Nuts & Seeds

Crisp, crunchy, and refreshing, nuts and beer have long been a standard pairing at bars and parties across the country. Enjoyed together, roasted, salted, or even plain nuts pairs nicely with a cold craft brew. They go so well together, that various breweries have even developed craft beer made with nuts.

Nut additions to beer range in popularity according to the region they are brewed and if the nuts are common. For example Hawaii is famous for its Macadamia Nuts and likely why the Hawaiian breweries enjoy adding it to their beers.

Pretty much any type of nut that you desire can be added to beer. Nuts work best in malt-forward beers, the nuts do add a bit of bitterness so the sweetness of these beers helps with that.

Peanut butter beers were first to hit the scene, often as stouts. Porters and pale ales are also a natural selection when adding nuts to beer.

When brewing with nuts, brewers have to be careful of the fatty oils contained in the because they can have an adverse effects on the beer, like loss of head retention. They can also go rancid, adding unwanted flavors and aromas.

An answer is oil-removed nut powder which is easy to work with and gives a good flavor, but it can vary depending on how it is processed and how fresh it is.

Another answer is a process called fat washing. This is where brewers grind up the nuts and mix them with an equal amount of unflavored distilled spirit — between 40-50% ABV.  The nuts are soaked for a few weeks to a few months to absorb the flavors and fats. The nuts are removed and the liquid is chilled, which causes the fat to float to the top. The fat can then be removed, leaving behind an intensely flavored, but fat-free, extract.

Alternately brewers can buy nut extract!


Almonds (Prunus dulcis)

Almonds (Prunus dulcis) in the Amygdalus family, are related to other fruits that contain hard pits, including cherries, plums and peaches. Almonds, while technically not a nut, are actually a type of stone fruit or drupe nut, which means along with other nuts like macadamias, pecans and walnuts, have multiple layers that enclose a single, hard seed in the center.  Almonds, unlike many other nuts, are sold whole, sliced, and slivered; blanched; with and without the skin, they have a mildly sweet flavor that is magnified in products such as almond extract, almond paste, and marzipan.

Commercial Examples: Cherrytree Amaro | Forbidden Root Brewing Co.; Horchata Almond Milk Stout | Almanac Beer Co.; Almond Brown Ale| Temblor Brewing Co.

Brazil Nuts (Bertholletia excelsa Bonpl.)

Brazil nuts are native to the Amazonian rain forest in South America where they grow in trees that tower above the rest. They are one of the few trees that still grow wild in their native habitats and in Brazil they are actually illegal to cut down. Nowadays the Brazil nut can also be found in the Guianas, southeastern Colombia, southern Venezuela, eastern Peru and northern Bolivia. Brazil nuts are one of the few internationally marketed rain forest products that are harvested primarily from wild trees. Brazil nuts taste sweet and rich, and their texture is similar to that of coconut meat.

Commercial Examples: Mixed Nuts Brown Ale | Fireforge Crafted Beer; Nut Squasher | Hourglass Brewing Co.; Brazil Nut Bertha | Horus Aged Ales

Cashews (Anacardium occidentale)

Tootsie Roll is a chocolate-flavored taffy-like candy that has been manufactured in the United States since 1907, when the inventor, Leo Hirschfield, named  the candy after his daughter Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie. The candy has qualities similar to both caramels and taffy without being exactly either confection. The manufacturer, Tootsie Roll Industries, is based in Chicago, Illinois. It was the first penny candy to be individually wrapped in America.

Commercial Example: Tootsie Roll Speedway | AleSmith Brewing Co

Chestnuts (Castanea spp.)

Most Chestnut trees found in North America are of the European variety, Castanea sativa. However, there were Chestnut trees that were native to North America, Castanea dentata, that were wiped out in the early 1900’s by a deadly Asian fungus. Chestnuts are round, glossy, mahogany-colored nuts that are formed inside prickly burrs that break open when the nuts are ripe. Rich and ‘meaty,’ they are a starchy food and can be served as a vegetable, mashed like potatoes. Chestnuts are so predominant in Mediterranean cuisine that it isn’t uncommon to find chestnut flour as an ingredient in Italian beers.

