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

dave_c Sep 24, 2012 04:28 PM

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. k
    kengk RE: dave_c Sep 24, 2012 04:34 PM

    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. b
      brentk RE: dave_c Sep 24, 2012 06:44 PM

      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. Chinon00 RE: dave_c Sep 24, 2012 07:01 PM

        Hops are a spice.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Chinon00
          dave_c RE: Chinon00 Sep 25, 2012 09:12 AM

          Not in a traditional sense when used in general cooking.

          1. re: Chinon00
            chefj RE: Chinon00 Sep 27, 2012 06:38 PM

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

            1. re: chefj
              Chinon00 RE: chefj Sep 27, 2012 07:27 PM

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

              1. re: Chinon00
                chefj RE: Chinon00 Oct 20, 2012 04:19 PM

                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
                  Chinon00 RE: chefj Oct 20, 2012 04:50 PM

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

                  1. re: Chinon00
                    chefj RE: Chinon00 Oct 20, 2012 05:25 PM

                    still does not make hops a spice

                    1. re: Chinon00
                      Josh RE: Chinon00 Oct 20, 2012 09:11 PM

                      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
                        Chinon00 RE: Josh Oct 20, 2012 09:58 PM

                        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
                          Josh RE: Chinon00 Oct 20, 2012 11:01 PM

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

                          1. re: Josh
                            Chinon00 RE: Josh Oct 21, 2012 04:16 AM

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

                            1. re: Chinon00
                              dave_c RE: Chinon00 Oct 26, 2012 09:59 AM

                              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?


                              1. re: dave_c
                                Chinon00 RE: dave_c Oct 26, 2012 10:24 AM

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

                                1. re: dave_c
                                  SourberryLily RE: dave_c Oct 30, 2012 01:59 PM

                                  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
                            sunshine842 RE: Josh Oct 21, 2012 04:36 AM

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

                2. Josh RE: dave_c Sep 25, 2012 07:10 AM

                  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
                    The Professor RE: Josh Sep 25, 2012 09:19 PM

                    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
                      TroyTempest RE: The Professor Sep 27, 2012 07:02 PM

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

                      1. re: TroyTempest
                        The Professor RE: TroyTempest Sep 27, 2012 09:26 PM

                        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
                          TroyTempest RE: The Professor Sep 28, 2012 10:13 AM

                          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
                            Kenji RE: TroyTempest Oct 22, 2012 08:07 AM

                            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
                            Shaggy RE: The Professor Sep 28, 2012 10:57 AM

                            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
                              The Professor RE: Shaggy Sep 28, 2012 07:28 PM

                              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
                              Josh RE: The Professor Sep 29, 2012 10:19 AM

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

                              1. re: Josh
                                Shaggy RE: Josh Oct 11, 2012 10:01 AM

                                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. Pata_Negra RE: dave_c Sep 25, 2012 10:04 AM

                        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.)

                        1. Insidious Rex RE: dave_c Sep 25, 2012 10:55 AM

                          Because it can taste good? As noted, the Belgians have been doing it for hundreds of years and a lot of their product is considered some of the best in the world. Do you also object to clove? Orange peel? I do agree you have to know what you are doing and go easy with these ingredients and I can very easily get tired of the traditional Belgian spices (especially coriander) if theres too much of it or it wasnt brewed right. But it can be very good too. What was the brewpub? It may have just been that particular beer.

                          1. s
                            Shaggy RE: dave_c Sep 25, 2012 11:23 AM

                            Yes, lots of Christmas beers, white beers, summer beers, and tons of belgian beers. Keep trying, some are overdone but when done well they can be great.

                            1. porker RE: dave_c Sep 25, 2012 11:24 AM

                              Depends on the mood; sometimes yes, sometimes not.
                              Of course, purists will poopoo the idea, but many times, I'll salt my beer - especially draft. Why? 'cause I like salty beer, simple as that.
                              Sometimes I'll mix Clamato in my beer - been doing it for many more years than Bud came out with the chelada
                              Again, cause I like it. With Clamato, I like plenty of black pepper as well.

