Soooo what the hell is a Randall you ask? Was it named after a dude named Randall? Does it bite? Can you drink from it? Let’s ask Alex, the brewer behind our new toy…
ALEX: The Randall was invented by Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head. Originally it was supposed to be a one-off for a hop festival in 2002, but it was so popular that Sam kept using it. Its full name, “Randall, The Enamel Animal,” was named for the feeling of having the enamel stripped off your teeth, in this case, from too many hops. These days, that amount of enamel-stripping hops is just called a Pale Ale.
At its core, a Randall is an inline flavor-infuser for a draft beer system. It’s a chamber located between a keg and a faucet, that can be filled with any number of ingredients. As the beer passes through, the alcohol pulls in flavor compounds from the added ingredient(s), giving your beer a special essence.
Why the heck did we get one?
If you haven’t noticed, Coney Island is fun, freaky, and a little strange. Installing a Randall allows us to get a little more creative and a little more freaky with our beer. With this new mechanism, the flavor possibilities are endless. If we can think of it, we can try it. If you’ve ever been served a beer and thought, “This would be great if it had a little vanilla, or coffee or gummy bears, or all three,” the Randall can make it happen. Plus, because it really takes place after the brewing process, trying a variety of flavors is super low risk to a ruined batch. We don’t ruin a batch if we discover that chocolate and thyme don’t work well with Merman IPA. Or do they…?
What went into constructing it? What inspired the build?
Most Randalls are made out of plastic water filter housings that are retro-fitted, to work as inline flavor chambers. They work well, but we wanted to do something a little crazier, more of a Coney Island spectacle. After a ton of research, we decided to scrap the entire idea of the current Randall set-up, and started from scratch with actual brewery parts and fittings, all glass and stainless. Designing it was a bit of a beast, and getting it installed took a long time, but now it takes just minutes to set-up and breakdown.
How is it different from adding the ingredients at a another point in the brewing process or using a cask?
It is very similar to a dry-hop or cask addition, but obviously much fresher. The Randall additions are not getting aged in the beer at all, just being passed through for that essence. Depending on the ingredient added, it might be more or less intense or just a slightly different flavor than that same ingredient added at other points in the process. But the big take-away is getting to use ingredients that we wouldn’t ever try on a large scale, at least unless we find a Randall addition that just blows our minds.
What plans do we have for the CIB Randall?
What plans don’t we have for our Randall? I think each time we have tapped a new beer since I started planning this build, we have collectively come up with a half-dozen flavors we’d want to try in a Randall. We’ll use it any and every way we can. Off the cuff, here are some flavors you can expect to see our beer infused with in the future: hops, cocoa nibs, vanilla, fruits like mango or pear or berries, herbs like mint or basil, spices like cinnamon or wasabi root, peppers, candies like gummy peaches or tootsie rolls, pieces of oak or other woods… the possibilities are endless!
Are there any ingredients that wouldn’t work in a Randall?
Really the only things that won’t work are ingredients that would gum up, or clog the system. As much as I would love to push our Everything But The Schmear Brown Ale through pieces of actual bagel, or cream cheese, that just can’t work. Also anything too small for our filter to catch would clog it, but otherwise the world is our oyster! And yes, I do want to put oysters in the Randall…
We’ll be premiering this beast on Brew Years Eve as we ring in the new year with double dry-hopped Merman IPA. Keep an eye out for ongoing experiments throughout the year as we push the limits of beer and mad science!
We’ll also be looking for your ideas on Instagram polls and sourcing whatever crazy ingredients you may have in mind. Lemon Starburst + Mermaid? Dark Chocolate + Honey Stout? Habenero Pepper + Time Bender? Let your imagine go wild!