Commercial Examples: Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale | Flying Fish Brewing Co.;  Smuttlabs: Chestnut Saison | Smuttynose Brewing Co.; Shady Character | Forbidden Root Brewing Co.

Coconut (Cocos nucifera)

The coconut palm is species of palm tree, Cocos nucifera, that grows to about 30 meters tall and is extensively cultivated in tropical climates. The term coconut refers to the fruit of the coconut palm, which consists of a fibrous husk (mesocarp) encasing a large seed or inner stone. The U.S. FDA defined coconuts as a tree nut (coconuts are not nuts at all but are a drupe fruit). Coconut is used in craft brewery recipes complementing a number of beer styles, including dark beers like Stouts, Porters, Brown ales and even hoppy beers. On the odder side, Stone made a Coconut IPA, and New Belgium made a coconut curry Hefeweizen.

Commercial Examples: CoCoNut Hiwa Porter and Imperial Coconut Porter | Maui Brewing Co.; Coconut Brown |  Blackrocks Brewery;  Maui Express IPA | Denver Beer Co.

Hazelnuts (Orylus spp.)

The hazelnut, believed to have originated in Asia, is one of the oldest agricultural food crops, providing sustenance to humans for thousands of years. The European hazelnut (Corylus avellana) is typically grown in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, Spain, Italy, as well as in the United States. The hazelnut (Corylus maxima) grown in Balkan peninsula (Turkey) currently make up about 75% of the world’s commercial hazelnut production. They are edible raw, but to really enhance the flavor, you’ll need to roast them and remove the bitter skin.

Commercial Examples: Hazel’s Nut House Ale | Wisconsin Dells Brewing Co.; Hazelnut Porter | Sea Dog Brewing Co. ;  Hazelnut Brown Nectar | Rogue Ales

Macadamia Nuts (Macadamia integrifolia)

Macadamia nuts were named for Lord John Macadam, an Australian who reputedly discovered the macadamia tree around 1857 on the Australian East Coast. The macadamia, was introduced to Hawaii in the late 19thcentury, and now is one of the best-known products of Hawaii. These ‘gourmet’ nuts have a sweet, delicate taste, a creamy, rich texture with an almost buttery flavor. However, they contain more fat and calories than any other nut. Macadamias are nearly always sold shelled because their shiny round shells are thick and require some 300 pounds of pressure to crack. 

Commercial Examples: Macadamia | Tactical Brewing Co.;  Chocolate Macadamia Nut Stout | Kona Brewing Co.; Macadamia White Chocolate Stout | Untitled Art

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea )

Probably one of the most popular and recognizable ‘nuts’ in the United States, peanuts are actually not true nuts. Rather, the shell-enclosed seeds of a plant that’s related to peas and beans. Peanut pods grow below the ground, and both the shell and kernel are soft until the peanuts are dried. Thought to have originated in South America, peanuts migrated to Africa with Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1500s. Introduced to Colonial America by African slaves in the 18th century, as groundnuts, goobers. With the outbreak of the Civil War, consumption of peanuts increased as soldiers on both sides turned to peanuts for nourishment.

Commercial Examples:  Sweet Baby Jesus! | DuClaw Brewing Co.; Liquid Bliss | Terrapin Brewing Co.; Peanut Butter Victory at Sea | Ballast Point Brewing Company

Pecans (Carya illinoensis)

The pecan tree, another member of the hickory family, and is known to live and produce nuts for 300 years or more given the ideal growing conditions in which to do so.  Pecans grow in clusters, and when the pecan is mature, the fruit splits and the pecan shell drops to the ground. Inside the inch-long, smooth, beige shell rests the golden-brown pecan nut. There are over 500 different varieties or types of pecans. Cultivated pecans are bred for thin ‘paper’ shells, which are easier to crack than the hard shells of wild pecans.

Commercial Examples: Southern Pecan | Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. ; (512) Pecan Porter | (512) Brewing Co.; Pecan Harvest Ale | Abita Brewing Co.

Pine Nuts (family - Pinus spp.)

