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I've been taught to look down on breweries that use corn in their beer, because it's a cheaper ingredient, and obviously men would never put corn in their beer.

That being said, why would you put flaked corn in your beer? I've heard generically of adding corn to more closely approximate a commercial clone, but that leaves me questioning, in what way does it change?

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4 Answers 4

I can't comment yet, so here is a link. The link takes you to a BYO article that does a good job of explaining adjuncts in brewing.

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+1 nice article –  Cleber Goncalves Jan 24 '13 at 14:22

Corn will lighten the body of the beer and add a slightly sweet, "corny" flavor. It's subtle, but it's there. Corn is not just a way to cut corners. One of the finest Trappist breweries, Rochefort, reportedly uses corn in their beers.

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To be an annoying nit-picker, I should point out that corn doesn't actually lighten the body. Because it ferments completely (i.e. leaves no unfermented sugars in the beer) corn additions to the mash increase the original gravity but do not affect the final gravity. That is, they provide alcohol but no sweetness or body in the finished beer. –  Tobias Patton Jan 24 '13 at 6:14
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If you were to substitute some corn for some base malt, you would be lightening the body. Perhaps this is what we mean when we say a given ingredient 'lightens the body'. Otherwise, I'm brewing up a 1.100 Barelywine and then making it into Coors Light by adding flaked corn until its thin! Woot! –  Graham Jan 24 '13 at 13:18
    
Absolutely correct. Thanks for the correction. –  Denny Conn Jan 24 '13 at 16:01

Flaked corn does lighten the body. Body is basically thick malty sweetness, so thinning out that malty sweetness with something that ferments completely lightens the body. (I'm not sure why Tobias is suggesting adding alcohol without sweetness doesn't lighten the body, diluting the sweetness with alcohol, or water, or anything non-sweet is the definition of lighting the body.)

Flaked corn does not actually completely ferment, close but not completely, like corn sugar does. Because it does not completely ferment it does add some corn flavor to the beer. It will lighten the body except in the case of beers already overloaded with sugars. The yeast will generally eat the flaked corn before barley because it has a higher sugar to starch ratio.

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You make an interesting point. I was thinking that "body" is the same as "residual sugars". Since corn ferments out completely, it does not changes the residual sugar in the final beer, and, to my way of thinking, therefore does not change the body. But maybe it's better to think of body as relating more to the final gravity of the beer, uncorrected for alcohol content. In this conception of body, corn does decrease body by increasing the alcohol content and hence lowering the final gravity. –  Tobias Patton Aug 6 at 3:54

One reason is that there are some beer styles that rely on the corn flavor: for example, the Classic American Pilsner, aka Pre-Prohibition Pilsner, gets a lot of its flavor character from corn: BJCP style description

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