My first homebrew was a pale ale kit like this one way back in 2005. The kit and the whole five-gallon homebrew setup was a gift from my mother the previous Christmas. There was no special reason in my head when I finally cracked open the kit. I just seemed like an interesting project while I was still living at home post college. At this point I was barely into my craft beer journey – I hadn’t even had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale yet.
Intrigued, I followed the directions and created my first beer. It was fine.
Since then, my philosophy has always been to fool around with weird ingredients or processes and take chances. I’ve been brewing for twelve years, but even back in 2005 there seemed little reason to brew another IPA that wasn’t likely to be better than what I could buy.
So once I figured out what I was doing, I quickly stopped trying to make clones and tried adding flavors I liked or thought would be interesting to my beers. After all, the worst thing that could happen is I had 50 bottles of liquid that I didn’t like. Even then, I could just dump it and try something else.
In 2010, I was deciding on a beer to brew to bring to Mets Opening Day. Beer and baseball were practically born for each other. Baseball is versatile in that you can grab some friends and drink tons of lighter beers while hanging out and enjoying the game, or you could get all pensive with it. Second- and third-guess the manager, debate double-switches, and if they should try a squeeze play; sip on an interesting and well-crafted beer, with nuance and layers of flavor, debate their inclusion and the quality of the beer. That’s the way I prefer to watch a game.
Established breweries will experiment with peanut butter versions of an established beer.”
What’s a good beer for this train of thought, for this sport? There a few different ways you could go, but I settled on peanuts and crackerjacks as a guideline for my baseball stout: a nice thick and nutty beer for a cold April day to celebrate baseball’s return and hope for a healthier Mets season.
Peanut butter beer is an uncommon beer ingredient, even today. Craft beer has recently been pretty hoppy, and peanut is not one of those flavors we’re used to. Peanuts also have a ton of oil, specifically peanut butter, and fats are horrible for beer. They create a rather unpleasant viscous mouthfeel, mess with the aroma, and absolutely kill carbonation.
I was clearly going to need to do some research when creating this beer, but luckily there are tons of homebrew forums with very active brewers who have probably tried just about every ingredient on the planet at this point. My first look was to the professionals to see what was out there. I’d had beers like Rogue’s Hazelnut brown, but nothing with peanuts.
The most popular peanut butter stout is probably Sweet Baby Jesus!, a porter from Duclaw Brewing. This one is paired with chocolate, a common theme, to achieve that Reese’s Peanut Butter cup taste. Other breweries making them include Horny Goat, Terrapin, Belching Beaver, 4 Hands, Carton, Funky Buddha, and Rapp Brewing who has the highest rated one out of those with at least 200 ratings. I’m sure I’m missing a few. Peanut butter isn’t it’s own style, so I can only go by word of mouth and obvious beer names to create a list.
Established breweries will experiment with peanut butter versions of an established beer. Jack’s Abby added peanut butter and jelly to their light lager. Ballast Point added it to their imperial porter Victory At Sea. Evil Twin has a peanut butter version of Imperial Donut Break. Brewers tend to introduce experimental flavors in a small batch at a tap takeover as a special treat.
I’m extremely intrigued by peanuts in light beers. Pilsners are one of the few styles where you might actually be able to find some peanut-adjacent flavors in the profile, without any actual peanuts, and it’d be cool to see how well actual peanuts accentuate that flavor.
One of the worst-rated peanut butter beers was Rogue Ale’s Voodoo donut, a take on a local confection that had peanut butter, chocolate, and banana. I’ve been to Oregon and the Voodoo donut shop, and really enjoyed their sweets, so it’s not surprising that I liked the beer too. Maybe there was a little nostalgia mixed in. I’m definitely in the minority here though, and even the pink bottle turns some drinkers off.
You’re already being a little silly, and I’ve certainly been accused of this, but you’re putting in peanut butter, so it’s no surprise that some of the names of these beers are unique. Purple Monkey Dishwasher. AstroNut Brown. Sweet Baby Jesus. God Damn Pirate Pigeon. No Crusts. Choosy Mother. I’d buy some of those on name alone. After these, my simply named Baseball Stout seems boring. For the next batch maybe I’ll call it, “You don’t have to be nuts to drink this beer, but it helps!”
