I’d been toying with the idea of making my own off-flavor kit for a while. The Siebel Sensory Training kit is wonderful but I had wanted something simpler, cheaper and made from easily attainable ingredients to teach classes and go through friends with – a kit that any homebrew group in the country could create and learn from. When I was asked to teach an off-flavor class at a local wine/beer/liquor store, Amanti Vino, I finally had the excuse I needed to stop procrastinating. I was inspired by this post on the Barlow Brewing blog and went to work experimenting. Luckily, Chris Cuzme was willing to help with the tasting. We used Miller Lite as our base beer. You can use a lighter tasting craft beer but I would recommend the most neutral beer you can find, especially when you’re starting out. We played around with the dosing until we found what we thought would be detectable to most, but not so powerful that it wouldn’t taste like something else or complete overwhelm your taste buds.
- Diacetyl – Wilton Clear Butter Flavor, $2.99 for 2 fl ozs. at New York Cake in Chelsea. If you’re not in an urban area with crazy cake baking specialty stores, you should be able to find this at the large craft supply stores, like Michael’s or AC Moore. We found that 4 drops per 12 oz bottle or 24 drops per six pack worked well.
- Acetaldehyde – Loran Gourmet Apple Candy & Baking Flavoring, $3.99 for 2 .125 fl oz bottles at New York Cake. 8 drops per 12 oz bottle or 48 drops per six pack.
- Acetic – Heinz white vinegar which I had at home. 24 drops per 12 oz bottle or 6 1/8 tsp per six pack, although I do add more drops to some glasses when I teach the class upon request so you might need to go up a little on this one.
- Astringent (specifically tannic) – LD Carlson Wine Tannins, $3 for 1 oz at Bitter & Esters (a homebrew/wine making shop) in Brooklyn. To be honest with you, I’m not entirely happy with this one as it is difficult to mix in and doesn’t give me the ideal feeling that I want. It does give a drying effect but no tingling. We mixed 1/8 tsp in 1/4 cup water and added that to a six pack of beer.
- Phenolic/Medicinal – Generic brand Menthol Sore Throat Spray, $3.49 at my local independent pharmacy. I was unable to find a non-Menthol or non-fruity throat spray but the menthol works pretty well. We used 8 drops for 12 ozs of beer or 48 drops per six pack.
- DiMethyl Sulfide – generic brand of canned corn from Eagle Provisions, my local grocery store. We decided on 1/4 cup strained liquid per 12 ozs or 1.5 cups per six pack.
I’ve used this kit in three different classes and although it is far from perfect, it is an easy and inexpensive way to teach basic off-flavors to a group. I’m working on refining the components of this kit and adding more and will write those up when I’m satisfied.
General off-flavor resources: