Adjunct beer with the flavors of pizza, bacon, and mushrooms

Le adjunct beer, arricchite con ingredienti come frutta, spezie, cereali o addirittura caffè, offrono una gamma di gusti intriganti che si uniscono alla base tradizionale della birra. Scopriamole!

Simone Massenza
Simone Massenza
adjunct beer

We, in particular, decree that, from now on and everywhere, nothing shall be used or added to produce beer other than barley, hops, and water.”

It was the year 1516 in the city of Ingolstadt, at the time a ducal seat, located 80 km north of Munich. This small city is famous for three things: the University of Munich (which was founded here), the Illuminati (yes the one’s from Dan Brown’s novel “Angels and Demons”, made even more famous on the big screen by Ron Howard and Tom Hanks), and the infamous Edict of Purity.

These were the words of Guglielmo IV of the House of Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria. Beer must be produced with barley, hops, and water, period (yeast not mentioned). Anything that isn’t seen or touched doesn’t exist, up to the work of good old Pasteur.

It was, therefore, a simple product, with few and straightforward ingredients… sort of. “Sort of “ because ever since its accidental discovery roughly 12,000 years ago, people have actually added much more to it than just that.

Beer is a fermented mixture of grains. As a result it also contains sugar, a lot of sugar, both simple and complex. How do you think sugar juice tastes?

Sweet, terribly sweet, unbearably sweet, to the point of becoming cloying (but if you happen to have a diabetic enemy it’s perfect). And Man, who at the beginning was simply happy to have discovered the stargate of pleasure, a.k.a. alcohol, started, little by little, to add everything he could to it.

Not only other fermentable ingredients, like grains other than barley or fruit, but a whole plethora of ingredients, which were also added to change its aroma and flavor and to adjust its balance and complexity.

Some vestiges of this undisciplined way of brewing beer, so far removed from the strict Teutonic rules, have survived to the present day. Don’t we find coriander and lemon zest in a Biére Blanche? And aren’t cherries and raspberries used in the iconic Kriek and Frambois, respectively?

Basically, beer as you know it, and as the dear Duke predicted, isn’t more than a couple of centuries old. In recent decades, the foundation of this standardization has been starting to crack, with producers increasingly experimenting with Adjunct beers.

The Craft Beer Revolution was complicit in this. While on the one hand it has been pivotal in the rediscovery of countless styles of beer that had been nearly forgotten, saving them like endangered mountain gorillas, on the other hand it has lived up to its American DNA and released the reigns of imagination.

Other than the vestiges of ancient styles and their modern reinterpretations, it all began a mere fifteen years ago.

According to the Maillard reaction (responsible for the crust on the meat of your Sunday BBQ or on your toast), the more malted grains are subjected to heat and the darker they become, the more they create toasted aromas, like chocolate, cocoa, coffee, or licorice.

But what if I want more? What if I want  A LOT more chocolate in my beer? The answer is as simple as ABC…why not add it? Thus Chocolate Stout and Coffee Stout were born, the classic British dark beers with some extra muscle.

And up to here there’s nothing too strange, considering that these beers already have the aforementioned flavors in them.

Ultimately… it’s just a little leg up.

And with this philosophy, little by little, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut, hazelnut, cinnamon, and chili pepper have been legitimized and today don’t seem so strange as ingredients in beer. Then it became time to (rediscover) fruit, which led to the creation of, on the one hand, the proudly  Italian IGA (Italian Grape Ale), the only type from our country, and, on the other hand, the American Fruit IPAs, ever smoother and juicier, so much so as to risk being disqualified as beer by the strictest connoisseurs.

Up to now we’ve only talked about the adjunct of single ingredients, and, more or less, of ingredients that merely accentuate what are already the typical flavors present in the beer.

But the new frontier pushes us way beyond that. New master brewers, usually American or its emulators, with no respect for tradition or for the duke and his edicts (F**k the system!), are throwing truly everything into their wort!

adjunct beer

We present to you the 5  most incredible modern Adjunct-Beers that you absolutely have to know about!


Are you a true mountaineer? And after a nice hike, scrambling up peaks and trails, do you need something to rehydrate your body and replenish its minerals but don’t want to break the mood or the atmosphere?

If it’s the feel of the woods that you’re looking for, then I have just the thing for you. They’re called Mushroom Ales, and they deliver all the forest, undergrowth, and fungi that you could ever want in a single glass.

Actual mushrooms, dried mushrooms, and powdered mushrooms are added to the usual ingredients. There are two pioneers of this new style:

Meadowlark Brewing, from Sydney, Australia, and its counterpart Old Town Brewing, from Portland, Oregon. Very similar recipes, with a blend of milk mushrooms, like the renowned Sanguinello, and a touch of honey to balance the flavor. Impressions vary greatly upon tasting, from love at first sip to why-would-you-do-this-to-me.

Who’s to say who’s right?


In America’s culinary culture (…as Italians can we really call it that? I personally take no part), there’s room for Beer-Cheese, a traditional sauce made from cheddar and beer, flavored with garlic and various spices traditional to Kentucky.

It’s perfect for dipping nachos or spreading on tortillas, burritos, or bread, with a giant burp, sitting in a La-Z Boy recliner, and watching the Superbowl on a giant-screen TV.

