Why Were They Sticking Red-Hot Pokers Into Their Beers at a Local Brewery?!

Admitedly, I’m as nerdy as it gets when it comes to craft beer. I’ll try all the new flavors, styles and techniques at least once! However, this thing they were doing at Pollyanna Brewing in Lemont (shoutout to my hometown!) is something I’ve never seen before! It piqued my curiosity, and I had to know more about why they hell they would want to stick a red hot piece of steel into their perfectly good beer!

Apparently, it’s a German invention called Bierstacheln, or “beer spiking” and it has quite the long tradition.

You see, back in the day, when having a cold beer wasn’t necessarily the best idea since the weather was cold enough, they would use these metal pokers that have been sitting in a roaring fire to gently stir their beer for just a few seconds. It did two things: 1) It warmed their beer, which was more enjoyable on a cold German winter day. But more interestingly, it also changed the flavor of the beer! You must understand that many styles of beer have residual sugars floating around in it that are left over from the fermentation process (yeast needs sugars to make alcohol, but a lot of times those little yeasties don’t eat up ALL the sugar). So when a metal poker heated up to several hundred degrees enters the party, it actually carnalizes those sugars which imparts a toasted marshmallows type of flavor. The more sugars in the beer, the more pronounce the effect.

There’s a trade off here though, as the hot poker also will degrade a lot of the carbonation. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a different experience.

I wish I could have gotten down to Pollyanna to give this a try, especially with those nifty custom-made spikes! But hey, I have a fire pit here at home and a supply of well-sugared beer. I foresee a science experiment in my future!