So last night I decided to experiment a little bit with the coconuts and key limes that I brought back from our Florida trip. I brought back quite a few of each with the hopes of making a beer or two capturing the essence of the Florida Keys.
It’s very common to see dark beers flavored with coconut. Typically it’s porters, stouts, and browns that people brew. With summer hopefully just around the corner I want to begin focusing on lighter beers. Beers that you want to drink on a hot, sunny day are where this next volley of brews are going. That’s not entirely true though because I still have one dark beer I want to make this winter. It’s brew date was postponed due to some unforeseen circumstances before our vacation and hopefully this weekend it will find its way into my conical.
Based on some early sampling I’ve gotten very good feedback about the Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale. I also feel that it will make a very good base for beers that may not have a ton of flavor punch. A coconut beer should be a very good experiment for this due to the subdued flavor that real, natural coconut gives.
Until recently I had always thought of coconut flavor as being very powerful and in your face, like a Mounds bar. In using coconut products around the house like coconut milk and coconut oil I’ve found that it is the exact opposite. It seems to be a flavor that is very muted, but could potentially be overdone in large quantities.
The key limes are another unknown to me. While down in the Keys I had a slice of key lime pie and loved it. It was the first time that I had something made with real key lime and found the flavor to be different than that of key lime in processed foods. It doesn’t seem to have the same citrus flavor that a regular lime has and has a little more bitter finish on it. Heck, until I got a text message from my mom on our trip home saying that the neighbor asked if he could have some key limes off their tree I had thought I brought back a large bag of small lemons. Apparently key limes, along with regular limes, turn yellow on the outside when they ripen. They are just sold green in the store for longevity and so that the customer knows it’s a lime. This was news to me.
After work I went down to the bar and poured three glasses of the DDADBA. I figured two would be for experimenting and the third would be my control.
I also got out some measuring devices, my wife’s Vitamix, a couple coconuts, a few key limes, and my zester. I was ready to play mad beer scientist.
The first thing I did was drain the coconut juice into the Vitamix. This was easy because sitting in our dry house the shells had already began to crack and they were slightly easier to peel. After that I carved out about a quarter of the coconut meat and blended it together. It had the flavor that you would typically find in your average coconut milk. I figured I was on the right track.
Next I zested an entire key lime. This is where I became a little unsure of the plan. When I zested the citrus for my Twisted Kisser last year the lemon and lime zest was a little bit sweet and sour just like their juices are. The zest from the key lime was primarily bitter. I will need to do more research on why that is, but it may well just be a characteristic of the key lime. Anyway, I went ahead and added that to the blender and found it really didn’t affect the taste. The bitterness might have made the coconut milk a little more dry on your palate, but that was it. I decided that adding a little bit of the key lime’s juice couldn’t hurt and it didn’t. It seemed to give me a little bit of the sour citrus bite I was looking for.
Now came the fun part of trying to figure out an empirical way of mixing up this concoction. I measured out half an ounce of my coconut milk and added it to a 10 ounce glass of my DDADBA. I figured that would give me good round numbers to work with if I had to scale this up at a later date. I got caught up in what I was doing and didn’t realize that when I brewed I would probably add coconut meat to the boil or in fermentation, not into the final product. This experiment was just meant to see how coconut played with the flavor of the DDADBA. From that point I gave up on measurements and just tried stuff.
As you can probably tell from that picture the beer looks disgusting. It wasn’t though. It actually tasted pretty good even though it was a little chunky. It confirmed that the DDADBA will be a good candidate for future flavor additions.
A final note to anyone looking to mess around with adding various things to carbonated beer. Make sure you are working somewhere that cleans up easy. Apparently adding coconut milk to carbonated beer makes the beer give up all of it’s carbonation instantly. Picture the little volcanoes you made as a kid with baking soda and vinegar. It required a little more clean up than I had anticipated.