Ever since Dogfish Head created their beer-infusing device called Randall the Enamel Animal, people have started going crazy with infusion experiments. If you're not familiar, essentially what Randall does is push draft beer through a canister holding hops, spices, fruit, or any ingredients you can conjure, to infuse the beer with the distinct flavor of the ingredients of choice. While you may not be able to have this fancy gadget at home, you can create your own beer infusions using something you probably already have in your kitchen, a French press.
Inspired by Randall, I decided to see what would happen if I took a few simple ingredients and used my coffee French press to infuse cheap beer. Why cheap beer? Why not. Good beer is already, well, good, so why not see what a few extra ingredients could do when it comes to French press infusions. While I know I could have gotten really scientific with it and determined a cheap beer based on neutrality of adjuncts, I decided to go with Budweiser. The reasoning on my decision was based purely on the popularity of this cheap beer, and the fact that the cans were free.
Picking out a few ingredients, I added them to my French press, poured in the a 12-ounce can of Bud, and sampled away. Half of me expected the experiment to totally bomb, the other half expected to be surprised - and surprised I certainly was. Take a look at the results.
1. Cascade Hops
First up, cascade hops. Cascade hops are an all-around crowdpleaser. They have a floral, citrus, and grapefruit-like aroma along with a balanced bitterness that make them a safe bet for this experiment. Taking roughly a half cup of dried whole cone Cascade hops, I dumped them into my French press and poured in the beer. With the smell of hops greeting my senses, I waited patiently for twenty minutes, allowing the hops to infuse the suds.
Once time was up, I poured the hop infused beer into my glass and took a swig. The floral, citrus component was subtle, but detectable. And while I thought this hopped up lager would hopefully resemble something along the lines of an India Pale Lager, it resembled, well, a slightly better version of my cheap beer. But not by much. Sadly, the hops still couldn't mask the beer's flavor profile of adjuncts.
2. Lime and Mint
On a warm afternoon, there is nothing like an ice cold beer. And an ice cold beer that tastes like a mojito? Now we're talking. Gaining inspiration from this refreshing cocktail, I decided to see what would happen if I freshened up my beer with fresh mint and lime.
To start, I tossed about ten mint leaves into the French press, which depending upon how minty you like your drinks, you can add or subtract. Then, I added the zest of one lime along with it's juice and flesh. I let it steep for about ten minutes before taking a swig. The result? Super limey. So limey I felt like it masked the mint a great deal.
I'm not sure if you really need a French press to achieve this flavor, but it was interesting to try. You could probably get away with simply squeezing lime into your beer and calling it a day for that matter. All in all, I love lime, so I would say it made my cheap beer more palatable, but I'd probably just rather drink lime juice straight up.
3. Fresh Grapefruit
I am a huge fan of grapefruit IPAs. The contrast of citrus plays on the bitterness for a smashing combination. So I figured, what the heck, maybe by simply using just fresh grapefruit, I can add a pleasant flavor profile to cheap beer. Taking one half of a grapefruit, I used the zest of the rind - no pith - and squeezed the juice into the French press. I also tossed in the flesh so the beer could fully become infused with all the citrusy goodness. I set my clock for ten minutes and watched the bubbles cascade.
As I began counting down the minutes, doubt plagued my mind. After being disappointed by the hops and getting relatively little improvement from the mint and lime, I was beginning to feel skeptical. Can cheap beer actually be improved by using flavorful ingredients and a French press? I mean, when it comes down to it, it is still cheap beer.
When the timer dinged, I poured a glass of the grapefruit infused beer, doubting the outcome. One sip and I'll admit it, I was surprised. It wasn't half bad. In fact, I could drink a glass of the stuff. Don't get me wrong, once the pleasant flavor of grapefruit dissipated, I tasted nothing but watered down adjuncts. But that first sip was refreshing enough that I dare say you can make cheap beer taste better simply by using some quality ingredients and a French press.
Feeling creative? Try your own beer infusions and let us know.