Sugars That Flavor Up Your Beer

Something I read when I first started brewing was that adding simple sugars (table sugar, etc.) gave beer a cidery flavor… but now I see that is not exactly true…

Simple sugars are more fermentable than complex sugars like maltotriose and dextrins, and adding more simple sugars will boost alcohol in your brews, thin out the body and can be useful for brewing with high nitrogen (protein) grains like 6-row barley…

… but I was hesitant to use sugar at first because I kept hearing cidery flavors would appear… yet you can find some of the best beers are brewed by adding sugar… Belgians are a great example…

Here’s the deal… adding too many simple sugars can produce too much acetaldehyde which is the green apple tasting stuff flavoring up some beers… this problem is usually more common with kit brewing where brewers add a whole pound or so of table sugar to their extract which is made up mostly of complex sugars… the problem with these kits is that they don’t have enough nutrients to ferment extra sugars… so a combination of having more simple sugars as opposed to maltose and the lack of nutrients during fermentation is what gives beer that cidery flavor…

But when you are brewing with extract where maltose makes close to 45 to 49% of the sugar profile, then this is usually not a problem… if you are brewing all grain, you should have enough nutrients in your wort to add good amounts of sugar without getting a cidery flavor…

If you add sugar to your wort you are essentially diluting the yeast nutrients… so you have to watch out for how much sugar you add and avoid having insufficient nutrients for the yeast to ferment the sugar…

With that being said, one of my favorite sugars to use is piloncillo which is basically unrefined whole cane sugar, made up of sucrose and fructose…

It’s a good way to thin out a beer which I’ve found helps bring out the fruity flavors of yeast more clearly…

I tried this out with my Belgian Ale and I liked the results…

The other sugar I like is nonetheless candi sugar… this sugar is essentially nothing but sucrose and it can make up to 10% of the grist in dubbel and trippel abbey ales!

Note that these beers are usually upwards of 10% ABV, and they use a lot of malt which carries enough nutrients to use more sugar…

Last there are sugars which are used more for flavoring like maple syrup and honey…

Anytime you want to use a sugar for flavoring, you want to keep your IBUs (hop bitterness) low, since most of these sugars have very delicate flavors and the hops can easily mask them…

Cheers!

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