If there's any doubt that the Old Pueblo is dedicated to craft beer, consider that several spots have taken to the relatively new trend of beer Randalling. By taking already brewed beer and infusing it with citrus, spices, chiles and more, inventive brewers and bartenders alike can add another layer of flavor to the brews they serve.
In its most simple form, this method can be seen at downtown's Good Oak Bar through their beer presses, which run at about $10 for a pint. The set-up is fairly straightforward, especially for folks who use a French press for their morning brew as the equipment is the same.
First, the bartender loads the bottom of the press with desired spices. Then after placing the lid and plunger in, the beer is poured. It takes about five minutes to steep in most cases, though you can wait longer for more intense flavor. On one recent visit, Good Oak was flavoring 1055 Brewing's Plumb E.S.B. with chai, local chiltepin chiles, and orange with your choice of mild, medium, or hot spiciness.
As the beer infuses with the new flavors, you'll notice some foaming, which you should watch out for as you press the plunger down. Other than that, the beer is ready to drink with a bit of added heat, tartness, and spice.
However, the press method is just one of the ways beer lovers in town are breathing new life into their brews. The Randall, which is short for Randall the Enamel Animal, was invented by Dogfish Head Brewing Company about 10 years ago and has spread out around the world since.
The Randall works as an extension of a CO2 keg system. By hooking the two-chambered device up to the gas line between the tap and keg, the beer is forced from the keg into the first chamber, which holds the desired infusion, be it peppers, fruit, or whatever else. The beer is then forced into the second chamber where the beer is allowed to settle. This step is similar to when the press method foams—just on a larger scale in a smaller amount of time.
Originally created to infuse hops into beer after brewing took place, the "enamel animal" part of the name came about because the brewers joked the extractions could strip your teeth with their strength, according to 1055's general manager Chris Squires. Luckily, you don't really have to worry about that, though finding a Randall itself can be a little more complicated.
You can buy a Randall through Dogfish Head, who sells a proprietary two-chambered device through their website for $300 or a more simple single-chamber single serving device for about $20 for testing at home. According to Dogfish Head, only about 260 commercial Randalls have been sold since they became available about five years ago.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can even attempt to make one like the team over at 1055 Brewing did. Using a water filtration system and food-grade copper piping, Squires and head brewer John Vyborny cobbled together a functional Randall for much less than $300.
In about a year, Squires says 1055 has Randalled over 100 different creations. Some of his favorites include a pale ale ran through Thai chiles and key lime, a biére de garde through mint leaves, and a stout through Chinese five spice. Squires says Randalling beer does take a bit of experimentation to find what works.
"Different ingredients act in different ways," he says. "So there's almost an element of cooking involved. You have to focus on balance. "
For instance, stouts tend to require stronger flavors in order for the infusion to be noticeable, whereas lighter beers can soak up subtler notes. Vanilla bean intensifies in flavor over time, while citrus tends to weaken.
Applying these techniques, Squires says they've created unique and very culinary creations like a pho beer infused with traditional pho broth herbs and spices like cilanto, star anise, mint, and more. He says that while the Randall began as a way to infuse hops specifically, the creativity that's come from it is indicative of the craft beer industry in general.
"That's just what happens in the brewing world," Squires says. "People take ideas and run with them—they start doing some really cool things."
1055 Brewing serves up new Randalled creations on Saturday at their taproom at 3810 E. 44th St., Suite 315, so long as their sixth tap is open. However, other local beer bars like Tap & Bottle and Borderlands Brewing Company are Randalling creations of their own.
Michael Mallozzi of Borderlands says in the past they've had success Randalling their Honey Kolsch with Hatch green chilies and their BorderRoads Krampasclaus Holiday ale with chocolate nibs and orange peel. Dragoon Brewing, on the other hand, takes a more traditional approach to Randalling by focusing on hops, according to head brewer Eric Greene.
"Generally, when we use a Randal, we like to keep it simple and hoppy, Greene says. I think my favorite Randall that we've done combined Ojo Blanco—our summer seasonal, a Belgian-style witbier--with Jalapeño and cascade hops, which worked really well.
Randalling is steadily growing in town and, once you try a Randalled beer the reason for its growing popularity is clear—it results in some tasty, unique beer, allowing brewers and bartenders to add their signature to craft brews.