It’s now time for a new post that attempts to correct the most commonly mis-used terms in the world of craft beer, and we’re starting with an easy one: “adjuncts”.
“Adjunct” is commonly used among beer nerds/geeks/lovers to describe anything added to beer that isn’t barley malt, hops, water, or yeast. American Adjunct Lager is a greatly derided style – the macro-brewed lagers like Coors and Bud – that uses corn or rice as adjuncts to lighten the body and flavor of the beer. The term is also all-too-often applied to other, non-grain additives like spices, fruit peel, spruce tips, wood, or anything else that the creative American brewers are tossing into their kettles and fermenters.
Here’s the problem: “adjunct” does not apply to non-fermentable additives. In the correct usage of the term, a beer made with a grist of 100% malted barley that also had a quarter-ton of coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, and lactose added would be ADJUNCT FREE.
Here’s the definition from “The Oxford Companion to Beer” (ed. Garrett Oliver):
Adjuncts are alternative sources of extract used to replace a proportion of the malt.
And here’s the applicable bit on adjuncts from John Palmer’s “How to Brew”:
…there are fermentables not derived from malted barley that are called “adjuncts.” Adjuncts include refined sugars, corn, rice…
Still not buying it? Here’s the glossary entry for “adjuncts” from The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein:
Fermentable substances that are substituted for the cereal grains (chiefly barley) that constitute beer.
Coffee? Awesome in beer, but not an adjunct. The coriander and orange peel common in Belgian Witbier? Nope, not adjuncts (though the large proportion of wheat in the wit’s grist is an adjunct.) The oats in your oatmeal stout or the rye in your roggenbier? Adjuncts.
Adjuncts are only ingredients that give the yeast more fuel to work with. If it is unfermentable, it’s not an adjunct. While the use of the term to describe added flavoring (but not fermentable) components is a technically correct usage in the English language, when you’re talking about beer “adjunct” should only refer to additional sources of fermentable sugar besides malted barley.
Here are a few common brewing adjuncts:
- Wheat (malted, unmalted, torrefied, etc)
- Belgian Candi Sugar
I hear people mis-use “adjunct” all the time, and I see it in print (by legitimate beer writers even) all too often. Let’s stop the madness.