To tell the truth, some Americans even put it on pasta, but if you do that I swear to God I’ll make sure you’re excommunicated! Anyway… if a beer-cheese sauce exists… then why shouldn’t a cheese-sauce beer exist? (Aristotle should be happy with that syllogism.)

How silly of me not to have thought of it sooner! Introducing the Chili Cheese Beer by Modist Brewing Minnesota, a beer flavored with cheddar cheese sauce, various spices, and, to top it all off, ground chili pepper. Cheesy, hot, and spicy for a guaranteed wow-effect!

bacon beer


Smoky flavor has a long history in beer. Just think of the well-known Rauch beers from Bamberg, Germany, beers that, according to legend, were a product of the infamous city fire. Actually, once upon a time, smoky flavor wasn’t only more common, but practically omnipresent, due to the techniques employed for smoking malt, which resulted in abundant quantities of ash being deposited on the grains. 

So notes of smoke, ash, speck, and smoked pork and bacon are par for the course. Notes… I said notes…

This is where there’s a leap in quality. This is where we go from community Little League, straight to the Major League! The Oconee Brewing Company in Greensboro, Georgia, had the brilliant idea of using American Red Ale, one of the pioneering styles of the American Beer Renaissance in the 1970s/‘80s, as a base and giving it an extra boost.

The beer is called Bacon & Kegs! and is produced with an infusion of real smoked pork!!! The beer, created in collaboration with Waffle House, a historic Midwestern restaurant chain, was a total (and unexpected) hit, so much so that it sold-out in less than 48 hours. Despite being an unqualified success among both the public and critics, since it was originally brewed as a one-shot beer, the brewery has declared that it will not be brewed again. What’s done is done.


Italy is famous and well-loved the world over. The Dolcevita, the Belpaese, art, culture, history, archeology, and, above all, Italian food! A triumph of variety, freshness, taste, fats, carbohydrates, and Mediterranean tradition.

Among the most popular and beloved Italian dishes worldwide, the undisputed queen is most definitely pizza! From chains to artisan pizzerias, not only can you now find it in every corner of the globe, but,  thanks to Italian immigrants it’s even become a typical dish in other nations as well. Colorado Style, Dayton Style, Chicago Deep Dish, Detroit Style, New York Style, St.Louis Style… With all this love, it seems fitting that it should have a beer dedicated to it.

Plus, as we all know, a slice of pizza with an ice-cold beer is a match made in heaven! It all began at the Pizza Beer Company in St. Charles, Illinois, almost twenty years ago, with their Mamma Mia!, nomen omen, one part Abba and one part sad stereotype.

A beer made with (in order of appearance) tomato, basil, oregano, and garlic. Despite a tentative, if not critical, reception (perhaps it was ahead of its time), it turned out not to be just an anomaly, but rather found many loyal followers in various breweries around the world.

So many that it’s impossible to list them all here, there are dozens and dozens, including unexpected and well-established names like Lindeman’s!!! And this wave made it all the way to Italy!

The last one that I had the pleasure of drinking, made with only basil and no tomato, yet still capable of evoking impressions of pizza and eggplant parmesan, is produced right in Italy. Nope, not in Apulia, Campania, or Sicily… you’re way off track.

A few kilometers further north… in Lana, province of Bolzano. Because pizza is versatile, constant, and democratic.


Last but not least!

This time it’s really true because, more than any other this style is asserting itself as a must-have in the brewing world.

Despite initially being labeled with the name “pastry” not in reference to a decadent sweet, but rather in the Italian sense of the word “pasticciato”, or “bungled”, these beers have defied conventional thinking and moved into the spotlight, climbing to the top of the  global beer-ranking. The base is a Stout (or Porter), the classic dark British beer, that we’ve already talked about, which then participates in a confectionery orgy, a frenzy of sweetness and cake.

Not only the usual sweet adjuncts , like vanilla and caramel, but all of the ingredients for a dessert added directly to the beer! Need an example? What do you think of oat cream, cocoa, and vanilla? Or salted caramel, banana, and fudge? But there are those who have already taken it to the next level, using actual finished desserts, kneaded, baked, and filled! Some breweries produce Donut Beer, with actual fried and glazed donuts, those who produce Macaron Beer, with the iconic soft,  almond and egg white cookies, beloved in both France and Italy, others add marshmallows, and still others throw in Oreo Cookies like there’s not tomorrow! Basically a sweet and lavish feast, a dessert in a glass.

Only for true gourmands!

In truth, despite many (almost everyone) turning up their noses at these beers, it’s actually not such a modern or new-fangled trend, even when taken to these extremes. It’s just that we forgot.

This desire to experiment, to push boundaries, isn’t only a product of modern times, it’s ingrained in human nature, and some niche styles are there to remind us of this fact. Beers like Oyster Stout or Cock Ale would never have survived, let alone made it safe and sound to the present day. The first of these two, produced with the addition of oysters, made its debut in 1929 and is about to celebrate its 100th birthday.

And by oysters, I mean the entire oyster, including the mollusk and the shell. The second one, despite its name, is intended as neither a profanity nor anything pornographic, but a beer produced with the addition of a rooster, in which, like with the aforementioned oysters, everything is added, from the beak to the feet.

When was it first created? In 1669, not exactly just the other day. Basically, since Leonardo Da Vinci, no one has come up with anything new, not even when it comes to beer.

oyster beer