Pignoli, pine nuts, piñon nuts, pinyon nuts, and Indian nuts are all names for various types edible seeds of the Pinaceae (pine). Of the approximately 20 species of Pinaceae basically only four main species are known for their edible seeds. Pine nuts form within the pine cone, where they are tucked inside the pine cone’s signature spiny and hard-shelled deeply layered scales. Each individual scale harbors a mere one or two Pine nuts each. Pine nuts are tear-shaped, slim and quite petite with an amber and chocolate tinted outer sheath which must be removed.

Commercial Examples: Piñon Nut Brown | Bristol Brewing Co.; Harvest Ale | Great Basin Brewing Co. ; Pina | Birreria Eataly

Pistachios (family - Pistacia spp.)

The pistachio is the stone fruit of a deciduous tree that resembles almond and walnut trees. The exact origin of the pistachio nut is not entirely clear but are thought to have originated in the Middle East, where they grew wild for thousands of years. The growth of pistachios can be compared with growing grapes; they grow in bunches on the tree. In its ripe state, the pistachio shell is partially open, revealing the nut within. Not every pistachio tree grows nuts, as there are ‘male’ and ‘female’ trees. Only the female tree produces pistachios, and it yields a full harvest every other year.

Commercial Examples: Pistachio Sherbet Sour | Peculier Ales; Pistachio Puff Pastry | Abomination Brewing Co.; Pistachio Cream Ale | Short’s Brewing Co.

Walnuts (Juglans spp.)

Walnuts are grown nearly everywhere throughout the world in different varieties, but they all belong to the same family. The walnut tree produces a green hanging fruit. When the fruit is ripe, the shell cracks open and the walnut itself becomes visible. Once the nut has been removed from the tree, the nut is washed and dried. The most common type of walnut, the English walnut, is available year-round. Other types—black walnuts; butternuts or white walnuts; and heartnuts a Japanese walnut variety—are marketed on a very small scale. Black walnuts differ from white walnuts having added richness, and smokiness. Black walnuts actually stains anything dark brown that they come in contact with once cracked.

Commercial Examples: Polish’s Black Walnut Stout | Fort George Brewery; Black Walnut Ale | Piney River; Black Walnut Dunkel | Perennial Artisan Ales


Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica)

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala, dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. The nutrient-dense chia seed packs a punch of energy-boosting power.  Available in white or black, chia seeds are similar to flaxseed in their ability to absorb up to ten times their weight in liquid. The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages.

Commercial Examples: Vanilla Chai Cider| Bad Seed Cider Co.; Rec. League | Harpoon Brewing Co.;  It’s The End Of the Wort As We Know It | Dogfish Head 

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)

Flaxseed, or linseed is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. The Flaxseed plant has blue flowers blooms, and today is primarily found in the Canadian prairies and the Northern U.S. The plant has an interesting life cycle, because its flowers only last for a day, but it can produce dozens of blossoms in the course of a month. Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard shell that is smooth and shiny, their color ranges from deep amber to reddish brown depending upon their variety.

Commercial Examples: It’s The End Of the Wort As We Know It | Dogfish Head; Beer Attack | Dr. Jekyll’s; Dragon Weisse | Harpoon Brewing Co.

Mustard Seeds (family - Brassicaceae)

The mustard plant is any one of several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis in the family Brassicaceae (the mustard family). Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of the mustard plant and are an important spice in many regional foods that typically come from one of three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (B. juncea), or white/yellow mustard (B. hirta/Sinapis alba).  Mustard is an ancient, nourishing plant, dating back in written record to the time of the Roman Empire. Mustard seed (taken from the plant we eat as mustard greens) on its own has a slight acidic, pungent flavor. The use of mustard seeds in brewing is not new. It’s as old as Belgian-style witbiers, which date all the way back to 14th-century monasteries. 

