Brewing with the local ingredients has brought me to a main sugar source in Mexico called Piloncillo. Mainly produced in South America and often called 'Panela', this product is basically a solid piece of sugar (sucrose and fructose) made from evaporating sugarcane juice and then concentrated by boiling it down at high temperatures. It is sold in most of the markets here and comes in the shape of a cone or pilon "pile". Translated, piloncillo would be 'pile of sugar' as far as I can tell.
Piloncillo comes in a light brown and dark brown version. It tastes a lot like the brown sugar in the States but with a little molasses taste to it. It's main use here in Mexico is as a sweetener in beverages and desserts like atole and flan.
In my case, I decided to use two pounds of it for a 5.5 gallon batch of American brown ale. This ended up being five of the 'cones' and I went with the darker version for the fun of it. Piloncillo is pretty tough stuff and it took about 15 minutes for it to dissolve in my 180f. brewing water at which point I then added the dry malt extract and brought this to a boil.
The taste of this sugar really comes through in the finished beer with a mild molasses/brown sugar and spice flavor and alcohol. I think this would be a good winter seasonal beer, but not one I could enjoy quaffing like I do my pale ale or traditional brown ale.
The following is the recipe for Piloncillo Brown
5 lbs. DME (light)
2 lbs. piloncillo (dark)
Steep 4oz. Crystal #60
Steep 6oz. Chocolate grain
Steep 1.5oz. Carafa II
Boil for 60 minutes with:
.5 oz. Columbus for 60 min. for 27 ibu's
1.5 oz. Hallertau for 10 min. for 10 ibu's
1 oz. Hallertau for 5 min. for 2 ibu's
chill to 65f. and pitch us-05 dry ale yeast
It would be interesting to find out how many brewers have used this product in the past and what their results were.
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