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Old 11-26-2008, 02:55 PM   #1
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Default Adding sugar to your beer is NOT going to make it taste like freakin' cider.

All right, I'm tired of people saying that adding some type of sugar (be it cane, corn, whatever) is going to make it taste like Cider. I would even bet that most people have never tried doing this and are just hopping on this anti-sugar bandwagon because it's the "in" thing to do.

If you carefully balance your recipe, pitch the necessary amount of healthy yeast, and control your fermentation temperatures (all three which you should be doing anyway), adding sugar to your beer will NOT result in it tasting "cidery."

I hypothesize this rumor started from poorly crafted "kit" beers. These kits call for cane or corn sugar as a substantial amount of fermentables - more than would normally be called for. This then evolved into an "all sugar is bad" and this whole "cider" BS. This reasoning is also most likely augmented by the fact that these kits did not contain the best ingredients (extracts and yeasts) or instructions for their use. I would also venture a guess that because these kits were geared for the new brewer, fermentation temperatures were probably uncontrolled, resulting in hot fermentations and fusel alcohol warmth that made an unpalatable beer.

Adding sugar to your recipe can be advantageous in that it helps "dry" out the beer and thus reducing cloying body sweetness in some styles and accentuating hop bitterness in others. If making or using dark candi sugar, you may also be adding flavor and color components to your beer.

There is extensive documentation on the internet from fantastic brewers such as Jamil Zainasheff who have used amounts such as 3 lbs of regular cane sugar in a 6 gallon recipe that has placed in the second round of the National Homebrew Competition. I am not trying to be a Jamil fanboy, I am merely stating that you don't take home gold medals with beer that tastes "cidery" (Source: The Jamil Show, Belgian Golden Strong).

There is also the advantage of using simple sugars in high gravity fermentations in order to make them attenuate properly. In this case of extreme fermentations (I would estimate around the 1.100+ area) it is best to "step" your fermentations. For example, allow the yeast (don't forget that healthy pitch!) to consume the maltose-based sugars first and then when the gravity has dropped, start dosing with the simple sugars. The point of not adding all the fermentables at first is because it will overwhelm the yeast due to viscosity of the wort and because the yeast will choose to metabolise the simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose) in preference over the maltose. These latter sugars (which come from the malts) will be left unfermented, resulting in cloying sweetness and a heavy body.
(Source: Sean Paxton's Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA clone recipe).

As mentioned, hoppy beers may benefit from simple sugar additions to dry out the malt backbone, leaving the hop characteristics (bitterness, flavor, and aroma) more pronounced. Again, you want to make sure of balance in the recipe (you still want malt!), but you don't want all those expensive hops covered up by residual sweetness or body that may not mesh well. Make the most of the hops during this time of record prices by getting your beer to ferment drier, leaving a pleasant hop tone to the beer.
(Source: 2008 Samuel Adams Longshot Winner: Mike McDole's Double IPA, aka Pliny the Elder clone).

Don't be duped: sugar has its place in beer by making it more digestible and easy drinking, when used with a solid and balanced recipe.

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:02 PM   #2
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Yes. I agree.

This notion comes from the age of kit and kilo brewing which have little to no balance whatsoever. Those were cidery and because they included such a high proportion of cane sugar the notion stuck to that.

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:07 PM   #3
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Good info Chef! There's a lot of misinformation and misconceptions on the use of sugar in making beer.

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PseudoChef View Post
I hypothesize this rumor started from poorly crafted "kit" beers. These kits call for cane or corn sugar as a substantial amount of fermentables - more than would normally be called for.
That's exactly where this came from. People not knowing how to make kits and having 25% or more of the fermentables as just plain white sugar.

Of course sugars have their place in recipes. You just have to be careful. Because too much will thin out your beer a lot and it will make it less than appealing to the tastebuds.
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Old 11-26-2008, 03:10 PM   #5
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Another misconception that is slowly being disproven. I can remember a couple years back on HBT when just about everyone was saying that sugar, esp. table sugar was bad for beer.

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:10 PM   #6
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Should this go in the debate forum?

I've got to agree with you.
In fact, I'm not sure I have ever experienced the cider flavor that some people talk about. I assume it's similar to the twang in Apfelwein, which I've never experienced in a beer.
Most people that are making the can and Kilo kits are fermenting a mediocre (At Best) wort at too high a temperature with sub standard yeast and using old extract.
It's called "OFF FLAVORS" people. You can't expect that to taste very good. It wasn't' until I tried that type of beer that I truly understood Extract Twang.

Good post PseudoChef! I agree with ya!

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:12 PM   #7
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Good points, well made.

Sad to say there are still some beer kits in my local HBS that recommend using 50% of cane sugar on a small ordinary beer, which I really think is overdoing it. Conversely, I tried a homebrewed IPA at the weekend that had a pound of cane sugar in, and it was fantastic.

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Don't be duped: sugar has its place in beer by making it more digestible and easy drinking, when used with a solid and balanced recipe.
Damn straight.
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Old 11-26-2008, 03:17 PM   #8
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Less refined sugars such as cane sugar will tend to lead to off flavors. Everyone knows that belgian beers have off flavors so I can see why it wasn't counted against him.

Corn sugar is much more refined and it is much harder to get an off flavor.

I would not recommend using a lot of cane sugar unless it is in a belgian recipe where that flavor is common and accepted.

I know I can certainly taste when a lot of cane sugar is used. This is not the case with just about any other kind of sugar.

Forrest

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Old 11-26-2008, 03:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Austinhomebrew View Post
Everyone knows that belgian beers have off flavors so I can see why it wasn't counted against him.t
If your Belgian beers have "off-flavors" then I suggest you try a different recipe.

I don't think an award winning beer has "off flavors."
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Old 11-26-2008, 03:27 PM   #10
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I am sure someone knows what I mean. With all of the bacteria and beet sugar and just about anything goes with Belgian beers. What is normal in a Belgian beer is considered an off flavor in a regular beer. If you have a regular beer with off flavors just tell people its Belgian. They will understand. J/K

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