Tips for brewing with spices

Many of my favorite fall and holiday beers are of the spiced variety. I love them all — pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon. The list could go on.

So when we decided it was time to brew our first spiced holiday beer, I realized that building a beer recipe with spices that are normally relegated to my Betty Crocker baking persona wasn’t as easy as it seemed.

Which spices will give me the right amount of holiday cheer? How much cinnamon should I add to get a hint of spice without overpowering? When should I add it? During the boil? At the end of the boil? In the secondary? So many decisions…

I figure I can’t be the only one out there who has debated these questions so I wanted to compile a few helpful links for brewing with spices for those wanting to create the perfect winter concoction.

In general, remember these three tips for spice beers:

  • More potent spices should be added in smaller doses
  • Adding spices earlier in the boil will pump up their flavor but provide less aroma
  • And subtle spices are usually best left for use in the secondary or post-boil.

This BYO article is by far my favorite on the subject, especially because they link to a handy-dandy excel cheat sheet in the “Getting Started” section of the article that lays out how much of each spice can be used and when in the brew process you might want to add it for best results. Keep in mind that amounts in the cheat sheet are max amounts to be used.

If you are wanting a little more color on specific favors imparted by certain spices, check out this Serious Eats post. They give a little more insight into what certain spice will do to your brew.

If you are more of a podcast person, check out this podcast from The Brewing Network on spice beers. This one is almost an hour long so I would recommend putting this one on in the background while checking other items off your to-do list, but it’s very helpful nonetheless.

Now that you have spice-wisdom, what type of spiced beer are you most interested in trying to brew?

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