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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.