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Why! Why! Why add spices to beer?!?!

Tried a beer sampler at a brew pub where on one of their beers used coriander in the beer.
It tasted like cold, savory beer soup. The beer actually caused me to gag.

I know it's popular for people to add savory spices and herbs to beer. Maybe I'm just unenlightened, but I prefer herbs and spices in soups and savory dishes.

Has anyone tried a good beer with herbs and spices?

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  1. Why add herbs and other weird crap to beer? To try to get people that don't like beer to drink it/try it? I don't know. Tried a highly recommended "artisinal" blueberry beer once that made me want to slap the one who told me it was good.

    1. Coriander is a spice that is traditionally used in Belgian Wit beers and my guess is that may have been the type of beer that you tasted. I'm not sure exactly what a beer soup would taste like but Wits have an interesting wheat/herbal/citrusy character to them. Hoegaarden is probably the easiest example of the style to find though it is not my favorite.

        1. re: Chinon00

          Not in a traditional sense when used in general cooking.

          1. re: Chinon00

            you could argue that they are a herb but not a spice

            1. re: chefj

              Yeah, brewers refer to it as the "spice" of the beer. Adds a considerable signature to the beer.

              1. re: Chinon00

                The OP was mentions directly Coriander which is a spice.
                Even if Brewers talk about Hops adding spice to Beer that does not make Hops a spice.

                1. re: chefj

                  The OP also mentions herbs (for which I think hops qualify). I've had beer brewed w/ mint, parsley, basil, etc.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    still does not make hops a spice

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      Chefj is correct about the terminology. From a culinary standpoint hops are an herb because herbs are the leafy parts of plants. Spices are things like bark, seeds, and twigs. I do not know the history of this distinction.

                      1. re: Josh

                        The OP stated: "I know it's popular for people to add savory spices and HERBS to beer. Maybe I'm just unenlightened, but I prefer HERBS and spices in soups and savory dishes."

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          Understood. He's just making the point that in culinary terminology hops wouldn't be called a spice.

                          1. re: Josh

                            So hops are an herb that the OP makes an exception for in regard to having in beer?

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              Obviously, I make an exception for hops in beer. That's the primary use for hops is in beer making, but I had a feeling that people would become very technical about hops being an herb, but hops are not a common "herb" using in cooking and savory dishes.

                              Maybe I should have phrased the question a little more exactly, "Why are spices and herbs commonly used in cooking added to beer?"

                              I've actually learned a lot from reading these answers - who and why beer makers use spices and the types of beer.

                              I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the corriander laced beer. Maybe I just tried a beer from someone that just didn't know what they were doing?

                              Cheers!

                              1. re: dave_c

                                No prob. I can be a bit of a prick occasionally;]

                                1. re: dave_c

                                  Maybe! I've had a coriander and ginger laced beer before and it was alright. Barely tasted anything different from a blond, mind you.

                                  I've had a maple flavoured stout once that was horrible. Then i had one from another microbrewer and its was great.

                                  So brewers are like chefs. There are good ones and bad ones. Then there is also your personnal taste ;-)

                          2. re: Josh

                            hops are the flower, actually -- similar to a pine cone.

                2. Christmas and other seasonal releases often have spices added. Belgium has been using spices in beer for hundreds of years, and prior to the discovery of hops (which are also a spice as Chinon00 pointed out) breweds used lots of herbs and spices to offset beer's sweetness.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Josh

                    I guess I'm just biased...the best Christmas beers I've had are the more traditional ones that don't have spices added. Of the American ones, Anchor's Xmas ale was once a real favorite of mine, in the pre-spiced days. It was a real gem.

                    1. re: The Professor

                      The recipe changes every year, so hand in there next year it may be great.

                      1. re: TroyTempest

                        True.
                        I _do_ buy a single bottle each year, living in eternal hope. (just like I buy only single bottles of other new craft beers, having been burned roughly half the time on really crappy sixpacks).

                        So far, no dice on the Anchor Christmas...it was at its best _before_ the spices came into the mix.
                        I guess I'm just not a fan of spices in beer.
                        Personal taste is all it is.
                        But I _do try it every year ... Hope springs eternal.

                        1. re: The Professor

                          I like it before, sfter, it doesn't matter. Though, in small doses, a bottle here and there.
                          I also like SN Celebration, a lot.

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            I like SN Celebration, too. It is not a spiced ale, of course.

                            Baxter Brewing's new Autumn Ale is an example of a spiced beer that works, to my mind. The effects of the spices are subtle and interesting. Harpoon's Winter Warmer, which positively reeks of cinnamon and sugar, strikes me as a disastrous mess.

                          2. re: The Professor

                            What was it like before spices? Or maybe I should say, how did it differ from other beer varities before spices were added?

                            1. re: Shaggy

                              Before the spices came to Anchor Christmas, I guess it was in some ways similar to SN Celebration, perhaps a tad more aggressive. It was full bodied and delicious...it is many years ago but I seem to recall it being somewhat 'maltier'. Still well hopped, but perhaps less aromatically so than the SN beer. It was great stuff. Imagine some Anchor Steam with maybe 1/4 or 1/3 Old Foghorn blended in, and that would probably come close.

                            2. re: The Professor

                              I wish I had gotten to try that version of it. I feel like that beer is always over-spiced.

                              1. re: Josh

                                Sound pretty good to me. I agree that some of them are over spiced, but I did a tasting a few years ago of about 8 years in a row, and the older ones were much more mild, and were great. I also made a spiced ale 9 months ago just to try it, and at first it was a ginger bomb, but after aging for 8 months they are delicious, very subtle.

                      2. some hopless beer are actually nice. new beer vocabulary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruit

                        beer soups i had in Germany a nice, actually. all made with seasonal dark beer (i usually spend christmas and new year hols in Germany, and strong dark beer is popular around this time of year.)