Potatoes can be found in more than just fries, hash browns, and baked varieties. Surprising as you may think, this nutritious comforting, and ever reliable potato is also distilled by some to become vodka of course and it is slowly gaining popularity with craft beer breweries because they use potatoes as a source of beer sugar for fermentation.
Potatoes have a long history that dates back as early as 8,000 to 5,000 BC when it was first cultivated by Inca Indians in Peru. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors during the mid-16th century by a man named Sir Walter Raleigh. Since then, the potatoes have been fried, baked, and mixed with other foods and it has become a staple food source for many. But how did it become an ingredient for making beer?
Interesting Facts About Potato
- Did you know potatoes are still alive when you buy them in supermarkets? Unlike other vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes are inactive but still alive when harvested. That is why storing potatoes in a cool, dry place is ideal, as warmth and moisture can cause the spuds to start sprouting.
- Did you know the potato was the first ever vegetable cultivated in space? Through a partnership between NASA and the University of Wisconsin, seed potatoes were first tested in space in 1995 on the Space Shuttle Columbia. Then, in 2004, NASA began using Chinese technology to create the ultimate indoor-grown potato called Quantum Tubers™.
- Did you know that potatoes can grow bigger than their usual size? The world’s largest potato weighed 18 pounds and 4 ounces. That’s over 70 servings of medium McDonald’s fries. This giant potato was discovered in England in 1795.
- Did you know potatoes are not just used for eating? Potatoes were more than just a food source for the Incas. Legend has it that carrying tubers can prevent rheumatism and relieve toothache. They also used raw potatoes to treat ailments, from healing broken bones to relieving frostbite and clearing wounds. They even used the spud of potatoes for time telling. Now that’s one heck of a potato!
The Science of Potato Beer
According to science, almost any food that contains sugars, complex or simple, just like starch can be fermented to become beer. Potatoes, such as sweet potatoes and yams, have naturally high sugar content, has enough natural amylase enzymes, and has enough diastatic power. This means that they can convert their own starches to sugars without any additional processing.
Potato beer brewers use unprocessed potato flakes or raw potatoes in brewing beer. The percentage of protein that can be found in potato flakes is the same as the percentage that can be found in malted barley. This means that potatoes can contribute protein to your beer as much as malted barley does.
Raw potatoes are prepared before brewing, they are peeled, cut into small cubes, and boiled for about fifteen minutes. They are then dried, crushed or whip. The crushed potatoes are added to the foundation water then once it is perfectly mixed, it can be brewed just like a normal beer with some extra stirring.
This process will result in a neutral-flavored mash that has all the floral notes of the hops and become a beer. But take note that potato can dry out a beer but most of the time, it results in a quaffable and dry session ale. But despite the endless possibilities that the potatoes can be consumed, there are still kilos that got to waste every year. That’s why a Dutch company named Instock created a unique food-waste craft beer called the Pieper Beer with the help of an Amsterdam-based brewery. This beer is made from excess potatoes and it is a floral bitter taste that is similar to the Pale Ale.
Did you know that aside from potatoes, yam and sweet potatoes are also used in brewing beers. Their high sugar content contributes a lot of sugar in the beer which is used in fermentation. In fact, since the yam is famous during Thanksgiving, and the Americans recognized it’s flavor potential which resulted in brewing sweet potatoes as well. That’s why there’s quite a range of dark, pale, and craft potato beers that are popular today. And there are a lot of popular sweet potato beer brands that is in the market today such as:
- Salty Nut Brewery’s Sweet Potato Ale – This sweet potato beer has a spicy aroma, hop boquet, and light amber color which makes it the perfect beer to drink during fall season.
- Piney River Brewing Company’s Sweet Potato Ale – The people at Piney river likes to roast the yams before mixing them in with the batch. This process results to a malty ale flavors with the taste of roasted potatoes with a hint of vanilla.
- The Bruery’s Autumn Maple – The Bruery uses a total of 17 pounds of sweet potatoes per Autumn Maple batch that’s why it results to a rich brown color with the help of all spice, vanilla, molasses, cinnamon, and of course, maple syrup. The Bruery’s Autumn Maple has a bold taste with a hint of spice and it goes perfectly with your Thanksgiving banquet.
- Bent River Brewing Company’s Sweet Potato Ale – if you want a taste of cinnamon and other spices on your sweet potato beer, then you should definitely settle with this brand. The hops that are present throughout the beer gives it a bold taste and its warm orange color will perfectly fit your beer fix for the fall.
- Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company’s Jefferson Stout – Lazy Magnolia brews their sweet potato beer with the freshest sweet potatoes and lactose. This stout has hints of coffee, caramel, and chocolate taste.
- Fullsteam Brewery’s Carver Sweet Potato – Fullsteam uses about 200 pounds of sweet potatoes per brewing batch of their sweet potato beer. It has a deep maple color with spiced hops and a sweet malty aftertaste. This potato beer is named after George Washington Carver who is a famous scientist who loves peanuts.
- Epic Brewing Company’s Glutenator – This sweet potato beer is gluten-free. Epic Brewery uses a lot of sweet potatoes and molasses when they brew this beer. This results to a golden color with a clean finish.
Who knew the multi-faceted, abundant, and humble potato still has some tricks up its sleeve? It seems that there are countless ways that you could consume a potato.