Another Local Beet Beer. Be very afraid.

January 24, 2012 at 6:05 am

Here we go again.

There will be another batch of Local Beet beer coming out (it was Editor-at-Large Rob’s idea – blame him, not me).

We’re trying to figure out a way that you, dear reader, can sample some, perhaps in conjunction with The Local Beet’s upcoming anniversary.

It was late summer, 2009, that I made the first batch of Local Beet beer. I bored you by writing about that journey here, and here, and here, and here, and even here.

Fresh, in 2009, the color was pretty good.

Fresh, in 2009, the color was pretty good.

I’ve kept a few bottles around. When it was fresh, the color was beet red (obviously). It’s now more amber, suggesting that the betalain pigments that give beets their deep red color degrade over time in an acidic environment like beer. Except for a slight beetiness in the flavor, you might think you were drinking a Scottish Ale – say, a 70 shilling heavy.

A few lessons I’ve learned. For one, there’s no need to mash the beets – mashing is used to convert malt and other grains’ starches to sugar for the yeast to nibble on; the sugars are already present in the beets. So I’ll just add beet juice to the secondary fermentation for the flavor and color.

For another, I learned that the true flavor of beets is based on a balance of earthiness and sweetness. Once you ferment something with beet juice, the yeast converts the sweet beet sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The remaining pure earthy flavor isn’t especially appetizing. So the sweetness has to be added back. Adding sugar would just further feed the yeast; it would up the alcohol content, but wouldn’t add sweetness to the end product. In the 2009 version, I used aspartame (I’ve had a long professional relationship with aspartame). It’s not fermentable, but some people aren’t comfortable with that combination of naturally-occurring aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It did add the needed sweetness, though.

For this batch, I’ll be adding lactose. It’s a milk sugar; it will add sweetness, but beer yeasts will ignore it.

So, the 2009 version wasn’t good for people with phenylketonuria.

The 2012 version won’t be good for people with lactose intolerance.

And, by the way, both contain gluten from the barley used in the mash, so they’re not good for anyone with Celiac disease.

Hell, it’ll probably be too dangerous for anyone to drink. I just might keep it all for myself.



  1. Jacky says:

    Oh, love the color of that beer. I bet it is delicious.

  2. Natasha says:

    Take it to first Thursdays at Goose Island? (Not that I go, but still.) That’s one potential way to share it.

    I mean, if it’s not too dangerous to share.

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