Make us your home page
Instagram

Press yourself a fresh pint with home-infused beer

You can use a French coffee press for the ingredients you use to infuse your beer at home.

You can use a French coffee press for the ingredients you use to infuse your beer at home.

I recently tried a peculiar product that a friend brought back from a trip to Japan. It's called Beer Rich, and it's a beer-sized bottle filled about a third of the way with various flavoring ingredients, in this case rose petals and other botanicals. The idea is to mix it with hot water, let it cool in the fridge and then mix it with beer to create a freshly infused "beertail."

Any time the topic of beertails comes up, there's a good deal of scoffing — after all, if your beer needs a flavor infusion, aren't you simply drinking the wrong beer? Some restaurants refuse to provide salt and pepper at the tables, in deference to the chef's vision for his or her food. Shouldn't beer be held to such lofty standards?

No, it shouldn't. Beer is supposed to be fun, and infusing beer with ­flavors can have really cool effects. The rose-flavored Beer Rich certainly was interesting, but it had a fatal flaw: dilution of the base beer by adding what was essentially a fresh-steeped botanical tea.

Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery has a solution for the enterprising home beer-infuser. A spin-off of its proprietary hop-infusion chamber — Randall the Enamel Animal — the Randall Jr. is a 16-ounce infusion vessel you can fill with whatever weird ingredients you want. At $20, it's a cheap piece of beer hardware that you'll undoubtedly get good use out of.

But many adventurous beer drinkers are infusing beer at home with a household item that many people already own: a French press.

If you don't already have one, pick one up (your coffee will get better, too). Next, come up with some ideas. Fresh fruit, herbs and botanicals, whole spices, coffee and the original beer-infusion ingredient, hops, are all fair game. Make sure you have at least 22 ounces of beer; 36 ounces is a good amount for 12-ounce bottles and cans, and I'll explain why.

The key things to consider are quantity, time and carbonation. Quantity is obvious: Play with the proportions until you find an amount that gives the flavor you're looking for. Time is also pretty simple: The longer you allow something to infuse, the more intense the flavor will be. French-pressed coffee only takes a few minutes, but this is due to the high temperature. Cold-infused coffee takes hours. I recommend starting with 10 minutes for infusions and adjusting from there.

Carbonation is an issue. Pressing down on the French-press filter will cause a significant loss of CO2, which will lead to fairly flat beer. Many ingredients used to infuse beer also contain oils, which also lead to flat beer. If this bothers you, take two bottles or cans of beer, infuse a little stronger and longer than you might otherwise, and then top off the finished infusion with fresh, fully carbonated beer.

With this technique, you can try to recreate impossible-to-obtain beers. Can't get Goose Island's Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout? Neither can anyone else. Instead, get your hands on some regular Bourbon County Brand Stout and infuse it with toasted coconut (you can do this on the stove at home). Finding Cantillon Fou Foune a bit scarce? It's truly a poor man's solution, but you can always infuse some high-­quality gueuze with fresh apricot and use your imagination.

You can also go old school and infuse your beers with the original Randall ingredient: whole-leaf hops, which you can get at any homebrew store. You're basically doing a form of dry-hopping at home, which can increase the aromatic intensity of beers with floral, spicy and citrusy oils from the hops. Try it on a relatively mild beer, like a light lager, to experiment with different hop varieties. It's tasty and a good learning experience.

While some readers might start assembling a shopping list to make homemade Hunahpu's (go easy on the vanilla bean — it's expensive and a little goes a long way), I recommend getting as creative as possible. Make yourself a mango-coffee double IPA, or basil-lemon-aji pepper saison. Some may complain that you're not enjoying beer the way it was meant to be enjoyed, but they're just jealous of your new bootleg Tart of Darkness with Cherries and Vanilla. Press on!

— jg@saintbeat.com

Press yourself a fresh pint with home-infused beer 10/16/14 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2014 7:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. From the food editor: 'MasterChef' winner Shaun O'Neale talks cooking at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival

    Cooking

    There are certain reliable signs that fall is on the way. Nothing in the weather department, of course, but other markers that usher in the celebratory final months of the year. One of those things is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which happens annually in Orlando, seemingly longer and more jam-packed …

    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. The only two people looking forward to solar eclipse more than us

    Blogs

    Ah, yes. How could you have forgotten about Navarre and Isabeau (aka "Ladyhawke.") The star-crossed lovers from the 1985 film Ladyhawke can only defeat their evil curse (is there any other kind?) inflicted upon them by the Bishop of Aquila if they face him together "on a day without a night and a night without a …

  3. What is poke? Here's how to make the Hawaiian dish at home

    Cooking

    In Hawaiian, "poke" simply means "to cut."

    Tuna Poke Bowl: For a classic poke bowl, try this recipe with ahi (yellowfin) and only a few other ingredients.
  4. Taste test: shelf-stable milks for your hurricane kit

    Taste Test

    It was 25 years ago this week that Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. For those of us familiar with the damage, hurricane preparedness is always a priority. With that in mind, our tasters wanted to sample some of the staples for stocking a hurricane kit. We settled on milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated, …

  5. MOSI, SPC, libraries offer safe solar eclipse viewing Monday

    Events

    If you couldn't score some of the hard-to-find eyewear that will let you watch Monday's solar eclipse, have no fear, there are safe viewing choices across the Tampa Bay area.

    Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21

(Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)