The Mule

In Defense of Corn

Chris Lohring, the brewer at Notch Brewing in Massachusetts, would like a few words with purists who have made corn “the most vilified grain in all of American brewing.” In defending corn, Lohring takes aim at two myths about it.

The first myth is that corn–along with another hated adjunct, rice–was added to beer to make it bland. Actually, it was the other way around: big brewers made bland beer because they thought consumers wanted it; corn was “just along for the ride.” Lohring adds that 19th century German brewers used adjuncts out of necessity. North American six-row barley produced a hazier and more tannic beer than the two-row variety grown in Europe. Corn and rice allowed them to produce a smoother, brighter beer that also appealed to the American palate.

The other myth with corn is that brewers use it to cut costs. That wasn’t the case for German brewers who first used it, and isn’t the case for his brewery–especially because it entails additional steps during brew day that drives up the overall labor cost.

Lohring adds that many craft brewers use corn to “dry out” big, malty beers such as double IPAs and Belgian beers. Why, then, is corn unacceptable in brewing pale lagers? In his brewing career, he discovered that corn made “entry-level” lagers dryer and sweeter-tasting. Now he’s using high-quality corn to make The Mule, the latest in his brewery’s line of session-strength beers.

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