"Spices...... In Beer?"
This month column was written by Bob's friend
No one is sure exactly when hops became the preferred seasoning
in beer, but there is plenty of evidence of other plants, herbs and
spices having been used, and some still are. It may sound strange
but one of the most widely accepted speciality seasoning is
Liquorice. The use of liquorice in porters and stouts is a very old
The Belgians are the greatest users of herbs and spices in beer.
Even a relatively conventional Belgian brew sometimes turns out to
contain spices. Types of malt, or varieties of hop, can confer
spiciness. Many Belgian brewers in recent years have introduced
"Kruidenhieren" into the brewing process. The word Kruid means
herb or spice in Flemish. A good example is Houten Kop, from the
Strubbe brewery, at lchtegem, south of Bruges. Houten Kop,
translates to "Wooden Head," by the way. The beer has an orangy
color, with a palate to match. It is a bottle-conditioned beer, yeasty
and dry. If you come across one be sure to try it.
A year or two ago while on vacation in Belgium, I met a spice
merchant who showed me invoices from decades ago to
demonstrate that he has sold a wide variety of spices to large range
of his nation's brewers. He gave me a bit of history when he said
that many brewers once used figs as a fermentable material in the
production of "white" beers. Apparently when figs ferment, they
leave little trace of colour.
Today's most famous White Beer is produced in Hoegaarden,
without the help of figs, but with a definite spicing. The producer of
Hoegaarden Witbier, the De Kluis brewery, makes no secret of its
employment of Curacao orange peels and coriander, but declines to
disclose a third spice. When Hoegaarden is young it has a snap of
yeast bite, and is very much a dry, fruity, summer refresher. I
In the winter you'll more easily find more beers with more spices i.
Things like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, herbs,
and vanilla often appear.
If you're confused by any of this just try almost any beer from
Dogfish Head. For me they are the undisputed champs of using
spices including basil (Black Thai), lemon grass (Namaste),
crystallized ginger (Pangea), chiles (Theobroma), and juniper &
black tea (Sah’Tea).
I guess this only goes to prove the truth in the old saying - variety is
the spice of life (and beer)!
A special note to Bob's readers from Ken - I simply e-mailed this
story to Bob just as it suggests below. All I can say to anyone out
there is give it a try. It was a great experience. I got to actually
speak to Bob too. He was incredibly supportive and helpful. Beer
people really are the best!
Many thanks to Bob and to everyone at BeerNexus!!
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"the ombudsman of beer"
Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
My thanks to Ken for this month's column.
See you next time to
"speak about beer".
|Want to be a "friend of Bob" and write a guest
column? Just e-mail your article to Bob HERE.