You've probably tasted beer that's been brewed to taste like chocolate or coffee. But what about a beer infused with the smoky, sweet flavor of campfire s'mores or the complex profile of your favorite classic cocktail? Well, beer lovers, these aren't just alcohol-infused pipe dreams, but rather the stuff of reality thanks to one newfangled piece of craft brewing equipment.
Though it's technically named an organoleptic hop transducer module, the Randall is a surprisingly not-so-technical piece of hardware used to infuse beer. It was originally created by Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, in an effort to out-hop West Coast brewers, but has since sparked the interest of brewers worldwide and is being used to infuse beer with flavors far beyond hops. During the past eight years, Calagione has sold almost 300 Randalls — and that's not including the hundreds bought and sold through home-brewer markets. Now, brewers all over the world are creating small-batch culinary creations using everything from fresh herbs and spices to fruit.
Here's how it works: The system moves draft beer through an infusion chamber connected to a keg. From there, the alcohol from the beer strips the flavors of the ingredients in the chamber, which acts as an extension of the keg system. The beer then pours from the tap, taking the new flavors with it. Add garnish, and you’ve got yourself an adventurous play on craft beer.
Here in the Valley, you can find your own Randall experience every Wednesday at the Cartel Brewery in Tempe. Bar Manager Amanda Madsen requested to bring the Randall to the Tempe location since the equipment was something she had become acquainted with while tending bar in Salt Lake City.
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Trial and error play a big part of the recipe process, and over time, Madsen has found fresh ingredients work best, while over-processed candies tend to gunk up the final product. She's also found mimicking cocktail recipes to be extremely popular. For example, the Randalled Rye Old Fashioned, an obvious play on the traditional cocktail, has been one of Madsen's most popular recipes thus far. She used Cartel’s Amber Rye Beer, whiskey-soaked oak chips, Bing cherries, bittering herbs, and locally sourced oranges and kumquats to create the beer. Presentation also plays into Madsen’s creations such as when she placed a roasted marshmallow placed atop a S’mores Randalled Cartel Campfire Brown Ale or offered a side beignet from the French Grocery in Phoenix with the Laissez Le Brown Ale Randalled with chicory root in honor of Fat Tuesday.
To find out what will be Randalled next, visit Cartel Brewery online or on Instagram (@cartelbrewery).