                              1. c
                                chuckl RE: dave_c Sep 26, 2012 09:17 PM

                                Coriander and orange peel are characteristic of Belgian witbier. According to beeradvocate.com: A Belgian Style ale that's very pale and cloudy in appearance due to it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, that's used in the mash. Always spiced, generally with coriander, orange peel and other oddball spices or herbs in the back ground. The crispness and slight twang comes from the wheat and the lively level of carbonation. This is one style that many brewers in the US have taken a liking to and have done a very good job of staying to style. Sometimes served with a lemon, but if you truly want to enjoy the untainted subtleties of this style you'll ask for yours without one. Often referred to as "white beers" (witbieren) due to the cloudiness / yeast in suspension.

                                1. chefj RE: dave_c Sep 27, 2012 06:48 PM

                                  Because they taste good. When used properly you may be hard pressed to identify a beer that has used spices or other adjuncts. Some brewers want a pronounced flavor in their brew like is Finnish Sahti, or Bink Winterkoninkske.

                                  1. Midlife RE: dave_c Oct 21, 2012 11:04 AM

                                    Tried some interesting beers at a brewery last week, including one with jalapeno and another with Thai chili. Had one somewhere else made using yams. I don't see this as much different than eating foods using different ingredients. Some you like, some not so much. At least with beer they ALL have some alcohol in them. ;o]

                                    1. njmarshall55 RE: dave_c Oct 22, 2012 12:29 PM

                                      I think it would be one of the few times I'd turn up my nose and say, "No." I can't even figure out why people insist on having lemon with their beer. Fruit is fruit and beer is beer. Never the twain should meet.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: njmarshall55
                                        SourberryLily RE: njmarshall55 Oct 25, 2012 02:55 PM

                                        Some beers taste good with a lemon. It gives an extra note on top of the beer. Though i think it is totally lost when brewers try to brew it into the beer rather than just serving the lemon on the side.

                                        (eg. the recent lime flavored beer crazy with the mass market beers)

                                        1. re: njmarshall55
                                          Chinon00 RE: njmarshall55 Oct 25, 2012 03:46 PM

                                          The country of Belgium disagrees with you often.

                                          1. re: Chinon00
                                            Tripeler RE: Chinon00 Oct 25, 2012 10:58 PM

                                            Agree with Chinon here. Quite a number of quality Belgian ales are brewed with spices, but invariably the level of spice flavor is very low, so that it remains in the background. But remember that some 70% of the beer consumed in Belgium is of the mass-produced lager variety such as Stella.

                                            1. re: Chinon00
                                              sunshine842 RE: Chinon00 Oct 26, 2012 08:48 AM

                                              That is all.

                                              (some of my very, very favourites, by the way)

                                              1. re: sunshine842
                                                Chinon00 RE: sunshine842 Oct 26, 2012 09:23 AM

                                                What do you mean "that is all"?

                                                1. re: Chinon00
                                                  sunshine842 RE: Chinon00 Oct 26, 2012 10:11 AM

                                                  trying something a little less worn than 'nuff said.

                                                2. re: sunshine842
                                                  Jim Dorsch RE: sunshine842 Oct 26, 2012 05:18 PM

                                                  The term 'lambic' on its own doesn't connote fruit. In any case, other fruits are found in Belgian beers, such as apple, pear, strawberry, black currant and peach. There are beers other than lambic made with fruit; Flanders red/brown beers come to mind. And I expect there are other examples to be found.

                                                  1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                    sunshine842 RE: Jim Dorsch Oct 26, 2012 11:42 PM

                                                    but it is arguably most often found outside of Belgium as a fruit variety..

