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Special Ingredients Added to Beer

Although the four ingredients — barley, hops, yeast, and water — are all you need to make beer, they’re by no means the only ingredients used. Additional grains, natural sugars, and flavorings are often added to create special or unique flavors or to cut costs. These little additions are referred to as adjuncts.

Brewing artistes like to use a wide variety of nontraditional ingredients, including spices, fruits, and grains, to give their beers unique and unusual flavors. Big beer factories, on the other hand, tend to use adjunct grains to cut costs rather than to create different or innovative brews.

Many industrial brewers use adjunct grains that include unmalted cereal grains, such as corn and rice, to save money because barley is a relatively expensive grain. Using corn and rice as adjuncts also produces lighter and less malty beers. While some European brewers use between 10 and 20 percent adjunct grains in their beers, some large U.S. brewers are notorious for using as much as 30 to 40 percent adjunct grains (which is why some people call these add-junk beers!). In Germany, the use of adjuncts — or anything other than malt, hops, yeast, or water — in lagers is prohibited by the famed German Purity Law.

Non-grain adjuncts may include the following:

  • Brown sugar

  • Honey

  • Lactose

  • Maple syrup

  • Molasses

  • Treacle

Then you have the chemical additives and preservatives, including more than 50 antioxidants, foam enhancers, and miscellaneous enzymes. All these ingredients are permitted under U.S. law, but most small brewers, especially those in the U.S. craft beer movement, pride themselves on their voluntary exclusion of these additives and preservatives.

That some brewers put rather odd ingredients into their beers is no longer unusual. These days, adventurous beer lovers can find beers with fruits and fruit flavorings, licorice, herbs and spices, even whole jalapeño peppers right in the bottle! And as long as the market can stand it, brewers will continue to introduce beers with new and unique ingredients.

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