Commercial Examples: Mr. Saison / Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta | Trinity Brewing Co.; Tingly Tongue | Goose Island Brewing Co.; Root Doctor | Bluejacket

Poppy seeds (Papaver somniferum)

Poppy seeds come from a yellowish brown opium plant native to the Mediterranean and have been cultivated since the 6th century. There are some 70 species of poppies but Papaver somniferum is the predominant commercially cultivated variety.  Opium poppy starts out life as a basal rosette of leaves that look a little like a tiny cabbage. In late spring the poppy sends up a leafy stalk with a single nodding bud which soon turns itself upright and opens into a bowl shaped flower that come in red, white, pink, purple or mauve. As the plant matures, the flowers die, and large bluish green seed capsules appear, by which time the plant has lost all of its opium potential. Poppy seeds are not harvested until the capsules dry and release the seed.

Commercial Examples: Room 203 – Mohn Milk Stout | Braumanufaktur Hertl; Herbal Golden Strong | Scratch Brewing Company; Epicurean Salted Rye Gose | Urban Artifact

Pumpkin Seeds (Cucurbita ficifolia)

Pumpkin is native to Central America, especially México, where it has been cultivated for millennia. Referred to as pumpkin seeds when the shells are intact, and pepitas when the shells have been removed, pumpkins are a cultivar of squash. There are about 27 species of Cucurbita, but most of the squashes familiar belong to one of five species, all of which are annual, tendril-bearing vines.  Various parts of pumpkin plants are edible including the fruit, flowers, young leaves and seeds, and it is an agricultural species of great importance, cultivated around the world. Commercially produced pumpkins commonly used in pumpkin pie is often varieties of Cucurbita moschata. One the other hand Cucurbita ficifolia is commonly used in the making of soft and mildly alcoholic drinks.

Commercial Examples: The Great PumpkinNight Owl Pumpkin Ale / Coche de Medianoche | Elysian Brewing Co.; Pumpkin Seed Ale | Scratch Brewing Co.; Ghoulschip | Allagash Brewing Co

Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum)

Sesame seeds are the oldest oilseed crop known to humanity and is thought to have originated in Africa or India. Sesame plants are grown from seed and reach to 1.8 meters at maturity. The plant has oblong, hairy leaves; pink, white or yellow trumpet flowers and 4 seed capsules. The plants are harvested before the seed pods are ripe by cutting the stems and hanging the plants upside down over mats. The pods burst open and seeds are caught on the mats below. Depending on the variety, the seeds are red, black, brown or yellow however when husked they are a creamy color. The most popular variety is white, which is actually the sesame seed with its hull removed. The other colors including tan, gold, brown, reddish, gray, and black are also available, and they have subtly different flavor profiles.

Commercial Examples: Epicurean Salted Rye Gose | Urban Artifact; Perfectly Imperfect |Kabinet Brewery; Sesame Sesame Stout | Hong Kong Beer Co.

Sunflower seeds (Helianthus annus)

The wild sunflower, Helianthus annuus, from which all the cultivars have been derived, are thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru.  The sunflower produces grayish-green or black seeds which are encased in tear-dropped shaped gray or black shells that oftentimes feature black and white stripes. Shelled sunflower seeds have a mild nutty taste and a firm, but tender texture. Sunflower seeds have been shown to have potential for use in gluten-free beer, because malted they may aid head retention and foam stability, which has been a problem in gluten-free beers.

Commercial Examples: Sunflower / Sunflower Bitter | Scratch Brewing Co.; SQUINTS | Left Field Brewery; Sunflower Saison | Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

Wattleseed (Acacias Spp.)

Wattleseed is an Australian edible seed from any of 120 varieties of Acacia trees.  While some species are poisonous, 47 varieties are not. Wattleseed is traditionally used as food by Aboriginal Australians for at least 6,000 years, eaten either green or dried to make a type of bush bread.  Today the seed is commercially roasted similar to coffee beans. The most popular species for commercial harvest of wattleseed are: Acacia victoriae – elegant wattle,  A. aneura – mulga wattle,  A. pycnantha – golden wattle,  A. retinodes – silver wattle, A. longifolia var. sophorae – coastal wattle.

Commercial Examples: Seven Summits | Devils Backbone Brewing Co.; Barons Native: Black Wattle | Great Southern Brewing Co.; URKontinent | Dogfish Head Craft Brewery