The Adjunct That Dare Not Speak Its Name
On yesterday's post, Average Bill (aka Bill Schneller, famous local homebrewer) added an important caveat to my observation that adjuncts are back in vogue. They are, he agrees, except for a biggie:
One big adjunct is missing from your list: sugar. It's still underutilized and reviled as a "cheap" ingredient by too many brewers and craft beer drinkers. The biggest flaw in most US made "Belgian" beers is the lack of adequate enough amounts of sugar which is why the US ones tend to be sweeter and less attenuated than the real thing.This is totally true: sugar continues to carry the taint of an unwholesome ingredient. Looking at other beer drinkers, I think there's another element to it, though. Many American beer drinkers don't cotton to sugared beers. There's something about the lightness of body or the attenuation Bill mentions--it rubs them the wrong way. This is less the case with robust Belgian ales, though even there, the flavors sugar alcohol contribute seem to delight American palates less than the heavy, malt-sugar flavors from all-barley strong ales. Beer is local, of course, and it seems like sugar is a bridge too far. Habaneros, okay. Sugar? Nuh uh.
And even though the early models of most US craft beers were English beers, most US brewers have never bought into using sugar in English styles. But, according to Ron Pattinson's research, English beers between 1880 and 1960 averaged about 15% sugar. And it wasn't done as a cost cutting move (since during the Wolrd Wars that 15% sugar cost as much as the rest of the entire grain bill). It was used both for flavor and to ensure consistency since malt varied from year to year. Sugar manufacturers actually made specific products just for brewing. But ask most US brewers about sugar in a standard strength beer and they'll look at you like you're crazy.