Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Can You Randall the Vibe?

If you had the opportunity to visit McCoy's/The Foundry on Monday during American Craft Beer Week, you were able to taste two McCoy's beers that went through a process known as Randalling; essentially infusing the beer with additional flavors by passing it through hops, spices, fruit or any ingredient of your choosing, really, then passing it through a filter before it ends up in your glass.
The original Randall the Enamel Animal.
Photo courtesy of

But let's back up for a second. Many of you who may not be familiar with the process are probably wondering where the hell this whole 'Randall' thing came from anyway. Well, it comes from Randall the Enamel Animal, which is a device developed by Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head back in 2002. According to the Dogfish Head website, the apparatus was created for a competition called The Lupulin Slam, and Dogfish Head never expected to build more than the one unit. Since it debuted, though, they've built over 260 for various breweries and beer drinkers around the world.

Recently, Dogfish Head unveiled a new item called the 'Randall Jr.' Essentially, Randall Jr. is a dumbed down, miniaturized version of the Randall that allows people to infuse their own beer at home using a 16 ounce canister equipped with a strainer at the top. On a side note, Dogfish Head put together a pretty fantastic mock infomercial for the Randall Jr.
The compact Randall Jr.
Photo courtesy of

The idea of Randalling beer at home intrigued me, but being the cheapskate I am, I wasn't ready to pay $30 ($20 + $10 shipping) for a product that I didn't know if I would still want to use after the first try. So after a little online research and Twitter brain-picking, I found that most people felt that a french press or infuser teapot could serve as a suitable makeshift Randall. Luckily, I was able to round up an Assam Teapot that I had in storage. Let the Randall Adventures begin!

Experiment 1: Blackberry Bastard - For no particular reason, I chose a bottle of Founders Backwoods Bastard to serve as my first Randalling guinea pig. I've had this beer multiple times, and had a bottle sitting in my fridge, so I figured why not go big for my first attempt at infusing beer? I've always thought that Backwoods Bastard, while a good beer, was a bit overpowering and harsh with it's booziness. I wanted to infuse it with something that would help balance the alcohol, so I looked to ingredients that were sweet and tart; blackberries and honey. I stirred the blackberries into the honey first and allowed them to sit for a while and macerate before putting them into the teapot. In went the bottle of beer, and I let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes in the fridge. After pushing the plunger down and pouring the infused beer into a glass, it was the moment of truth..

Delicious. Really though, I loved it. I was surprised at how well it worked. The honey really stood out on the first taste, and there was just a little bit of pucker from the blackberries. Neither flavors completely muted the boozy, bourbon and oak flavors of the Backwoods, but they certainly toned them down a bit, and at least to my palate, complemented them extremely well. Founders, make Blackberry Bastard a thing, I'll drink it all the time.

Lagunitas IPA infuses with chai tea in an Assam Teapot.

Experiment 2: Lagunitas CHAI-PA - My next Randalled beer was originally intended to be an experiment with hops infusion, but because I didn't get a chance to go to the homebrew store and was really eager to break out the teapot again, I decided to switch things up and go a completely different route (did I mention I'm impatient in addition to being cheap?). I knew Widmer had tried a Chai IPA in the past, and I've tasted Stone's Japanese Green Tea IPA, so I didn't think a chai tea Randalled Lagunitas IPA was too crazy of an idea. I thought the citrusy, floral hops in the Lagunitas IPA might be well matched by the spiciness of the ginger, pepper and clove flavors in chai tea. After following the same process I did with the Blackberry Bastard, I took a sip and my thought process went something like this:

Whoa. Weird. Spicy. Still hoppy. Kind of good. Do I like this? Yeah, but still really weird.

I didn't hate it, I didn't love it, but it was an interesting experiment. The aroma on this one was crazy, and was basically like a super pungent, fruity cup of chai tea. The clove was the most noticeable flavor, but you could still detect the hop flavors from the IPA underneath.

Overall, my first two home Randalling experiences were great, and I'm definitely looking forward to experimenting more with different beer styles and different ingredients. I could see this being an oddly addicting habit. One nice part about Randalling is that it gives people like me, who don't have a homebrew setup, the opportunity to create their own twists on beers. Plus, it's relatively inexpensive and if you mess up a 'batch', you are only messing up a single beer. I'm looking forward to picking up some hops soon and running some beer through those, as well as exploring the spice aisle to find some more exotic flavors that could be interesting to infuse.

So I hereby officially encourage everyone to give Randalling at home a shot. Of course, if you use a french press or infuser teapot like I did, you technically probably can't call it Randalling anymore, but that's just details!

Have any of you tried Randalling beer at home? How were your results? Do any of you think that Randalling is a stupid fad and a waste of a beer that's already perfectly good (I'm going to guess there's at least one of you)?

Author's Note: I hope at least one of you caught the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony reference in this post's title.


  1. Nice article. It leaves me very intrigeed in trying this out. I think I'll invest in the Assam Teapot & give it a shot. Or is there a better device in the under $50 range? Good stuff!

  2. Good article. I'd like to try it, but i feel in the end its a passing fad. I think people may try it at a bar as a gimmick, but not so much as something they would buy for home use. Most people dont want to mess with setting up, getting the extra ingredients, making the beer, and then cleaning it up.

  3. Didn't you just steal this idea from Gizmodo a few days ago....#keepingitreal

  4. @KC Beer Josh,

  5. @Anonymous, Yes, I stole Gizmodo's May 18th article concept when I did my first Randall on the 14th.

    You are a real sleuth!

  6. This is a cool post and all, but Simpsons already did it.

  7. As a homebrewer, using a French press to infuse different flavors is a great way to trial adjunct additions to current or future recipes.

  8. I tried several combinations yesterday in my french press with varying success. I started with an O'Fallon Kite Tail Summer Ale and infused fresh blueberries and peaches. I also tried a separate batch with ginger and peaches. Both were ok but a little heavy on the peach for my taste. I then tried a Rogue Orange Honey ale with blackberries, bourbon and more honey. It was by far the best and worth making again.