What are adjuncts used for in beer brewing?

Adjuncts are unmalted grains (such as corn, rice, rye, oats, barley, sugars, and wheat) or grain products that are used in beer making to supplement the main mash ingredient (which is usually malted barley).

Under the German Beer Purity Laws, and adjunct could really be considered anything which is water, barley, hops, and yeast but that's just being a bit German eh?

So an adjunct can be anything added to beer such as:
  • Unmalted wheat, barley, rye, oats, maize, and other grains
  • Belgian syrups 
  • Honey, maple syrup, molasses, other sugars like jelly beans.
  • Fruit, pumpkins (!)
The reasons for adding an adjunct are varied. Some brewers will seek them for head foam retention, flavour or even to cut costs!

There is another reason why brewers use high-adjunct beers, and that's to make high alcohol beers. 

By adding extra sugars, for example, the yeast will ferment that in addition to the malt, thus produce more alcohol. 

When adding adjuncts to the beer one needs to understand that this can hamper an efficient fermentation as the yeast can tend to get a bit overwhelmed by all the extra sugar. 

To adjust for this, brewers who are looking to brew a high ABV beer, will add a yeast nutrient to give the yeast some respite from all the sugar.

Adjuncts can also be used to achieve specific beer styles and flavors:
  • Use simple sugars such as that from corn can be used to lighten the beer body and encourage a good rate of attenuation of your high-gravity styles.
  • The addition of flaked barley or rye can promote a strong head and a full body (which is good for mouth feel).
  • Tossing in a handful of flaked oats is known to result in silky mouthfeel.
  • Flaked rice, when matched with an earnestly hopped pale lager, is another method of changing the taste profile.
  • Using cherries and raspberries in sour ales is a popular trick

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