The Local Beet: Chicago

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Local Beet Beer

Making a beer with beets may be unusual, but it’s not unheard of. Tim Butler, brewmaster at Empire Brewing, a brewpub in Syracuse, NY posted a YouTube video about a beet beer he made recently. Magic Hat in South Burlington, VT also makes one as a summer seasonal. It’s called Wacko.

I got this one at Binny’s in Skokie. Beautifully clear, amber-red color, some malt in the nose. Malt-forward, barely sweet, easy-drinking flavor. Goes light on the hops. But except for the use of beets, it’s not nearly as Wacko as some of the more extreme stuff Nick Floyd turns out. Actually, for a product named Wacko, it’s fairly boring.

It got me thinking (yeah, thinking happens sometimes). I might be able to make a more interesting beet beer than Wacko. And shouldn’t the Local Beet have its own beer? Not for sale, of course, but something for Morowitz, Gardner, and the others to swill during the Local Beet’s frequent brainstorming sessions that I’ve never been invited to.

So I went to Henry’s Farm, at the Evanston Farmers’ Market, and got 1 1/2 lbs. of Red Ace beets. Peeled and roasted in a 450° oven.

Wacko, at 4.5% ABV, is meant as a summer quaff. It’s a reddish equivalent of a lawnmower beer. But the Local Beet beer will be for late summer, or fall. I wanted to make something a little bigger.

Into the mash tun (in a previous life, it was an Igloo cooler) went: a) 10 1/4 lbs. of Pilsner malt from Rahr, in Minnesota, made from Montana barley; b) 1 lb. of Cara Red, for color and body, from Weyermann, in Germany; c) 1 lb. of Aromatic malt, from Castle, in Belgium – for aroma – duh; d) the roasted beets; and e) a secret ingredient, which, naturally, I won’t disclose – no way, no where, no how – at least not without a proper bribe.

After a basic decoction mash (for more maltiness), the sparge runoff went into the boil kettle.

Damn – that’s one bright red wort. (Note: no color correction on the photo.)

This went into the boil, with only a moderate amount of hops – some Palisades hops for bittering, Glacier for flavor. I ended up with a little over 5 gallons of wort in the fermentation tank (aka plastic bucket), and threw in a classic London ESB yeast (Wyeast 1968) for maltiness and a slightly sweet finish. I stupidly forgot to take an O.G. reading, but it should end up in the 6%+ ABV range. It’s now just beginning to bubble away happily.

So far, it looks good. But there are many more steps in the process, which means many more opportunities for me to screw this up. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted by on August 10, 2009.

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Categories: Hoppin' Around with Tom Keith

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