Making Use of Corn and Other Adjuncts In the Brewhouse: The Dark American Lager Refined

Maize for popcorn, cultivated in Hungary, prod...

Corn: used for snacks and American beer brewing.

I began my brew day yesterday with an idea I have had for weeks now. Nothing ground breaking but something I have never tried before, (actually a few,but I’ll get to that later).  Seeing as I live in the Southeastern US, where hominy grits are the reigning king and most southerners are raised eating the stuff every morning for breakfast, it dawned on me that it’s LOADED with beautiful starches…perfect for a mash. I have a weird thing, every time I go into a whole foods market or through the breakfast isle in this case, I look for “other” ingredients to use when brewing. Oats, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, and grits can all be used in brewing and are very easy to get a hold of at least in my neighborhood. So why not give grits a shot. After all you can’t argue about the price I think it was like $2.00 for 2 lbs. Not a wallet buster by any means. The grits I used were quick grits which I gather is cheating when making grits for breakfast. But I don’t care, I wanna drink em not eat em! I used the Quaker Brand and you would think in North Carolina you would be able to get an array of different grits! I guess that is not the case, or I was just in the wrong supermarket, more than likely the latter.

I was going to use Polenta but it can be a little difficult to find around here. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal (that’s ground corn to you!) Most people eat polenta as side dish or mix it with other foods and sauces.  Better known in the brewing world is Maize or flaked maize which is just basically corn , of which the mega breweries use in the world’s most popular beers.  Miller Brewing, Coors, Yuengling , and countless others use some corn in place of barley malt much unlike the traditional all-barley malt beers of Europe. Adjuncts tend to be shunned by beer snobs as cheap alternative to all barley mashes. It is against the German Reinheitsgebot and is generally looked down upon in continental Europe largely because of this old fashioned law. But here in America some of the first colonial brewers of beer, used corn and just about anything else they could get their hands on, but corn is easy to grow and was/is plentiful in America’s temperate climate. Corn has been a staple in the American diet since before there was an “America”. Colonial beer brewers used corn for food and their beer making extensively. Back in those days, barley was an expensive commodity and often had to be imported. Nowadays modern home brewers who want to use corn in their beer use flaked maize made available at their local homebrewers supply store.  Flaked maize is already cooked down by the malting company and can be added directly to the mash. To use grits, rolled oats, pearled barley, buckwheat, spelt, wheat, etc. etc., you would need to cook them down yourself in what is known as a “cereal mash”. The cereal mash will soften starchy whole grains like grits and rolled oats, and make the starches readily accessible to the enzymes in the final mash. All you have to do is mix them with hot water at certain temp, for a certain amount of time. In my case the quick grits calls for a 5 minute steep in boiling water.

My recipe originally called for UK Pale Malt as the base malt, this is mostly what I have on hand in bulk these days. The intention was to make a dark american lager similar to Shiner Bock, Negra Modelo (even though it’s from mexico),  and Dixie Blackened Voodoo. That being said, I am not terribly impressed with anyone of those beers by any means , but I believe I could make a beer in that style with a better flavor. In my opinion these beers taste cheap and could be brewed better. Nothing against anyone who likes and enjoys them, again: just my opinion.
This style of beer calls for corn as part of the grist. This is not a requirement but is very common in this style to use corn/maize. I suppose any other adjunct would work but it IS called an American dark lager so corn it is! Whats more of an American adjunct than corn?  As i said before the closest thing to flaked maize is polenta. I did toy with the idea of using just cornmeal but i could not find any that did not have some sort of a rising agent mixed in with it. Since I don’t plan on baking with it, there is no need to add that sort of nonsense in my beer! The grits however are enriched with B-vitamins, and niacin which is no big deal.
As I said the original recipe started out with UK pale malt as the base. The problem with this is that pale malt is a 2-row malt but is kilned at a higher temp ( or for a longer duration, I’m not sure) than normal 2-row brewers malt, pilsner, and 6-row brewers malt. Pale malt benefits greatly for the extra time in the kiln taste-wise, but not so good when brewing with ingredients with no starch converting enzymes. In other words even though pale malt has more bready, toasty flavor than your normal 2-row, it has less active enzymes because of the long kilning process. So I decided to use some Briess American 6-row which is LOADED with enzymes and is very adjunct friendly in addition to the tasty UK Pale malt. 6-row also has a larger husk which aids in better lautering. This is also the first time using 6-row in any recipe. I must say that I plan to use it again when a tall order of enzymes are needed. The directions on the grits package said to boil the grits in water for at least five minutes… so it was obvious to me that I was going to use a decoction style of mashing. I figured I could kill a few birds with one stone : 1). break down the grits in the decoction boil  2). get better mash efficiency due to the decoction  3). darken the beer more naturally with the heat of decoction boiling   4). mash in at lower temp thereby eliminating the problem of dough balls….something I have grown to despise almost as much as a stuck sparge  5). get a better lauter due to the breaking down of the proteins in the barley malt 6). get more intense flavor from the malt as a result from the decoction boil. It all sounds like a win-win scenario!

