One of the things I don’t get about beer lovers is the seething disrespect of corn – aka maize for some of you. OK, maybe not seething but my comment the other day that I now craved New Glarus Spotted Cow was met with particular surprise by Jeffery Glazer of Wisconsin’s Madison Beer Review who wrote to say that “Spotted Cow is good, but to drive halfway across the country for it? I’d be really curious to hear what was said about it to cause such a reaction.” In response I wrote:
It’s the king o’corn, baby! I like the ur-cream ale Genesee Cream but I also like cream corn, corn chowder, corn on the cob and corn chips. I think the taste of corn gets a bum steer as far as corn and beer goes. Why praise other grains yet diss the maize? I have grown corn, have watched it grow and, I have to admit, admire it privately. Stan brought the Spotted Cow (as well as a few other New Glarus) and this corntastic beer made me love it. It is clean, has the raw chew-the-cob sweetness and is also balanced and without a tinge of chemical, the hallmark of modern corn-y brew…Did I mention it comes with corn?
I asked Stan when we were sipping his giftie if it had flaked corn and he thought maybe it was just corn sugar but was not in the know. I would be surprised if there is that much unfermentable corn in it from just a powder. Nonetheless, I am here to bear witness, bretheren and the real lesson here is that cream ale like Spotted Cow is corn ale and cream ale should be great! It is just a style, after all. Corn is, folks, and corn should be more than the flakes in your breakfast bowl. As I mentioned, I understand that there are two ways to get corn into beer. The most common is through glucose or corn sugar which is derided as an adjunct gone mad in American macro lagers but praised in Belgian tripels when, as I learned from Al Korzonas in his useful Homebrewing, Volume 1, simply combined with a little fructose to make candi sugar. This sort of addition of corn gets you a little more alcohol and a little less body but not much flavour – and certainly not the creamed corny goodness that is at the heart of Spotted Cow. Flaked maize is more like rolled barley or oats, a raw grain product that leaves plenty of unfermentables to add flavour. That is what I think I am tasting in that brew.
Maybe you know more than me but where are the rest of the corny adjuncts – the malted corn, the roasted corn or the crystal corn that some agronomist or another sort of lab-coated egghead should have developed by now? Surely a grain as versatile as corn could be subject to more treatments that might make for some other great beers. Surely there is a Department of Cornology in some Midwest US state working on coaxing more flavours from the humble yellow kernal. As far as may daydreams of future beer goes, I would think that the residual sweetness of corn could work in a roasty stout. The huskineess of a dried cob might also work when blended with a little rye malt. And Jeffery pointed out that it would also fit with the local and sustainable trends we are seeing becoming more and more important.
If corn can make a fine whiskey, why not a beer? And are there other fine corn beers out there, some modern chichas, that I do not know about?