You may have heard of beer kit brewers using 'beer enhancer' before. It's a handy way of giving your beer more body and flavour thus making your beer a more enjoyable drinking experience.
But where I come from, a quality beer enhancer will cost you anything from 7 to 14 dollars. Check out the prices on Amazon if you don't believe me!
If if you're a bit like me, you want to make good beer but you also want to do it fairly cheaply. Now you could simply use sugar instead of a beer enhancer but then your beer might feel thin and watery.
So I had an idea, what if I used a bag of Mackintosh Toffee Lollies as an enhancer?
Where I come from in New Zealand, these malty chews are probably one of the most popular treats around.
If you haven't picked why I would have this crazy idea, it's because of the malt and sugars that are in them. Given beer enhancer has a main ingredient of malt and dextrose, would this lolly be a good substitute for a beer enhancer?
So here's the experiment I ran. I knew I needed to test the effectiveness of the Mackintosh Lollies and I reasoned I needed to use a lager so that any malty flavours from a tin of ale or stout wouldn't mask or overpower any effect of the Mackintosh lollies.
A packet of Mackintosh Toffees costs about three dollars in NZ and for your trouble you get 250 grams in the 'farm pack' size.
So I figured I would need two packets as my enhancer substitute. That still comes in at 6 bucks and is a buck or two cheaper than a standard enhancer I would use.
So given one usually uses about 1 KG of beer enhancer, I also added another variable to the experient. I made up the difference with 500 g of dextrose. Dextrose will be wholly consumed the yeast in the fermentation process so will not effect the 'mouth feel' of the beer but will help the yeast do its job.
I wondered about just throwing lollies into the wort but thought better of it. I melted them in a pot on low heat. While removing the wrappers from two packets worth, I wondered if this experiment was even worth my time and effort.
So I prepared a lager brew using a Coopers Lager (as I've previously noted how these kits are fairly weak in body without enhancers). I let the batch ferment for a week and then bottled and stored them in the man shed. Two weeks later I placed a couple of bottles in the fridge and the next evening I sampled my experient.
Had the toffee lollies worked as a beer enhancer?
My first impressions were how sweet the beer was.
And then I realised the mistake I had made.
Or was it one?
The Mackinstosh lollies had all kinds of flavours such as mint, harrogate and coconut. I could certainly get a sense of these flavours. Not bothersome but there none-the-less.
And then I noticed that the lager had a small amount of body to it. Nothing huge but it was there. The head didn't retain for very long.
From my experience of using a Cooper's lager kit with an enhancer, I could tell that the toffees had added some substance to the beer.
So, a successful experiment from the point of view that the lollies added some mouthfeel to the beer but would I recommend this for future efforts? If I wanted to save a couple of bucks off the price of a standard enhancer, then sure.
But in terms of time and result, it's not worth it. It took about ten minutes alone to remove the wrappers and then a similar amount of time to melt down. If I'm making beer from a kit, I just want to get it done as quickly as possible.
And given that a beer enhancer does a more efficient job, I don't really recommend you use Mackintosh toffees as beer enhancer!