A decoction boil must be stirred very frequently. Because of the thickness of the pull, the mash tends to stick to bottom of the pot.

I mashed in at 136 +/- degrees F. I let the mash sit for about 20 minutes to shake the enzymes loose and into the mash water. I then took a separate pot and used a screen colander with a handle on it, and a quart sized measuring cup. If you have read one of my previous articles  found here:    the ratio I use is 1 quart of thick mash per pound of grist in the recipe. In my case it was 12 pounds so I tried to get out 12 quart sized pulls of the thickest mash. I mashed in pretty thin to begin with so there was still a lot of mash water left in the mash tun after pulling out most of the grain to boil. I then added the 12 oz of grits and boiled the decoction for 20 minutes, more than enough time to break down and soften the grits and to pulverize the rest of the grist , releasing the great flavor of the barley.  When I added back the hot decoction, it then brought the temp of the main mash up to conversion levels, about 154 degrees. The previous hold at 136-138 favored the Beta enzymes and the higher temps 154 +/- favors the Alpha which should make for a nice fermentable wort. SEE HERE :   With addition of the 6-row barley malt, the remaining enzymes immediately went to work and the  mash took about 25 mins to complete full starch conversion per the Iodine test.  The great thing about using decoction is how the boil really breaks down the grist which tends to aid in excellent lautering, great overall mash extraction, and breaks down the hazy proteins that don’t belong in your beer and are better off left in the spent mash grain.You will also find that when recirculating the mash, it will clear much more quickly than a normal single infusion as shown in the picture below.

Mash tun after decoction. Note the huge amount proteins left behind on the top of the mash bed.

The recipe:
I am not expecting the grits to add anything in the way of flavor based on the fact that grits do not have a real taste to speak of. I won’t truly know until the actual beer is in my glass. I am hoping to get some flavor from them, but no big deal if there’s nothing, I think I may use polenta next time anyway. If you decide to brew this recipe remember: you don’t have to use a decoction mash, you can simply do a cereal mash which is just cooking the adjunct (grits, oats etc) before adding to the mash. That way you break it down enough to let the enzymes do the thing they do best. Your best bet is to follow the directions (if you have them) as in my case the grits, It said to boil 5 minutes , which is again what I did by adding them in the decoction. After you cook the adjunct of your choice just add them to your normal mash routine, then check for conversion with the iodine test. Just be sure to adjust for a lower efficiency then shown below if you decide not to use the decoction mash.  If you do decide to use this exact recipe, give me feedback! I would love to read your comments bad or good! And I will update on my end.  Slainte!
12.0 oz Grits (1.0 SRM) Adjunct 6.25 % 6 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 50.00 % 4 lbs Pale Malt (6 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 33.33 % 1 lbs Caramel Malt - 80L 6-Row (Briess) (80.0 SRGrain 8.33 % 4.0 oz Carafa II (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) Grain 2.08 % 0.50 oz Tradition [5.80 %] (Dry Hop in secondary or keg) Hops - 0.40 oz Warrior [17.70 %] (60 min) Hops 19.6 IBU 1 Pkgs German Lager (White Labs #WLP830) Yeast-Lager
Estimated OG: 1.058 SG Estimated Color: 16.2 SRM Estimated IBU: 19.6 IBU Brewhouse Efficiency: 88.00% Boil Time: 60 Minutes

3 responses to “Making Use of Corn and Other Adjuncts In the Brewhouse: The Dark American Lager Refined

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