Ask Mr. Wizard

Foaming Beano Beer

TroubleShooting

Adam Puzerewski • Charleston, South Carolina asks,
Q

I have recently tried a few different recipes using Beano (as described in BYO a few years back) and Splenda to flavor. I have made three batches in the last 8 months. I make a batch as normal, once even split a Blue Moon clone in half (half to bottle as “normal” ale and the other half to receive Beano and continue to ferment). I wait until primary fermentation stops and then add a couple crushed tablets of Beano. In a few days, the airlock starts bubbling again (maybe once every 5 minutes) and it will bubble for a couple weeks (it does slow down). Then I take a hydrometer reading, and usually end up pretty low, around 1.006. I then add about 2 cups of Splenda to give the beer a little body and no added carbs. Then, I mix a priming sugar solution, boil and bottle the product. In a week or two I try one of the brews and get a very high foaming beer . . . one that needs a huge glass to pour into, and then come back in ten minutes or so when the foam sinks back into liquid. Literally, when you pour, you get about an inch of liquid and the rest foam. The beer itself has a little off taste, but not horrible. I attribute the flavor to the Splenda.

A

I often ask myself what I started with an article that was intended as a
science humor piece. The problem with Beano Bräu is that it actually
works and you can definitely make bone dry beer with this over the
counter digestive aid. Then, Chris Colby fueled the flame by balancing
the dryness of Beano beers with Splenda. If you think that an
off-flavor is associated with Splenda, you should quit using the stuff
and determine if it is the cause of the off-flavor.

I must admit that these beers are true Frankenbräus! The cause of your foaming
brews is easy to explain. Beano contains the enzyme amyloglucosidase
(AMG) and this enzyme breaks down unfermentable dextrins into
fermentable sugars. Since enzymes continue to do their thing as long as
substrate is present, any residual dextrins in the beer at the time of
bottling will slowly be converted to fermentable sugars in the bottle
and yeast will then convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Although you may think the Beano activity is complete when you bottle,
it is probably not. The rate of enzymatic activity depends on the
concentration of enzyme and substrate and sometimes is inhibited by the
concentration of the product. In practical terms this means that the
effects of Beano are really obvious at first then become difficult to
monitor because the reaction rate dramatically tails off as dextrin
concentration falls. So you think the beer is as dry as it is going to
get and end up bottling early.

This is a real concern for brewers who make light beers by adding AMG
to the fermenter. If you are a large commercial brewery the obvious
solution is to pasteurize the beer and denature the AMG. While homebrew
can be pasteurized, you would have to bottle carbonated beer. Obviously
you do not want to pasteurize before the beer has carbonated because
dead yeast equals flat beer. I am not advocating pasteurizing homebrew
and consider this solution as a really bad home method.

Another way to use Beano is to add it to the mash or wort prior to
boiling. This will take some experimentation to allow enough time for
the AMG to do its thing to the dextrins. Since enzyme activity is
accelerated by heat, you will find by trial and error how many tablets
are required to affect wort fermentability without extending your brew
day. The AMG used in breweries is produced by the mold Aspergillus
niger and is stable at high temperatures, usually up to around 176 ºF
(80 ºC). This means you can dissolve the Beano in your mash water prior
to mashing or in the wort collected prior to boiling. The boiling step
will denature the AMG along with the native malt enzymes and your gas
problems should go away. I always thought Beano was supposed to prevent
gas, not cause it!

Response by Ashton Lewis.