The intention of brewing this Blonde Ale was to make a beer that has all those subtle and delicate flavours of honey and retain as much if them as possible. The volatile flavour compounds tend to get lost in honey beers especially when adding the honey in the boil.
For this beer the honey was added after the primary fermentation had subsided slightly. The thinking behind this was that the large amounts of carbon dioxide would again drive off those delicate flavours.
I wasn’t really worried about the possibility of introducing bacteria when adding honey during fermentation because having made mead I know people tend to just dilute down the honey with water to ferment. I also believe a lot of honey available in the shops may be pasteurised as well. This makes adding honey during fermentation the same as adding any simple sugar, of course the intention though is to get the flavour not necessarily to boost the alcoholic content.
My one concern about adding honey however is with making the beer to dry or thin. Honey has the benefit of adding flavour but adding too sugar in any form means you decrease the body of the beer as the sugars ferment out and leave hardly any unfermentables like malt would.
The beer has been bottled for a few weeks now so it’s time to see what it tastes like and most importantly how much of that honey flavour has remained and whether the body and mouthfeel has suffered.
Honey Blonde Ale Tasting Notes
Look: The colour of the beer is a kind of straw/gold, I would say almost the colour of honey but that never even occurred to me until after I poured it. Poured very carefully and it has come out extremely clear even from fridge temperatures.
The beer has a soft pillowy. Fluffy white head that dissipates fairly quickly but lacing lingers on the glass for a fair amount of the way down the beer.
Smell: The aroma is biscuity and malty to begin with, there is a sweet note to the aroma but I cannot say it obviously smells of honey. It may be that because I know there is honey in the beer I can detect a slight trace of it. If you didn’t know there was honey in there then I don’t think it would be picked up. I guess the malt base and the grassy hops may overpower the honey on the nose.
Taste: After the first sip you I can absolutely, 100% say that the honey is present. It isn’t strong enough to be called a braggot and that was never the intention. It is a beer with a strong emphasis on the honey but I think there is a good balance.
After the honey comes a soft fruitiness and a strong earthy and grassy note from the hops. The honey taste does make you think the beer is kind of sweet though. That may be the flavour of the honey giving an impression of sweetness. More bittering hops could help balance it a bit more.
Feel: The body is fairly good, as I mentioned before the head is solid and laces all down the glass. I was worried the beer may be too thin and dry but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Overall: I think in terms of getting that honey flavour into the beer then we’ve achieved that fairly well. In terms of how good the beer is overall I would say it’s pretty good. I’m not in love with the beer but I definitely like it. The honey tricks you into thinking the beer is sweeter than the final gravity actually tells us it is.
It is well worth some further tweaks, maybe a stronger bittering hop addition and some aroma hops that could pair well with the honey character in the beer. Something along the lines of hops with a orange/tangerine aroma such as the Australian hop Summer or US Summit which also carries. That’s just my opinion though.