                                                    ...and it pretty much sums up the argument that fruit most definitely DOES exist in beer -- to the great delight of a lot of people.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                      Josh RE: sunshine842 Oct 27, 2012 12:08 AM

                                                      I would disagree with that. It might be the case among people who don't know much about beer, but it's just not true. Lambic is a style of beer that originated from a particular locale in Belgium. Its characteristics include a grain bill comprised heavily of unmalted wheat, the use of aged hops to give preservative benefits without much hop flavor or aroma, and spontaneous fermentation via airborne yeast strains. Lambics are also typically aged in wooden vessels that are home to colonies of yeast and bacteria that give the particular brewery's beer its distinct flavor. Some lambics are made with fruit, but the fruit is usually completely fermented which means it doesn't add much in the way of sweetness.

                                                      Many Americans do think of lambics as fruit beers because of Lindemans. Lindemans lambics, though, are definitely way over on the sweet side of the spectrum, and people into traditional Belgian lambics typically avoid the Lindemans product.

                                                      1. re: Josh
                                                        Tripeler RE: Josh Oct 27, 2012 01:28 AM

                                                        Josh, right about Lindemans.
                                                        My favorite are the Liefmans beers since they start with a brown ale base, which I think goes better with the cherries and the raspberries used in their two representative beers.

                                                        1. re: Josh
                                                          Jim Dorsch RE: Josh Oct 27, 2012 09:42 AM

                                                          I think Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic has also caused some confusion.

                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                            Josh RE: Jim Dorsch Oct 27, 2012 12:46 PM

                                                            Oh my god was that beer a train wreck.

                                                            1. re: Josh
                                                              Tripeler RE: Josh Oct 27, 2012 04:50 PM

                                                              Cranberry Lambic put me off of ALL Sam Adams beers for several years. Truly unforgivable mistake on a non-lambic brew.

                                              2. c
                                                chuckl RE: dave_c Oct 28, 2012 11:24 AM

                                                On the West Coast, the best examples of Belgian style lambics are from Lost Abbey in SoCal and Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. Red Poppy is one of my favorites. And pretty much anything from RR that ends in tion. Vinnie Cilurzo at RR learned from the best, at Cantillon. New Belgium's Lips of Faith series can be fun also. They also did a collaboration with Lost Abbey called Mo Betta Bretta that was pretty interesting. Bay Area beer drinkers I know are very much into Belgian style lambics.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: chuckl
                                                  Tripeler RE: chuckl Oct 28, 2012 05:40 PM

                                                  Are these West Coast beers you talk about fermented with ambient airborne yeast? Or are they just Belgian-style ales? Those that use brett are not the same as lambics, I believe.

                                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                                    chuckl RE: Tripeler Oct 29, 2012 02:39 PM

                                                    spontaneous fementation with wild yeast. Here's a description of Beatification, one of my favorites. http://russianriverbrewing.com/brews/...

                                                    1. re: chuckl
                                                      Tripeler RE: chuckl Oct 29, 2012 03:32 PM

                                                      THanks for the response! I haven't followed RR for quite a while, and it is good to see how creative Vinnie is getting.

                                                      1. re: Tripeler
                                                        chuckl RE: Tripeler Oct 29, 2012 05:32 PM

                                                        Tomme Arthur is doing a nice job at Lost Abbey as well

                                                        1. re: chuckl
                                                          Tripeler RE: chuckl Oct 30, 2012 05:46 AM

                                                          Yes, I met him several years ago at a beer event in SF where he gave a presentation with Rob Tod, Vinnie, and Peter Bouckaert. The four of them were billed as the Brett Pack. At the time, I was particularly impressed with Tomme's beers.

                                                          1. re: Tripeler
                                                            Josh RE: Tripeler Oct 30, 2012 06:52 AM

                                                            Tomme's best beers can be very good, but I've been to more than one bottle tasting where anything older than a year or two was unceremoniously dumped out. Never had that happen with any of Vinnie's beers. Hopefully they have improved their QC.

                                                            1. re: Josh
                                                              chuckl RE: Josh Oct 30, 2012 10:43 AM

                                                              I agree, they are more hit and miss than RR. Also, I've had some Angels Share that had almost zero noticeable carbonation. Just a little carbonation would make it a much better beer, in my opinion

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