I was in China to meet my wife’s family and they were drinking Tsingtao. I actually found it quite enjoyable, then I had them try a Red Trolley, they hated it! I wondered what ingredient could make Asian beer so crisp and light.
Rice can be used to aid in brewing beer. It is considered and Adjunct. An adjunct is an ingredient than differs from the 4 main ingredients of water, hops, yeast, and barley. Rice can be used as an additive to any all grain recipe.
Brewing beer with rice might seem like a novel idea, but its hardly a new concept. You might wan’t to make a delicious Asian style lager right away, but there are a few things you need to take into consideration before you just add rice on your next brew day.
Brewing With Rice
A lot of cheap beers are brewed with rice, Budweiser proudly advertises that their beer contains rice. As a result of this, rice has gotten a bad rap, but rice is a powerful tool in any homebrewers arsenal.
Rice an Adjunct
Rice is considered an adjunct. I guess you could say you technically can’t brew a beverage and call it a beer if you only use rice. That would probably be considered something entirely different, think Sake.
That being considered trying to brew beer the traditional way by just using rice probably won’t work out well because rice lacks a few main characteristics.
One of these characteristics is protein. Since rice does not have protein it does not convert well in the mash. This is why the main beer ingredient of barley is important. Rice could essentially dilute the protein levels in your wort.
This might not necessarily be a bad thing depending on what you are going for. Since rice is typically gluten free you could essentially make a gluten free beer by utilizing rice in large quantities.
How to Use Rice
In order to add rice to the homebrew you will need to first boil it. If you don’t boil it and instead add it into the mash directly with the other grains, it could end up absorbing too much of the water.
Just cook the rice as you normally would according to package directions. Do not season the rice, remember we are making beer. Once the rice is done it can then be added to mash with the other grains.
Type of Rice to Use
There are thousands of varieties of rice. The question is what kind can be used in the making of beer. In fact there are specific types of rice built to be used various beer recipes.
You can realistically use any rice that you want. If you are not looking for anything specific beyond, cleaning up the beer profile. What I mean by this is making it a lighter body, crisp beer. Then you can just go ahead and use whatever rice you have on hand.
Some brewers actually use minute rice in their homebrew, this takes away the step of having to boil the rice first. While it is interesting and takes some work out of it, I would not recommend this.
This is Frugal Homebrew! If we used minute rice we would be burning precious dollars. Dollars that could go toward making more beer!
Just from personal experience as well, I tend to enjoy rice that is not of the long grain variety. It would stand to reason that you might get a better flavor from non long grain varieties.
Rice in all its Forms
Rice is not just an ingredient for all grain homebrewers. You can use rice in many forms, so it would stand to reason that you can probably utilize it even brewing with extract.
Some of the common forms of rice variants in brewing.
- Rice Hulls
- Flaked Rice
- Rice Syrup Solids
The easiest to use would be Rice Syrup Solids, this is a powdered version that will not impact the color or flavor. It will help lighten the body and supposedly dry the finish.
Rice and a Dry Finish
Supposedly rice lends itself to more dry beers. Think Asahi Dry. While this seems to be a common conclusion to make when you are brewing with rice you can make a beer with rice and not have it be dry.
This can be countered by utilizing yeast that can handle eating up all of the extra sugar before it dies or becomes dormant.
There are many beers that are made dry by mashing at lower temperatures. These lower temperatures can make many types of beer dry without the aid of rice.
Alternatively you can make a rice beer and not have it become dry. You can do this by changing the yeast you are using or the grain mixture. A lower sugar grain mixture will leave the beer less dry.
Asian Beer and Rice
Since Asia is known for its rice and the diet staple consists mainly of rice you would think rice would be their main ingredient in beer. This is actually not the case though.
Beer was not a major part of Chinese culture. The main alcoholic beverage enjoyed in China was in fact Baiju. Baiju is made from sorghum and has a sort of black licorice taste.
Sorghum is also technically and adjunct to any beer recipe. It also helps to keep the beer light. I think there are some Asian beers that actually use sorghum as part of their recipe. I’ll have to get back to you on that though. It’s apparently pretty popular in African beer though.
Most of the beer brewed in China was actually from European countries setting up shop in China. The beers they brewed were traditional to Europe and did not include rice.
This is beginning to change as more young Chinese begin to enjoy beer. While rice might not end up being the main ingredient, it could become popular in China since most of the population is conditioned for lighter bodied alcohol.
If the beer is less filling that you can enjoy more delicious Chinese food after all.
Rice and Lager
Typically rice is used when brewing the following lighter styles of beer:
- Cream ale
- Pale Lager
Rice helps to lighten the body of the beer and essentially make it more drinkable. It will also make you less full overtime, thus you can drink more of it. This is probably why a lot of the American cheap beer brands utilize rice in their beer.
Below are some examples of major brands that use rice in their beer.
I bet you never thought many of the beers you use to play beer pong contained rice. Well rice doesn’t have to be used to create a cheap throwaway beverage take a look at some of these more interesting styles.
- Anderson Valley – Black Rice Ale
- Moody Tongue – Toasted Rice Lager
- Fonta Flora – Carolina Gold
- Lagunitas – Sakitumi
- Stillwater Extra Dry
I even brewed my own rice lager if you want to take a look at the recipe and process here.
Rice is not Cheap
A common misconsception is that rice is used in cheap beers to make them less expensive to make. This is a false premise. In fact rice is more expensive than many of the other grains that go into the cheap beer build.
Rice is essentially used by all the major breweries to make the beer more drinkable and appeal to the masses. I would also conclude that since it is less filling they can sell more beer. This is an interesting business tactic, that some micro breweries might want to try to add to their menu.
While rice in beers can increase sales and make beer more drinkable, rice can be a versatile adjunct to give greater control over your crafted homebrew.
Next time I go to visit the in-laws I think I’ll bring them a homemade brew with rice. I’ll add a little flavor to it to so its 100 times better than any of the mass produced beer.