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The latest culinary ingredient in your beer: beets

Earthy and high in sugar, these root veggies add a rustic (and colorful) note to pale ales, IPAs and saisons.
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Photo by Jill McNamara

Relative to some of the weird food ingredients thrown into beer—seaweed, pizza, mushrooms—beets don’t seem so odd. They’re rustic, sweet and the red versions boast a beautiful, near-purple color. So perhaps it’s not shocking that brewers have found varied uses for these underappreciated root vegetables. Beets are hardy veggies, grow quickly under the right conditions, and they store fairly well. That’s why beet beers can appear during multiple months throughout the year, though we find their earthy flavor especially appropriate for late-summer and early-fall sipping.

The latest beet brew to cross our paths is Surf Brewery‘s new seasonal IPA, Beet Red IPA. Past iterations in the seasonal IPA series have included culinary ingredients like candied lemon peel and avocado honey, but this year, Surf’s brewers took inspiration from the history of beet farming in their area of southern California. (Plus, beets would only make a red IPA more…red.) Surf partnered with area restaurant Ojai Deer Lodge to juice bushels of beets, then added those to the red IPA just before the end of the whirpool portion of the brewing process. Combined with the recipe’s fruity, aromatic El Dorado hops, the beets create a simultaneously sweet and earthy impression that doesn’t distract from the caramel, toasty malts. Or, as Surf co-founder Bill Riegler puts it: “It’s subtle. It’s not going to be a totally beet-flavored beer. There’s some earthiness there from the beets, but it doesn’t taste like dirt.” Well, good.

Beets and hops also figure in Cape May Brewing Co.‘s Beets by May beet pale ale, which the brewery taproom expects to have on draft for just a bit longer this summer. The brewery, like Surf, partnered with a local restaurant, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern and Market, to process the 250 pounds of New Jersey-grown beets needed for a 30-gallon batch of the pale ale. After all 250 pounds were chopped into one-inch cubes, brewers boiled them in a vat and then reduced that beet liquid into a concentrate that was added to the beer just before it finished fermenting. In test batches, director of brewing operations Jimmy Valm says he and the other Cape May brewers were shooting for beet aroma and a slight, earthy bite to the beer’s finish; what they didn’t count on was how much color the vegetables would impart. “The beer came out looking like Hollywood horror movie blood, which was a little off-putting,” he says. To remedy that, Valm used primarily golden beets with a smaller percentage of red beets for the final production batch.

Those are two beet beers you could enjoy right now⎯right now! In the past, we’ve been big fans of Fonta Flora‘s Beets, Rhymes and Life saison, which snagged a gold medal at GABF last year in the Field Beer category, and the 2015 iteration of Burial Beer Co.‘s Garden of Earthly Delights saison brewed with golden beets. Any others we should keep an eye out for? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

Author
Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.

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