The research I’d done led to two main choices; actual peanut butter, or dried peanut butter powder like PB2. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.
Powder is more processed, and may lead to a fake tasting peanut butter, like a low-quality candy bar. That might be fine, depending on how you’re using the flavor. In fact, most of the threads I read on brewing with peanut butter suggested this as no one really wants to mess with oily peanut butter. The one drawback was that many people suggested that the flavor seemed to fade pretty quickly with powder.
I always prefer real flavors, and I already had a bucket of freshly ground peanut butter in my cabinet, so I chose to do battle with the dreaded fats. Since I was avoiding the more processed powder, I figured I should buy high quality peanut butter, and this fit the bill. Freshly ground peanuts from Whole Foods with no added flavorings or ingredients – just peanuts.
With that in mind, de-oiling the peanut butter becomes key. You know how if you let peanut butter sit out for a while the oil starts to separate out? That’s what you want in this case. Instead of mixing it back in to create smooth peanut butter for your PB&J sandwich, you want to keep dumping that oil until you have a pretty dry cake of ground peanuts.
This is something that might take quite a few weeks, so if you’re in a hurry you’re better off with the powder. I scooped my peanut butter into a large pyrex dish lined with paper towels to catch oil, and flipped the butter and replaced the paper towels every few days until I was satisfied.
Here is where it’s worth remembering you don’t always have to be literal when adding flavors to beer. This is a conversation I frequently have at homebrew club. What are you trying to achieve and do you need to use the actual ingredient to achieve it, or will the normal four ingredients achieve the same goal? I don’t typically need more reason to try a new ingredient than “Because it’s there”, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
True peanut butter is really just ground peanuts and maybe some oil, sugar and salt, so when I make this again I’m going to cut out the de-oiling process and start with whole, raw, peanuts. I’ll then grind them myself in a food processor, sans oil, and roast them briefly on some parchment paper before turning them out onto some paper towels, to rid them of as much natural oil as possible. I’ll then try to replicate some of the creaminess with other ingredients, keeping the oil as far away as possible. My hope with this is to avoid the oil slick feeling that comes from having oils floating on top of your beer.
Once you get to the actual brewing of it, the logical place to put the peanut butter is into the secondary. One pound per five gallons will add quite a bit of flavor, but you can adjust for taste. My experience has been that peanut butter is an ingredient that takes some time to really meld into the beer. I’d leave it in secondary at least two weeks and depending on the style you brewed, would have no problems letting it sit around for a while after packaging.
The rich and full flavors of the stout fit well, and the roasty notes go well with the aroma and taste of bbq that filled the air.”
I actually just tasted a three year old bottle of one of my peanut butter stouts and I probably liked it better today than I did when it was fresher. The flavors just felt more cohesive and while it was fresh it had some harshness on the nose that had dissipated. I had it described to me as ‘a Kashi bar’ and ‘trail mix’ which both seemed apt. So much so that I’m back to what I was trying to avoid, a beer similar to Carton Brewery’s G.O.R.P.
I brought the beer to an Opening Day tailgate, and it was enjoyed, if skeptically, by many. The weather was cold, and the wind really picks up in the Citi Field parking lot. The rich and full flavors of the stout fit well, and the roasty notes go well with the aroma and taste of bbq that filled the air. The peanuts reminded us that soon we’d be inside, crushing peanut shells under our feet and celebrating the start to another Mets season.
Here’s the last recipe I used to brew my Baseball Stout. I was going for a peanuts and crackerjacks type beer with a big mouthfeel. I didn’t quite hit the mark originally, needing a little bit more aging time, but overall I was happy with it. I’m constantly tweaking and playing around with recipes, always wishing I had more time to brew a beer over and over before wanting to try something else. I might do away with the oats and go with a slightly lower lovibond for the crystal malt, but otherwise just as is.
Ceetar's Baseball Stout
1lb Crystal 120L
4oz Golden Naked Oats
6lb Dry Malt Extract - Dark
1.5 oz Cluster at 35min
1.5 oz Cluster at 2 min
1lb deoiled Peanut Butter for 3 weeks.
Fermented with West Yorkshire Ale yeast, Wyeast 1469, at ambient basement temperature (probably around 67).