Another Local Beet Beer. Be very afraid.
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.
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.