Four Beer Spices (Part I of II)

A spiced dark beer.

Most brewers know a fair amount about barley and hops. They know barley is the seed of a species of grass (and specifically a cereal) and hops are cones from a vine. However, when we brew beers with other ingredients — such as fruits or spices — we might be familiar with its origin. In this article, I take a quick look at four spices commonly found in winter warmers and how to use them in brewing.

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Fortified Winter Warmer (3-gallon/11-L partial mash version)

905702_4643927971453_530286809_oWinter isn’t over yet, and winter warmers can — and should, if you ask me — be enjoyed throughout the winter, not just over the holidays. Here’s a 3.0-gallon (11-L) partial mash version of my spiced winter ale that could be ready by mid-February if you brew it around the New Year. [The 5.0-gallon (19-L) version was posted earlier.]

If you make the specified-sized yeast starter, the 8% ABV base beer should ferment and condition in about 6 weeks. Adding the “spice” — the Scandinavian liquor aquavit — bumps the beer up to 9% ABV and adds a hint of the anise-like character of caraway. Because the spicing of aquavit is consistent, you can be assured of hitting a reasonable level of spicing every time. [And since I only like a hint of spice, you can add more aquavit if you’d like more “licorice” character (and alcohol).]

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