Eureka, today’s post is all about a recent candy syrup experiment. Making my own candy syrup was very tempting but I never got to actually do it. This all changed a few days ago when we decided to put the ingredients together for a long-planned batch of Belgian Dubbel. I used Brewferm’s Candy syrup (180 – 220 EBC) before and was quite pleased what this syrup contributes to a beer. In my opinion, the most important factor why Westlveteren 12, Rochefort 10 and all the other great Belgian Quadrupel beers are so amazing is because of the candy syrup they use. Candy syrup can contribute a lot of the dark fruit character, pear aroma, toffee and caramel one can taste in Quadrupels. And we wanted to have some of this character in our next Dubbel. However, our supplier was out of the Brewferm Candy Syrup and this gave us the opportunity to make our own candy syrup.
I don’t want to go into the chemical details here since I haven’t put much thoughts into that. To make candy syrup one needs sugar, a liquid and a nitrogen source for the Maillard reactions. Yeast nutrients are a very common to supply the needed nitrogen. We made three batches of candy syrup: One with plain table sugar, one batch with raw cane sugar and one batch with plain table sugar again but with beer instead of water. The process however was the same for all three batches and is explained in more detail in pictures below. All the recipes are based on J. Smiths Belgian Candy Sugar experiment aired by Basic Brewing Radio on May, 7th 2009. Every batch started with 0.45 kg of sugar (1 lbs), 0.5 cup of liquid and 1.5 table spoons of yeast nutrients. We added the sugar and yeast nutrients to the cooking pot first and afterwards the liquid. Not stirred at all. The temperature was then slowly raised to approximately 143°C (290°F). Again not stirred once during the whole process.
At 75°C (167°F) the first bubbles could be observed (Fig 1). At 85°C (185°F) a very distinctive ammonia smell escaped the pot.
20 min after the first bubbles arose, the color of the candy syrup slowly turned darker (Fig 2). The temperature was around 127°C (260°F).
The color now got darker really fast as the temperature got closer to 143°C (290°F) (Fig 3). As the temperature reached 143°C (290°F), we added roughly 0.8 cup of water. Even for the share made with beer. This worked well for the table sugar based syrup but the raw sugar and beer based syrup foamed a lot. The addition of the water has to be done really carefully! One can easily get burned.
The temperature was then raised to 116°C (240°F) again (Fig 4) and the hot syrup was then transferred into glass jars (Fig 5).
This is the basic process how we did our candy syrup. The second batch was the same as the first one but we used raw cane sugar instead of white table sugar. Just to see if there is a difference between different sugar sources. During the first batch we decided to use beer instead of water. Again just for fun and to see how it turns out. Beer should have extra nitrogen and maybe increase the flavors of the candy syrup as well.
We decided to use a heavy #36 Rusalka Russian Imperial Stout for that purpose (Fig 6). Added 0.5 cup of Imperial Stout and made another batch of candy syrup as described above. There was a minor disadvantage with this candy syrup already, it foamed a lot (Fig 7). One had to be really careful to prevent an over boil and we had to stir once in a while.
Another disadvantage was that the whole mixture was dark already. Therefore no chance to observe any color changes at all. A blind flight. But the previous two batches gave us enough courage to simply follow the temperatures and add water at 143°C (290°F). Then re-heating the mixture to 116°C (240°F) and then fill the syrup in glass jars.
After the syrups cooled down, a first tasting (we could not wait to try the syrups).
Let me begin with the reference, the Brewferm Candy Sugar we used up to now. This is a very brown syrup with a relatively low viscosity. Much like liquid honey. The syrup smells like pears, figs and raisins. On the palate again pears, figs and some caramel. Even some minor toffee character. Baseline set.
Next, the table sugar based candy syrup. This syrup is already darker than the reference and very sticky and way more viscous. Faint aroma (couldn’t detect anything). Huge caramel, some toffee and pears again on the palate. Less sweet as well. And beside the caramel and toffee, less intense than the reference.
Moving on to the raw sugar candy syrup. Darker again with a nice red shine to it. Very viscous again but less viscous than the table sugar syrup. More intense aroma than table sugar syrup but we could not put the aroma into words. It smells fruity and maybe even some decent smoke, wood character. On the palate huge pear aroma, some bitterness and burnt character. Some toffee, caramel and coffee? Really hard to describe.
At last to the Imperial Stout based syrup. Really nervous. This is like the experiment where one could expect either a complete disaster or something unique. Lets see. Similar viscosity as the reference. Huge chocolate aroma, smells like a milk coffee and some malt character as well. The character of the beer seems to overpower the smell of the syrup. Palate: Pear, figs, chocolate, no roast character, not bitter, cold coffee. Wow! Way more character than the previous three syrups. Even a spicy character in there and some wood. Simply amazing.
Comparing all the four syrups, the most interesting one is definitely the one made with beer. It even out-rules the reference syrup. Actually, we were not expecting that at all. Our goal was to make some candy syrup to see how the process works and maybe find a decent homemade-syrup substitute for the Dubbel. In our opinion, both the table sugar and raw sugar candy syrup could work as substitutes for the Brewferm candy syrup. However, the Brewferm syrup still tastes a bit better. This is not true for the beer syrup. Simply something unique. Not only has the beer increased the overall flavors of the syrup but the beer contributed some of its own character to the syrup as well. This opens a lot of opportunities for making new varieties of beer based candy syrups. Not only could we experience that the base sugar makes a difference but even the liquid does as well.
Thanks to our supplier who could not supply us with the candy syrup. Would one still call this a supplier?!? We might have never came up with this beer-based candy syrup idea after all. Let me know if anyone else has tried this before. Thanks for reading and commenting, stay tuned!