A hazy pale ale with juicy orange slices. A roasty porter with vanilla beans and freshly ground coffee. No matter the ingredients, beer infusions make craft beer even more creative, enticing, and more enjoyable for you!
Think of a beer infuser – also known as a hop rocket or Randall – as a metal tea bag hooked into a beer line. (It’s about the size of a growler.) Once installed, you have the creative freedom to fill the infuser with whatever you want mixed into a beer. When you or a beertender pulls the tap handle, beer moves from the keg, through the infuser to soak up the product, back into the line, before fragrantly filling your glass.
Infuser vs. Hop Rocket vs. Randall
An infuser is often referred to as a hop rocket because brewers can fill it with hop flowers to dry-hop their beer. (For more on dry-hopping vs. wet-hopping, check out our previous blog post.) Some also call the metal flavor chambers “Randalls,” a name credited to Dogfish Head which still sells “Randall Jr.” versions for home use if you’re interested in DIYing beer infusions after reading more about why we love to infuse beer with various ingredients.
At Garth’s Brew Bar, we prefer to call them “infusers”, because we go above and beyond using only hops. You can use nearly any edible product–whatever you think would be tasty mixed into your favorite craft beer. A few infusions we’ve tried at Garth’s Brew Bar so far include:
- A pale ale infused with fresh watermelon
- A kölsch infused with whole coffee beans
- A pale ale infused with SweeTARTS
- A peanut butter porter infused with Count Chocula cereal
- A blonde ale infused with ginger snap cookies
Craft beer bars aren’t the only places to find creative infusions. Breweries are also playing around with beer and fun flavors. For example, check out this Instagram post where Lupulin Brewing (Big Lake, MN) infused Warheads sour candies into their hazy IPA Hooey. Or this post where they infused marshmallow Fruity Pebbles bars into 8 Count, their tropical IPA.
Herbs, vegetables, tea – the world is your oyster! (Although, we’re pretty sure an oyster beer infusion would be bad.)
How Does A Beer Infusion Work Exactly?
With infusions, each glass of beer is a new experience. The infuser acts as a flavor chamber, allowing beer to steep when beertenders aren’t pulling out pints.
The infuser itself can hold around a pint (16oz) of beer. When it’s not flowing, the beer sits in the infuser and continues to soak up the flavors and aromas of whatever you’ve added. You will notice a significant flavor or color difference in a beer pulled quickly through the infuser versus one that steeped for several minutes. Flavors will intensify, and color will likely vary.
When a beertender pulls down on the tap handle, carbon dioxide pushes beer from the keg into the tap line, as normal. With the infuser hooked up as an intermediary, beer then flows through the flavor additions inside the chamber, from the bottom up. The beer passes through metal filters, soaks in flavor from whatever you’ve added, then comes out the top and back into the line. The filters inside the infuser ensure beer is spread out evenly through the product within. Beer continues through the line, out the tap, and into your glass – born again as a new medley of your favorite craft beer and unique ingredient(s).
With freshly ground or small ingredients – like cereal or coffee grounds – we put the product in a nylon mesh bag before dropping it into the infuser. (We got ours from Wine and Hop Shop on Monroe Street.) The bag keeps the ingredients inside the infuser so particulates don’t flood the line, potentially causing clogs or landing in your beer glass. We also avoid ingredients that would become too sticky once soaked in beer, like Gushers candy or honey, as they could clog and damage the infuser or the beer line.
Flavor-infused Craft Beer Tasting Experience
Infusion affects your beer tasting experience beyond the flavor of the drink. As with any beer tasting (read more on tastings here), your first step is eyeing the beer. An infused beer may have a wildly different color than the brew in its usual state.
For example, when we infused SweeTARTS into 3 Sheeps Fresh Coast, the beer absorbed the rainbow coloring from the candies, turning the brew a muddy brown color. (Sour to the eye, but sweet to the mouth.) When we infused ginger snaps into Drekker’s Rowdy Bunch blonde ale, sprinkles of sugar made it into the glass, adding a golden sparkle to the foamy head.
With regards to aroma, it probably goes without saying that steeping beer in sugar, candy or fresh fruit affects scent. Before tasting the beer, give it a light sniff, so you don’t overstimulate your sense of smell. Then carry on with your appreciation of the infused beer!
Easy DIY Infusions at Home
It’s possible – and easy! – to do your own beer infusion at home. All it takes is your favorite can or bottle of brew and a French press.
Add your ingredient to the press – whether it’s something floral like lavender, fruity like fresh berries or fun like cinnamon toast crunch cereal – then pour your beer over it. Let it steep for a few minutes then push down, like you would with coffee.
The longer it steeps, the more intense the flavors. (You will want to avoid anything sticky, though, as it could clog your French press.) Try different combos and let our beertenders know what you love so we can give it a shot on our infuser, too!
What’s To Come?
Every month you can visit Garth’s Brew Bar to go on an infusion adventure with us. Keep an eye on the Garth’s Brew Bar Facebook events page for details on upcoming infusions.
And, if you ever have any infusion ideas you want to propose, we’re all ears, eyes, and nose – simply send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with a beer infusion you want to experience!