Local Beet Beer Finale

September 24, 2009 at 8:39 am

Tom Keith

You never really know.


I rolled out The Local Beet Beer at The Local Beet Farm Dinner last Sunday, September 20. According to the label, it’s “An English-style Bitter completely screwed up by the addition of beets in the mash, and beet juice in the secondary fermentation.” Since beets are naturally sweet, I made it as a fairly sweet beer. People said nice things about it.

But, have you ever been to a dinner party where the chicken breast was about as juicy as the Anza-Borrego Desert? And upon leaving, have you said something like “Everything was soooo good!”?

When I offer a taste of my homebrew to friends, I try to encourage them to be brutally honest. And some are. But still, with many of them, they’ll take a sip and say “Gee, that’s nice.” Even though I clearly saw them wince as the brew passed into their gullet. And they didn’t take a second sip.

I recorded a few reactions to the Local Beet Beer.

Michael Morowitz, The Local Beet’s Grand Poo-Bah: “I like the sweetness. It’s very smooth. I don’t think I could drink a lot of this, though.”

Random taster: “It’s interesting … is it beer beer? Does it have alcohol?” [Yes, it does, but not a lot.]

Local Beet Backyard Columnist Brad Moldofsky: “It’s got the beet flavor. I think it’s the sweetness… it was surprising at first.”

Another random taster: “The Magic Hat [Wacko – the only commercially-made beet beer distributed in the Chicago area] tasted like something that was recycled through my dog. I normally like Magic Hat beers. But your beet beer is far superior.”

I blushed and mumbled at that comment.

Perhaps the most forthright assessment of Local Beet Beer came from the very young son of a prominent Chicago food writer. No, he didn’t sample it. It was just intuition that made him go up to the serving table, grab an open bottle, and dump it out on the ground.

You’ve gotta love an honest opinion.

But you never really know.


As a recap, the idea for a local beet beer came from an evening spent sampling beers at the Hopleaf.

It became the beginnings of reality.

Pressure was applied.

With gunk.

And then it went into bottles.


No one has yet identified the beet beer’s secret ingredient, despite the fact that subtle hints are sprinkled within some of the updates linked above. So, I am now offering to award a thoroughly inconsequential prize to the first person to accurately identify the secret ingredient in a comment on this article. (I could even make it a consequential prize, since I’m reasonably sure no one will get it. But I’m a cheap bastard, so I’ll leave it at inconsequential.)


Note to all of those who took a bottle of the beet beer home. It has a fairly high carbonation level. Be sure it’s very well-chilled before opening, unless you’d like a pinkish-red version of Old Faithful all over your pants.



  1. Sharon Ferguson says:

    Is the secret ingredient ginger?

  2. Katie says:

    Is the secret ingredient horseradish? If not can I guess again?

    • Tom Keith says:

      Sorry, no horseradish. Do you want to come over and go through everything in my pantry to help you guess?

  3. Sharon Ferguson says:

    secret ingredient guess: grains of paradise?

  4. Katie says:

    Honey (is that too mundane of a guess?) or agave nectar?

  5. KatieK says:

    Black pepper? or some other chile pepper?

  6. Tom Keith says:

    Sharon Ferguson got it (although I suspect she may have cheated). But since grains of paradise were historically used as a replacement for black pepper, KatieK comes in a close second.

    In his books, Randy Mosher discusses using grains of paradise to add a slightly peppery bite to beer. He recommends using 1/2 tsp per 5 gallon batch – I used a full teaspoon, but the effect might have been muted by the sweetness.

    For getting the right answer first, Sharon will get her own bottle of Local Beet beer. (For coming in second, KatieK might have to accept two bottles of Local Beet beer, if a suitable distribution method can be arranged.)

    • KatieK says:

      Yay, I’m glad I was close, especially since I consider myself an avid beer drinker. I’m in the west burbs, but if we can arrange something I would be willing to share a bit of my husband’s homebrew too (we have a Coriander Blonde that will probably be kegged this weekend)

      • Tom Keith says:

        To clarify the record, there was no way any cheating could have actually been involved, although I was surprised that anyone could identify what is a relatively obscure ingredient. That’s why Sharon gets a signed bottle of Local Beet Beer. KatieK’s bottles won’t be signed, but she can contact me at tkeith@thelocalbeet.com to figure out how to get her bottles. (Actually, anyone can contact me at that email address.)

  7. mark larson says:

    As a brewer and gardener who has about 70-80 lbs of beets in the rootcellar, I want to know if you think that all beers would be ruined by the addition of beets or was it just your english bitter? The reason I ask is because at the moment all of my carboys are full and My plan is to brew up a Bulls Blood Beet Stout when one of the next few opens up.

  8. Tom Keith says:

    I think beets would work well in a stout. I was working off a pale ale model, like Magic Hat’s Wacko, but the earthiness of the beets was a bit strong, so I had to sweeten the beer. With stronger, maltier, roasty flavors like you’ll have in a stout, the beet earthiness might be a good accent flavor, without being as overwhelming as they can be in a lighter beer. It also might be interesting to experiment with using the beets grated fresh into the secondary, versus roasting then mashing them, which is what I did.

    Let us know what you try and how it comes out.

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