Distilled: Is infusing beer better?

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From the May 30, 2013 edition

Beer has always been fantastic and continues to get better thanks mainly to experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking. So when Alive’s graphic designer, Lauren Kuntz — a fellow beer enthusiast — showed me the Serious Eats post “Use a French Press to Add Flavor to Your Beer,” I was immediately intrigued. Google it and you’ll find it. I promise.

The article described how to add a variety of flavors with a simple method — add fruit, cocoa, herbs, spices or whatever to a beer-filled French press and let seep for three minutes before plunging — along with a few recipes. Some sounded tasty, others not so much. Regardless, I have a French press, so I tried it out.

First was a 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA with some grapefruit to start off simple. The grapefruit came through, just less than I expected. I repeated the process with a few more combinations — mango and mint; peach and sage; habanero, grapefruit and sage — using less hoppy beers.

The peach and sage combo turned out to be the most successful. It was quite pleasant with a Flying Dog Woody Creek Belgian White and even improved the bottom-barrel Natural Light. The sage added a wonderful aroma to all beers and a noble flavor to most. (There are many reasons the Stillwater Cellar Door is an amazing beer, but one is the finishing touch of white sage.)

But throughout my experiments, there remained one constant — the beer lost nearly all carbonation. Pouring the beer into the French press, plunging and then pouring it into a glass ruined the effervescence. Therefore the best method for infusing beer would be to use a tea ball infuser (or two). Just fill it with ingredients, plop it into a pint glass and wait a couple minutes. Flavor infused, carbonation still present.

Infusing beer was fun, but I don’t know if I’d do it regularly. But you should give it a shot; I’d be curious to hear about the results. Where I think infusing beer could be most successful is in creating a beer cocktail. I’m sure one of Columbus’ talented mixologists can come up with a wonderful recipe.

Photos by Meghan Ralston