Some Simple Flavors to Add to Your Next Homebrew

One of the remarkable things about brewing your own beer is the sheer amount of variety. The overall flavor of a batch of beer is influenced by a large number of different elements. Hops, yeast, water, and the combination of malts used can all affect the flavor of a beer. But you can take things a step further and add non-traditional flavorings. Inspiration can be found anywhere. My next product is a rootbeer beer because I found a bottle of rootbeer extract laying around.

This large amount of variety can sometimes make it seem like there are too many options. In reality, there is no best flavor to add to beer, but often there is a strong match between the style of beer and the flavor added, as some flavors work well with specific styles of beer, while others do not. Homebrewers frequently experiment with flavors, trying to determine what will work best with the particular type of beer that they are brewing.


Seasonal Flavors

One set of flavors that is sometimes added to beer is seasonal beer, flavoring that is particularly common in autumn and winter months, seasons that are strongly associated with flavors such as cinnamon, pumpkin and spice. Although these flavors can be added to beer all year round, they always seem the most suitable in these months, particularly nearing the holidays. Other seasonal flavors that are sometimes incorporated into beer include allspice, nutmeg and ginger, flavors that are often associated with pies.

Clove can be achieved easily with yeast, and using whole cloves should be done with utmost care. Those suckers are strong. Herbs and flowers are not so common, but used sparingly, can make some interesting beer. Even teas like chai can spice up a boring beer in a pleasant way.

Personally, I like these types of flavors with warmer, higher alcohol content beers like imperial ales.


Chocolate Flavors

Historically, adding chocolate flavor to beer has not been particularly popular, but there is increased interest in this flavoring in recent years, with many commercial breweries choosing to make chocolate beer styles. Specialty malts are often critical for creating the chocolate taste within beer, often leading to a non-sweet, chocolate flavor that mixes particularly well with darker beers.

Sam Adams Chocobock was a hit with a few of my friends, so I attempted to brew up a clone called Chocobock. Results were not spectacular.  I used quite a bit of cocoa powder in the fermenter. Though initial tastings were oh-so-chocolatey, the final results were somehow not-chocolatey-at-all. I'm not sure why, perhaps the clarifier I used dropped out all the chocolate floaties.

A friend of a friend of mine just used Hershey's Chocolate Syrup squeezed into the fermenter. The sugars of course fermented out, but what was left was much better than mine. Much better.


Coffee Flavors

The addition of coffee flavors to beer is particularly popular, and this is a flavor that works particularly well with dark roasted beers like porter and stout due to the heavy flavor that these beers already have. In general, coffee flavors do not work well with lighter flavored beers as they tend to drown out the other flavors present in the beer. I had a coffee flavored pale ale once that was very strange to drink. It was very yellow, but obviously coffee, and a bit overwhelming to the senses.

Coffee works well in stouts and porters. I've mostly heard of using coffee in the fermenter to avoid bitterness, but usage varies. You can use whole beans, cracked beans, ground coffee, or cold-brewed coffee. Don't go overboard with the coffee, we're drinking beer here guys.


Fruit Flavors

The use of fruit flavors in beer is not certainly uncommon, and just about every fruit has probably been tried in beer at some point or another. Some of the more common fruits include raspberries and peach, but the specific fruit flavor chosen is often directly related to what the brewer is looking for as well as the qualities of the beer that is being brewed.

Citrus is a popular flavor. Though my orange clove wit started off with a bang of orange zest, it later died out after bottling for some reason. Citrus can be worked in via hops, yeast, or fruits of various kinds. A buddy of mind brewed a Pomelo IPA which turned out awesome.

Matching fruit to a style of beer can be a challenge. There are some more obvious matches like dark fruits with darker beers, like dates and raisins in brown ales, doppelbocks, or darker Belgian styles. Citrus goes well with IPAs, pale ales, or even sours. But when you get to things like dragon fruit, guava, mango, cherries, and anything else, well, the rules go out the window.

You can add flavor extract, but careful not to add too much. A bit too many strawberry drops and you end up with strawberry jolly ranchers instead of strawberry shortcake. You can juice the fruit and add it to the fermenter (or end of the boil). You can mash with it, boil it, or add the raw fruit meat to the fermenter. I added toasted coconut to my secondary for a 2nd version of my Thai PA. The coconut came through all right, but I think I liked the non-coco version better.


photo credit: nicolerugman


About Nate

I created this website almost two years ago when I first started homebrewing. Like my brewing, it's been through many changes over the years.

I'm a full time online marketer and brewing beer is my hobby. You'll find a mix of all topics related to craft beer and homebrewing at xBREWx!

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