On Unusual Ingredients in Beer

I've been sitting on this post for far too long, having previously intended to publish it as a #beerylongread but then Boak and Bailey published a very similar analysis as I was planning. I have promised the lovely Natalia a write-up; so its about time I moved this from draft to published...

The use of "non-beer" ingredients is often frowned upon in some beer circles, particularly those who cite beers conforming to the Reinheitsgebot as the pinnacle of barley beverage perfection. Others deride brewers for bunging in any old ingredient for the sake of it, often ending up with something far removed from beer. Whilst I agree that it does go on (and I've tasted my fair share of poorly-conceived or barely masked poor brews) I think that when done well additional ingredients can enhance a beer and bring something different - and lets face it we all like to experience different flavours. At its best novel ingredients can give lift a beer to new heights or even spawn a whole new style. It can also work well to differentiate a beer from similar competing products and give beer a sense of place by tying it to its region regardless of whether or not the bulk of the ingredients are locally sourced.
One brewery making good use of indigenous ingredients are Amazon Beer, based in Campia Belem in Brazil (that's in the North of Brazil, just inland from the coast and on the edge of the Amazon rainforest.)They use ingredients from Brazil to enhance the beers they brew and introduce people to Brazilian flavours. A lot of the ingredients are popular within Brazil but largely unknown outside the country; so now they're beginning to export they're raising the profile of Brazilian ingredients around the world. The process for designing the beers varies; sometimes the brewer decides on a certain style then selects an ingredient to complement the style. On other occasions the inverse is true Caio (brewery sommelier) brings a potential ingredient to his father (Armindo)and a beer is designed to bring out the best in it - both methods are valid as far as I'm concerned. They're also happy to work with others to exchange ideas and even produce collaboration brews.

I (and a few others it seems) was sent some bottles to try (all the way from Brazil). Whilst I'd heard of a few of the ingredients, the majority were new to me; so to keep things interesting I refrained Wkipedia-ing until after I'd tried them!

First up was Forest Bacuri a 3.8% pale golden ale. It had a Koelsch like nose, fruity strawberry with a touch of diacetyl, steady stream of bubbles, pillowy white head collapsing to lacing.In the mouth its more like a helles, fairly clean with Zippy carbonation, fairly sweet with peach and glucose, ends slightly thin with a touch of damp cardboard but pleasant enough, akin to a cheaper helles. Not really sure I could detect anything out of the ordinary here but quite enjoyed the beer. Bacuri allegedly is both sweet and sour and I certainly picked up on the sweetness but can't say it really enhanced my drinking experience.

 I did however find Cumaru IPA (5.7%) quite intriguing, with preserved lemon and ginger sponge becoming reminiscent of fresh apple strudel on warming. Full bodied with a gentle carbonation, cinnamon, herbal hops & sultana bagel. It reminded me somewhat of Windsor and Eton's Kohinoor IPA with cardamom and jaggery. Turns out Cumaru is another name for the tonka bean, a trendy (and cheaper) alternative to vanilla. Its certainly produced an interesting beer on this occasion and I'd certainly enjoy it again.

The red ale, Priprioca  is a heady 6% and slightly hazy chestnut with caramel and red apple on nose and tasting like toffee apple stuck in a sponge cake with a lasting fruitiness. Again, I couldn't really draw distinction between the flavours expected from malt in the style and the added ingredient (apparently a kind of root) but it probably does contribute to the complexity. Its not really the kind of beer I'd buy anyway but quite liked it.

Both the witbier and a bottle of pilsner (I bought the latter myself, pleased to find it in my local offy) were disappointing. Whilst the pilsner was a generic lager with no stand out features or ingredients to recommended it, the former seemed infected

My favourite of the bunch was the Acai stout, 7.2% - this really showcases what an added ingredient can bring to a beer. Pouring dark brown with pale tan head and slightly lactic fruity sultanas and prunes on the nose like an over-aged Christmas cake. To taste its fairly complex with mixed fruits, dry berries and a mint note which helps to tie everything together. Being an ingredient I was familiar with (through its addition in various foodstuffs as a "super ingredient") I'm pretty sure I was able to pick out the Acai berry but it was well integrated and complemented the style well. I'd certainly recommend buying a few bottles of this one if you see it.


So what did we learn here about added ingredients? Nothing profound really, sometimes it can enhance a beer's flavour and others its not really detectable. It can be a fun way to get a beer noticed however and done well produce tasty results. Speaking to Natalia Amazon are currently working on a porter made with cupulate - a chocolate made from Cupuaçu seed which is certainly one I'd be looking out for, being a big fan of porters. A big thank-you for the opportunity to try the beers and being so patient with waiting for my thoughts!  I'll certainly continue to try beers with added ingredients as they often do throw up some gems -I'd urge you not to write them off either.

Amazon Beer


  1. Sometimes it tastes so weird when your favorite drink has some extra ingredients which you have not idea of. Acai berry is surely a delicious fruit but having it in the bear may not taste acceptable. Instead I prefer Acai Berry Juice separately.

  2. Yeah I agree that it sounds weird when your favorite food/drink has ingredients about which you don’t have an idea. I make Green drink every day for my kids and add loads of chocolate to it to give it a nice texture and taste.

  3. The charges that are to be paid are not only for the drink served but depends upon the quantity of the snacks consumed along with it. Scootamania