Recipes are something I typically steer clear of in my column, but I do like offering ideas about developing a recipe. I also like a bit of food trivia when the opportunity arises. Pineapples have an interesting effect on foods of which some people are unaware, and that is the degradation of proteins. That is because pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, named after the bromeliad family of plants that include pineapples. If you choose to prepare skewers of meat and include fresh pineapple chunks, make sure to use them quickly, as opposed to storing them in the fridge the day before your big cookout. Bromelain acts to tenderize meat and will turn firm pieces of your favorite protein into mush. The same sort of thing can happen if you choose to add fresh pineapple juice to beer, except instead of making beer mushy it will destroy its foam stability.
I prefer adding fruit to beer instead of wort because the retention of fruity aromas and flavors is better. So if you want to brew a fruity, pineapple wheat beer consider using pasteurized pineapple juice or pineapple puree. A good time to add fruit is after primary fermentation is complete. One pound per gallon (0.45 kg per 4 L) is a good starting point for a beer with reasonable fruitiness. If yeast is still active when the fruit is added, the fruit sugars will quickly be consumed and the perception of fruitiness drops off. If you simply want to drink a homebrew with a nice pineapple kick, there is nothing wrong in my book with adding the pineapple to your beer when it is served.
Coconut is an ingredient that is gaining popularity in brewing, largely because of the success of certain beers like Kona’s Coconut Porter. The best way to use coconut seems to be by adding toasted shreds to wort at the end of the boil or by adding the toasted shreds to beer at the end of fermentation like a dry hop addition. The usage rate for a nice hint of coconut in the nose and mouth is 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 pound per gallon (0.1 to 0.23 kg per 4 L). Toasting coconut is similar to roasting malt — the longer and hotter the toast, the darker and more intense the flavors. The bottom line is to keep an eye on what is happening in the oven and control the process.
Light beer brewing is not something most homebrewers admit to thinking about, let alone admit to having actually done! That’s why my groundbreaking, tongue-in-cheek article in the March 2001 issue about using Beano® as a brewing aid for light beer was written as a gaff. I think only the thickest skinned brewers understood the beauty of the method and actually tried it. Not long ago, light beer was synonymous with very pale, very delicately flavored lagers with low caloric content and not much alcohol. These types of light beers are easy to make fun of and I am sure most of us have chuckled about how light beer is similar to sex in a canoe. The truth is that brewing super clean, super light beer at home is among the most difficult things to do and not the type of thing that new brewers typically want to attempt.
What you may find fun to brew at home is the nebulous style called session IPA. These beers have many of the attributes of light beer, such as lower alcohol, lower caloric content, drinkability and refreshing character, along with the more interesting flavor notes associated with today’s hoppy ales. I suggest doing a bit of reading related to this style (start with the story in the November 2014 issue of BYO), seek out some fun new aroma hop varieties to play with and brew some batches in preparation for spring.