If you’ve been to a brewery tasting room or a beer festival you have probably seen a Randall hooked up to a keg. This is essentially a big plastic tube that is filled with something to add flavor. Usually it’s filled with fresh hops or fruit to give some extra flavor to the beer, but you can fill it with anything, I’ve seen a few filled with candy at beer festivals. The beer runs from the keg, through the Randall, and then to the tap.
I thought this would be something fun to try at home. I don’t have a draft system at home, so I didn’t have a need for an actual Randall. I looked online and Dogfish Head sells a Randall Jr. It will run you about 20 bucks plush shipping. Their product holds 16 ounces and has a filter on top so whatever you are using to flavor your beer won’t pour out with the liquid. This didn’t seem too expensive, but I wanted to start with a cheaper alternative in case I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would.
I ended up getting a French press on a trip to Ikea for under $10. I thought this would be a good start for experimenting with flavoring beer. It holds 34 ounces so if you want to use a 220z bomber, or pour in a couple of 12oz bottles to share with others you have plenty of room for the beer and whatever you might be adding for flavor.
So far I’ve only tried the French press with IPAs. The first time I tried it was with Pizza Port’s Ponto S.I.P.A. I added grapefruit to this beer and gave it an extra kick of citrus. For the most part I’ve only experimented with beers that I enjoy, that are easy to get, and that don’t have extreme flavors on their own.
I like to use a lot of citrus (grapefruit, tangelos, oranges), but I have also used watermelon and cantaloupe. I think when I used the melons I didn’t add enough, or the ones I had may not have been juicy or flavorful enough to make a real impact. I’m still trying to get the timing down of letting the beer sit to soak in the flavor, but not let it sit too long to cause it to go flat.
Using the French press is fun, but I don’t think it improves the beer. Most of the beers I buy are from awesome breweries who know what they are doing and put out solid beers. There are a few occasions where I’ve got stuck with beers that are a little past their prime, and a little maltier than I would like. In those instances getting out the French press does make the beer more drinkable.
In the near future I plan to experiment with some stouts and will add coffee or spices, if those work out I’ll write a post with some suggestions for others to try. If you have used a French press with craft beer and have some success stories please share, it would be nice to hear what others are doing that I may not have thought of.