Creating beers for the cost of living
17 Mar 2023
Over the past few months, we’ve been thinking of ways to create affordable beers for our customers to be able to have craft beer options whilst still watching the pennies. Firstly, we realise that affordable is a bit of a sliding scale for people so we settled on trying to create a beer that could be sold for Under £5 and still get the bar 60% GP. So, this concept was the starting point for us to try and create recipes that have our signature complexity and full flavour but focus on ingredients that are more affordable. The first place to start was the malt bill.
Focussing on Malt
For our first affordable beer, we decided to make British malt the showcase. We are lucky enough to work with Simpsons malt. They have been a leading maltster since 1863 and create some incredible heritage malt. They work directly with farmers to support them and make sure their barley is the best from seed to malting. Their approach to barley and malting is driven by a passing of generational culture throughout the Simpsons family and the quality of their malt is something we take great pride in when forming the backbone of all our beers at Exale. For this recipe we used Vienna malt as the base malt, it provides a lovely light biscuit base and a little hint of toasted, nutty flavour. We then layered the caramelised malts with brown malt, dark crystal malt and chocolate malt. These provide all the burnt sugar and molasses; brown malt adds a little dried fruit and coffee. To finish off we add the roasted barley and black malt which give the nice dryness and a hint of burnt toast. We created this beautifully complex dry stout. It’s a beer that all the brew team go back to time and again for an after-brew beer. So much flavour but still light and dry and makes you go back for more.
For our second beer we looked at the biggest costs in our core range of beers and by far the biggest expense for us is Hops. We love hops and the job they do in beer, but it got us thinking about what alternatives there are. The main compounds that give us the fruit and tropical notes in hops are a tiny amount of oils which normally make up less than 10% of the matter that goes into the fermenter. Of those oils, an even smaller amount is the aromatic ones that we really want to extract such as Geraniol, Myrcene, and Farnasene. So that got us thinking about where else are these oils and compounds are abundant. Turns out a lot of British hops also contain these essential oils and compounds so we decided to build a recipe that could display some of the desirable flavours and aromas of a hoppy pale but without the expensive hops.
Herbal alternative to hop aroma
For this beer (Half wit) we brewed a beer with another friend of ours and someone who knows unusual ingredients, Phil from simple things fermentations. We decided that we should use a style and yeast strain that would help boost the aromatics and showcase the herbal notes in a way that tied it all together and made a balanced beer. We looked for herbs that had high oil content and ones with different oils that would complement each other. The Heather has a lot of phenolic compounds which highlights the spicy earthy yeast character of wit. Lemon Verbena has high Citral content (30%) and also a lot of geraniol which is a key compound in the hop Citra. The result was a beautifully balanced beer, crisp and sharp with subtly yeast character and aromatic and citrus notes from the herbs. It’s incredibly drinkable yet complex and I think it’s a great showcase for alternative flavourings to Hops.
Hopefully, we’ll be producing more along these lines over the next few months and hopefully, you guys out there get to try them and enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed making them.