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The Tropical Trend: Getting More Tiki from Mixed Fermentations

Brewers have become adept at squeezing more fruit flavors out of their hops as well as producing lush fruit beers that evoke tropical cocktails. However, there is another way to amplify those crowd-pleasing flavors in your beers.

Don Tse Apr 11, 2022 - 10 min read

The Tropical Trend: Getting More Tiki from Mixed Fermentations Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/mgravesphoto.com

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Tropical fruit flavors in food and drink are popular, and craft brewers—who’ve been at the leading edge of that trend for several years now—know it better than anyone.

Hop breeders developed varieties such as Mosaic, Ekuanot, and Sabro to provide those flavors, and brewers have honed techniques to coax the juiciest character from them. Likewise, fruit beers have come a long way in the past 20 years, evolving from fruited wheat ales straight past Berliner weisse into multifaceted constructions that use larger quantities of fruit and a variety of tricks to adjust mouthfeel, acidity, sweetness, and more to emphasize real fruit flavors.

The knowhow on getting more fruit flavors from hops via terpenes and free thiols—for example, with biotransformation—is directly relevant to yeast. Seeing the demand, the labs soon got to work and began releasing yeast strains to boost that biotransformation. Omega Yeast’s Cosmic Punch and Escarpment’s Thiol Libre, to name two examples, both boast of guava and passion-fruit flavors in their commercial descriptions.

Now, there are even companies isolating and selling exogenous thiols that can be added during brewing, in the same way you might add enzymes, to take the tropical flavors up to 11.

However, there is another, less conventional, way to boost those flavors in your beers, via Brettanomyces and mixed-culture fermentation.

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Don Tse is an internationally recognized beer writer and beer judge, working from his home base in the middle of North America’s barley belt.

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