It seems there are hundreds of beers available now that claim to be honey beers but sometimes it’s difficult to tell just how much honey is in them. It’s difficult to detect much honey aroma at all in some beers and this may be to do with the process of brewing them. What I want to do though is try my hand at a brew with a large percentage of honey to see how much of that flavour I can keep in the finished beer.
How to Treat Honey In Beer
In many respects using honey in a beer should be the same as just about any other sugar because that’s basically what it is. Like most sugars honey will ferment out completely and make the beer drier than if you hadn’t used it. What you want though is that delicate flavour of the honey to remain and this is probably the hardest part I think.
When using sugar in a beer many brewers add it at the end of the boil. With most granulated sugars this is convenient so all the sugar is dissolved and ready to be fermented when the wort is cooled and the yeast pitched.
The temptation is to do the exact same thing with honey but this causes problems in terms of flavour. A lot of the delicate flavour compounds in honey would likely to be driven off at the high temperature at the end of the boil so you end up losing the aroma of the honey, which is exactly what you want to gain by using honey in the first place.
Keeping that Honey Flavour
To ensure I retain as much of the honey flavour as possible I’m brewing a beer that doesn’t have any overpowering qualities. If I brew a hop monster then the hops are going to blow everything else out of the water. I want the honey to be the star of the show so I am brewing a Blonde ale that, from previous brews already has a honeyed quality to it that will only emphasise my goal.
The next step is to make sure that the honey goes in at a point when you’re going to have the least amount of fermentation activity driving off the flavour. In this case it’s going to be at the point when primary fermentation is slowing down, just around the time you would be adding dry hops if the recipe calls for them.
Adding Honey During Fermentation
By adding it this late in the process there will be no heat to drive off flavour and less activity in the fermenter with lots of carbon dioxide bubbling away the flavour.
There are of course slight concerns with regards to introducing wild yeast or other bacteria but on all my brews so far I have never had an issue. Talking to a few people who make meads it would seem they don’t worry about this either and disregard pasteurisation in many instances.
So because of this and the amount of honey which is roughly 20% of the fermentables I hope to achieve a beer that is full of honey flavour.
Batch Size: 19 Litres
Original Gravity: 1.058
Final Gravity: 1.014
Bitterness (IBU): 38
Est. Colour (EBU): 12
|Amount||Item||Type||% or IBU|
|2.55 kg||Lager Malt (3.9 EBC)||Grain||56.94%|
|530g||Vienna Malt (6.9 EBC)||Grain||11.76%|
|230g||Crystal Malt – 40L (78.8 EBC)||Grain||5.06%|
|230g||Wheat Malt (3.9 EBC)||Grain||5.06%|
|26g||Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (60 min)||Hops||13.6 IBU|
|34g||Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (20 min)||Hops||11.0 IBU|
|40g||Saaz [4.00 %] (20 min)||Hops||13.1 IBU|
|15g||Saaz [4.00 %] (0 min)||Hops||–|
|15g||Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.00 %] (0 min)||Hops||–|
|950g||Honey (2.0 EBC)||Sugar||21.18%|
|1 Pkgs||Dusseldorf Alt Yeast (White Labs #WLP036)||Yeast-Ale|
Tasting notes will follow shortly.