hiccups over the years, most of the time it’s because of sediment that slogs down equipment. If you’re using a beer that is dusted with something like cinnamon and sugar it’s going to leave that behind. So we will filter the beers and then transfer it to bright tanks to settle out for a few days to allow for extra particles to drop out, and then we’ll package the beer. We don’t want that getting through our canning line.
JH: When you make a cereal beer are you going to the grocery store and buying them out?
RO: We’ve done that, but we’ve actually found that you can buy a whole lot of family size boxes direct from Amazon. They are already coming to the brewery with other items, why not cereal too? The drivers don’t like us on those days. You can sometimes find knock-off brands that taste similar and cost a few dollars less. However, if you’re going for the “authentic” route make sure you use what people expect.
JH: What else have you learned?
RO: Don’t get sued. Know IP and trademarks, make sure you’re not infringing on anyone when making these beers. Also make sure people know it’s still beer. Don’t lose the flavor of the base beer because that’s the point. If you’re making a stout with cinnamon and sugar make sure the stout is still there.
JH: You’ve made a few of these and have a regular one in rotation. Obviously, the customers love it. What do they tell you?
RO: There’s whimsy in these beers. They are special, they are tasty; they are usually hyped up a bit so people walk through the door excited to try them and we can charge accordingly for that since these are expensive to make and labor intensive, and tie up tanks. They are happy when they try it and then share it on social media and that gets people excited to try it, and hopefully some of our other beers too.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.