Summer is over and it is fall but some might not be ready to say goodbye just yet to that feeling of summer. So I am writing a post on Fruit beers before diving into writing, tasting and bathing in the glory of the fall beers.
It is my belief that a fruit beer can be a very tasty thing but like any beer style there can be very untasty ones out there. Fruit beer also has to fight the stigma of being known as a chick beer and that breweries just add some extract to cover up an off flavor when they put out a fruit beer. Pay no mind to this, especially if you brew to try to create new, different and in the end great tasting beer because fruit can be a valuable tool to have. So here is a quick crash course in making fruit beers.
When adding fruit to a beer you want to first answer these questions:
-What style of beer and what fruit?
-How will you add it to the beer? (puree, extract, whole, juice, etc.)
-How much to add?
-Where and when will you add it?
Most examples of Fruit beers start with a wheat beer base and maybe some a stout base. I encourage you to break this school of thought. Why can’t you have a plum red ale or a peach pale ale? I say go for it! My biggest suggestion is to try to make sure the style and the fruit compliment each other, example would be maybe adding a hop with a citrus aroma to a blood orange beer. Some ways to test if a beer and fruit pair well together are eating the fruit with the style of beer you want to put it in or add a few drops of extract to a glass of brew.
Once you have decided your base beer and fruit(s) then you must decide how you want to add it. I am a fan of puree because if they are store bought they are pasteurized so little worry about contamination, easy to measure and consistent in flavor thus allowing duplication of the recipe down the road. I would say if you want the fruit flavor to meld in and not become a separate flavor from the beer then use puree, whole or fresh juiced fruit. What that will do for you is ferment some of the fruit sugar which in my experience ties the flavor of the fruit in better with the beer and gives a natural flavor instead of a fake candy like generic flavor you might get from extracts. Now that I have talked up using real fruit I get to talk about the value of extract. Extracts are cheaper, consistent, and easy to measure. If you find good ones they can impart a nice aroma and a good taste. I have sometimes used an extract if I didn’t get enough fruit flavor from my real fruit.
Next you have to decide how much, where and when.
How much(For 5 gallon batches): You must decide if you want a hint, noticeable or over the top flavor. If you want just a hint I suggest .5 – 1 oz of extract, or ¼- 1 pound of puree or whole fruit depending on the fruit. If you want noticeable flavor the rule of thumb is 2 oz. of extract (but be careful some extracts are stronger then others), ½ – 1 pound of puree or whole fruit per gallon. Over the top well go over the top if you want to add 15 lbs of cherries to a beer I won’t stop you and I will ask to come over to taste it.
Where and when: If you want a wine like flavor you want to allow the sugars from the fruit to be fermented so add in the boil or primary. If you want a sweet flavor add into the secondary. If you want the aroma add to secondary right before you crash your beer thus not allowing the aroma to leave with the CO2 during fermenting. Extract I add at kegging or bottling. If you have the luxury of a keg you can add extract to flavor which is nice.
A big part of all beer recipe formulation is research whenever I am writing a recipe I start with reading different definitions of the style to get a fresh idea of the ballpark I should be in. Then I search on the internet for recipes of what I am making when I do this I am looking for common threads in the recipes and the brewers review of how it tasted. You will find there can be giant variances in recipes, this summer I was looking at jalapeño beer recipes that went from 1-25 jalapeño’s added to the beer . The goal is just to get a idea of where to start. Then all there is left to do is put all down on paper get your supplies and brew. Make sure you make notes so you can make any needed changes for the next batch.
Well for those out there still holding onto the summer I hope this inspires you to stick it to mother nature, brew up a refreshing fruit beer and crack it open in late October while handing out candy in board shorts and flip flops.