In 2002, the off-centered folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales unveiled a unique apparatus that is now known as the “Randall.” A Randall connects to the tapping system of keg allowing ready-to-drink beer to flow through a vessel holding ingredients which infuse flavors and aromas in the beer just prior to drinking. While the device was originally created to add fresh hop flavors, it has since been used to infuse everything from strawberries to bacon.
The January/February 2015 Zymurgy magazine (access this issue instantly online starting 12/23/14!) walks homebrewers through the process of making their own Randall at home. We took a look at a few ingredients that can be added to your Randall to bring the homebrew experience to the next level!
The Randall was initially developed to house hops and is one of the most versatile ingredients when it comes to Randall-ing beer. Generally you’ll see homebrewers and taprooms using whole-leaf hops, as opposed to pellets or plugs. Depending on the style, pick a hop variety or blend of hops that will compliment the beer being infused. Remember that the beer being passed through the Randall will primarily pick up the the oily aromas and flavors, and not so much any bitterness. Always keep the balance of hops, malt and other ingredients in mind. Whether it’s an imperial IPA or dry stout, you can add some very interesting complexity when hopping with a Randall.
2. Coffee Beans
Coffee loves beer, and beer loves coffee—it’s no secret! When adding coffee to a Randall, pick a roast that is not overly burnt or bitter in flavor and don’t grind the beans. Using ground coffee can make for gritty beer and can very easily clog up your Randall set up. Try running your favorite dark beers through the coffee, like English brown ales, stouts and porters. If you’re feeling more daring, trying running lighter beers like kolsch or pale ale to see what interesting flavor profiles you can create.
Peppers are a versatile ingredient that can be infused into many different beer styles with great success, whether you’re after a pepper’s heat, flavor or both. Keep in mind that often times a little pepper can go a long way, especially for the types with more heat. Half or quarter the peppers and add them to the Randall. If you are after more flavor than heat, clean the peppers of all seeds prior to adding them to the Randall. Try running a moderate strength pale ale through seeded peppers with less heat, or a rich oatmeal stout through your favorite hot peppers.
Herbs can add crisp, refreshing characteristics to homebrew when infused though a Randall. Try to find as fresh herbs as you can. Better yet, grow some in your garden or on your window sill! You can tear apart or slice the herbs to encourage the release of flavors and aromas, but for the most part they will do well mostly intact. Trying infusing a saison with a fresh heap of basil, or give your next stout the girl scout treatment with some fresh mint.
Like peppers and herbs, fruit is a broad suggestion, but that is because most fruits work great in a Randall! The preparation needed will depend on the fruit. Firm fruits like apples and pears will benefit from being sectioned to allow more contact with the beer, while softer fruits like berries could be left whole to impart subtler flavors or sectioned for more intense fruit flavor. Try sending your favorite light lager through quartered peaches, or add subtle tartness to your next porter with whole raspberries.
Have you tried Randall-ing? Tell us the combination of beer styles and ingredients that you have tested out in the comments below!