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Red Pill or Blue?

Aroxa 'off' flavour capsules

As promised, we bought an Aroxa ‘off’ flavour kit, and have now inflicted the first three capsules upon ourselves.

Each pill contains a small amount of white powder to be dissolved in a neutral beer.

Following the advice of various industry types, we used Budweiser as the base beer for this experiment. (Sweet, watery, like weak cordial.)

We were also advised to use way more than the prescribed dose to make sure the flavour is really obvious, so, instead of one litre of beer divided among ten for each capsule, we used 330ml between the two of us.

Using them feels a little unnerving, like taking part in a clinical trial — if we turn into slavering zombies and star biting people’s faces off, this is probably why.

‘Papery’ — trans-2-nonenal

Boak: Yes, just like eating paper.

Bailey: I’ve never eaten paper. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be tasting here.

Boak: Well, eat some paper now.

Bailey: Nom nom nom. Eugh! Nope, still don’t get it.

Between us, we identified this as, yes, papery, but also chalky and talcum-powder-ish.

We found it quite a subtle characteristic, even at a high dosage, and wondered if we would spot it in the wild.

We also  though it made Budweiser better — drier and more bitter.

‘Corn’ — dimethyl sulfide (DMS)

Phew! An easy one, and you can save yourself £££ on expensive capsules: it smells exactly like the murky brine from a tin of sweetcorn.

It didn’t seem to contribute much to the flavour, but the aroma was unmistakeable. Boak confessed that, probably because of the association of buttered popcorn, she had perhaps been confusing it with…

‘Butter’ — diacetyl

Margarine would probably be a better descriptor. Melt a tablespoon of something like ‘You Don’t Mean to Tell Me This Isn’t Butter?’ in a pan, take a good whiff while it’s hot, and you should get the gist.

We were pleased to note that we have been correctly identifying this (rather obvious) compound in beer for some time, and a particularly buttery pint of Blue Anchor Spingo from last year sprang immediately to mind.

It was unpleasant at this concentration, like eating Stork with a spoon, but we could also see that, in a smaller dose, it might have helped Budweiser imitate Czech Budvar convincingly. That is to say, it was not intrinsically disgusting.

9 replies on “Red Pill or Blue?”

We ordered direct from the Aroxa website. It wasn’t cheap, but, as you are a sociable person with friends, you could split the cost with some other geeks and organise an ‘off flavour’ party.

Which is the one that tastes of green apples? I often spot that in beer, particularly mild, but I actually don’t think it tastes too bad.

Diacetyl is never a boon, its an off flavour caused by something wrong in the Brewing Process or by an infection. In low doses some deem it acceptable, I don’t

Okells –
I was going to answer Alan’s comment, but I couldn’t figure out whether it was “ironic” or not……..

The green apple/acetaldehyde smell is one that can be quite acceptable in the range of beer flavours IMO. I just noticed it – or an apply note tout court at any rate – in a very fresh pint of Kronenbourg 1664 and found it fit well to the other flavours. We get the full 5% export version and very decent it was but again (as always) freshness is so important.

In my experience and especially with lagers but also some British ales, the sulfury stench is usually plain old hydrogen sulphide. It may seem surprising to some that this is a traditional part of the beer palate, but it is for many lagers. This article explains well the origins and attributes of the taste…

It comes from precursors in lager malting barleys and I was fascinated to read that pasteurization can increase the flavour by a factor of 1, presumably the heating has this effect. This explains why in so many German but also other Euro lagers you get this smell and taste, but it is plenty evident in numerous unpasteurized central European drafts. The European palate is accustomed to it and as the article explains, the taste is felt to balance the malt taste. Some famous beers do not have the taste, I never get it in any version of Urquell that I’ve had, or Budweiser Budvar (Czechvar), or the Krony 1664 mentioned. But in the majority of lagers from the classic beer countries, I do.

The comments about copper are extremely interesting as well.


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