Lime wedges in your Corona, sour peach wheat beer, mango chile beer – the list of fruity brews is equal in length to the opinions about them!
Home brewers can look to the harvest season for creative opportunities to incorporate new taste sensations into their batches. That watermelon in your garden could make a delicious pale ale. The strawberries from the local farm would be perfect with the Saison sitting in your primary. Follow a few general guidelines and your garden harvest or farmer’s market find could take your beers in a whole new direction. We HAVE to get those daily fruit and vegetable servings in somehow!
Yeast and hops each contribute their own blend of fruity flavors and aromas.
When you’re planning a fruit beer, consider the flavors you’ll already be working with from the basic ingredients and select your fruit addition accordingly. Citrusy hops such as Citra or Motueka are complemented by orange or lime juice or zest. Mango or passion fruit could accentuate these or similar hop varieties. El Dorado, a new American hop variety, is characterized by flavors and aromas like watermelon candy. Consider a watermelon wheat or pale ale with this hop and fresh fruit. While complementary fruits and hops or yeast are excellent partners in a beer, contrasting flavors can also be excellent usages of fruits or vegetables. A chocolate chile stout brings sweet heat and complexity that the grains and yeast alone could not. Whether you decide to complement or contrast your flavors, make sure ALL of your flavors and aromas are there to enjoy.
Fruits and other ingredients can be added at various points during the brewing process.
However, fruits have very volatile aromatic chemical compounds that are driven off during the boil or primary fermentation. Because of this, fruit additions are best done during secondary. By the time a beer is transferred to a secondary fermenter, alcohol is present and the pH has dropped, inhibiting microbial growth. These factors will help reduce contamination from microbes present on the fruit and allow the most flavor and aroma extraction from the fruit. If contamination is a concern, the fruit can be frozen or treated with sodium metabisulfite (Campden) tablets to reduce the microbe count. Freezing fruit prior to adding it to your beer has the added benefit of causing cell wall rupture, which increases surface area contact with the beer in the fermenter.
Not all beers are improved by the addition of fruits or vegetables.
In certain cases though, these ingredients can dramatically improve the flavor and aroma of your finished product. Remember to plan your recipe to take best advantage of the flavors from the fruit, whether they complement or contrast with your other ingredients. Be sure to use fruit that is at its peak of freshness and ripeness. And, whenever possible, add your fruit as late as possible during the brewing process to insure maximum flavor and aroma extraction.
Follow these steps and your next batch will be bright, refreshing, and part of your five fruits and vegetables per day!
If you have any questions about brewing with fruit, want to discuss recipes, or just see what’s on tap in the growler, please swing by the Westside location.
As always, we look forward to talking with you and learning more about brewing from you.