Adjuncts, grains widely used in brewing on the industrial and hobbyist levels alike, play an important and often overlooked supporting role to malted barley in the creation of our favorite beverages.

In January, a group of DC Homebrewers Club members participated in an experiment to determine the pros, cons, and differences of brewing with various grain adjuncts. In a very generous showing of commercial and homebrewing solidarity, the District Chophouse donated Citra hops and DC Brau donated American ale yeast–enough for 3.5 barrels of beer, to support the experiment.

The guiding questions were broad: "What can flaked adjuncts do?" and "What adjunct do people like best?" The list of adjuncts to be tested in the experiment soon increased from 6 to 11 as club members brought up more exotic and obscure grains from across the globe. After sharing their beers with other brewers clubs in the Washington DC area at the February Jam-beer-ree, DCHB looked for unsuspecting test subjects for a second opinion! Basic Brewing's James Spencer, as well as Steve Wilkes, and Reece Morrison judged five of the beers to determine their favorites at Steve’s Brew Shop. To calibrate their palates, they started by sampling the control beer, which had no adjunct,. From there they followed with the beers that were brewed, in order, with flaked quinoa, flaked rye, buckwheat, and finally, flaked corn. The verdict, you ask? Listen to what James, Steve and Reece had to say. Can you believe it?!

A SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) recipe was utilized for the control beer, and 15 others followed that recipe substituting a portion of the base malt with adjuncts. The Education Committee designed the recipe to have 80% 2-row pale malt, 20% flaked adjunct, and an all-Citra hopping schedule with additions at 60 minutes, 10 minutes, and 0 minutes. Participants used a modest dry hop post-fermentation.

All in all, the brewers used 11 adjuncts. Some are commonly used in brewing, including rice, corn, wheat, rye, and oats. The list of atypical adjuncts that were used featured teff, sorghum, amaranth, and toasted buckwheat.


“The club has done SMaSH beers in the past to compare hop flavors and aromas, but our Education Committee’s idea this year to tackle flaked adjuncts gave members a new challenge. It was exciting to see so many members eager to participate, and it was fun to share the beers with brewers from other local homebrew clubs at our mega-meeting. I’m glad we were able to spread the experience and results beyond our own group” said club President Sara Bondioli.

Education Committee Co-Chair Omar Al-Nidawi mentioned the experiment’s original goal and was pleasantly surprised with its expanding. “Most brewers use this or that adjunct to lighten the body of a beer, improve mouthfeel, or increase head retention, and we wanted to have a hands-on experiment to see exactly how different adjuncts stack up against each other in terms of flavor, mouthfeel, starting and finishing gravity, etc. The experiment soon expanded to include twice as many adjuncts as we set out to test, and another objective emerged: to demystify those obscure grains and discover new flavors!” he said.

The list of adjuncts used by club members is as follows: sorghum, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, flaked rye (three batches), flaked wheat, flaked rice, flaked quinoa, flaked corn (two batches), flaked barley, and flaked oats. Two control batches were brewed without any adjuncts.

DCHB and the Education Committee wants to thank the brewers who participated: Omar Al-Nidawi, Jake Grover, Michael Branson, Sean McCormick, Bob Rouse, James Wisnieski, Mike Lastort, Jay Wilkes, Sara Bondioli, Erich Streckfuss, Rob Spelbrink, Frank Hood, Bill Bird, Brian Haroldson, David Dudley, Alex Cook, and Julian Wyss. Beyond the knowledge gained from the experiment, there was a great sense of camaraderie and it was a fantastic start to the year for the club, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in January.

The next DC Homebrewers meeting is Tuesday, May 29, at Brookland Pint, at 7:00 PM.