Adding fruit to a beer is a great way to add another dimension that just isn’t possible with malt, hops and yeast. It can lead to all sorts of questions though.
Will it contaminate the beer? How much do you need to add? What point in the process should it go in? and all sorts of other questions.
Luckily though with a little bit of planning and consideration, it’s not difficult at all. Adding fruit to a beer can really add interest and complexity and there are quite a few methods to use.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the options of adding fruit to a beer without having to worry that it will make the beer worse. Everything that we do is looking to introduce better flavours not possibly spoil the beer.
Choosing Fruit To Add To Beer
First of all we need to consider what fruit is going to work best with the beer you are brewing. This could either mean that:
If you already have a base beer it’s time to sit down and consider what fruit is going to enhance the beer.
You build a recipe around or choose a style of beer that works well with the fruit you want to use.
One of the easiest ways to solve both these problems is to look at what is being done already. Take a commercial breweries beer. Take note of what works for them and replicate it in your own recipes.
Belgian breweries are renowned for adding fruit to their sour beers for example. Cherries are a long favoured addition to krieks. Think about the sweetness balancing with the tartness.
Orange peel is synonymous with wheat beers and wits. Twists on this can be any of the citrus fruits; tangerines, grapefruit and so on.
IPA’s can already be laden with citrus and grapefruit aromas. Adding something like grapefruit, which Ballast Point did to Sculpin IPA enhances the flavour and makes the beer a real aroma bomb.
Red Berries and Plums are used frequently in darks beers. Plum Porter is a classic combination that works great together.
Just take a look at a list of popular commercial fruit beers. I have added one below from ratebeer and it will give you an idea of what is possible and what flavours are going to work.
When you add fruit to beer it doesn’t have to be whole fruit that you prepare yourself. You can get fruit from the shops, there are so many options, although some are easier than others.
First and foremost though is you want to get the best-tasting fruit. If you are going to put anything in your beer, why sacrifice flavour. If the fruit isn’t ripe or for some reason, you wouldn’t eat it yourself don’t add it to the beer.
If you are using fresh fruit you are probably going to be limited to some extent by what is seasonal. Fresh fruit is great of course because you can see exactly what you are buying. You are able to assess how ripe it is, how good a condition and source it locally. In some instances, you can even grow it or forage for the fruit yourself.
If you do use fresh fruit you’ll usually have to process it yourself. This means cutting it up, mashing it or pureeing it in a clean and sanitary way.
I really like using frozen fruit in my beers. In most cases, frozen fruit is riper because it doesn’t have to be sent to the store and sit on display like fresh fruit. It can be frozen right at the ripest point. This means more flavour and sugar, which is ideal for us brewers.
Freezing the fruit also breaks down the cell membranes allowing the flavour and juices to easily get into the beer. I usually freeze fresh fruit for this reason.
Another benefit of frozen fruit is it’s usually cheaper than fresh fruit.
Fruit Concentrates, Purees and Juices
All the processing is done. Using purees and juices are perhaps the most convenient when adding them to home brew. The only things to be sure of though is there are no preservatives or other additives that may interfere with your beer. In some cases, these preservatives will be detrimental to fermentation by affecting the yeast.
Fruit Extracts and Essences
Using extracts and essences can be great. Err on the side of caution though. You really don’t need to add a lot to get the flavour in a beer and adding too much can make an artificial tasting fruit beer.
How Much Fruit To Add To Beer
It’s difficult to give you an amount of fruit to add to a beer because it’s going to be different on a case by case basis.
If you are using delicately flavoured fruits you will want to add more to get that aroma in your beer, for stronger flavoured fruits you’ll need less.
A starting figure for most fruits would be somewhere in the region of 60 – 100 grams per litre of beer.
Generally, though you are going to need more fruit per batch of beer if the base beer is stronger in flavour.
As an example if you are making a Blackberry Stout you are going to need a lot more blackberries then you would if you were making a blackberry pale ale. The roasted grains in the stout are going to overpower the delicate fruit aroma so more is needed.
Use the table below as a guideline. These are starting numbers and will require some experimentation to get right for your own recipes.
How Much To Add?
30-200g / litre or 0.25-2lb / gallon
Use up to around 120g / litre or 1lb / gallon
50-240g / litre or 0.5-2lb / gallon
30-240g / litre or 0.25-2lb / gallon
Subject to taste! Err on the side of caution
50-180g / litre or 0.5-1.5lb / gallon
30-120g / litre or 0.25-1lb / gallon
50-240g / litre or 0.5-2lb / gallon
50-240g / litre or 0.5-2lb / gallon
Use up to around 120g / litre or 1lb / gallon
50-240g / litre or 0.5-2lb / gallon
When To Add Fruit To Your Home Brew?
There are a couple of options of when to add fruit. The main things we need to concern ourselves with is that the fruit doesn’t introduce bacteria or wild yeast and that we get the most flavour from it in the best way.
The flavour we get from fruit is mainly aromatic and this means the flavours can be volatile escaping easily through fermentation and heat. So let’s take a look at some ways to get the fruit in the beer.
During The Boil
Perhaps the easiest, although often not the best option to get fruit into beer is to add it at the end of the boil.
The main benefit of doing this is the fruit get completely sanitized at the boiling temperature. The main disadvantages are that when you boil the fruit, it releases pectin. This will give you a hazy beer and you can sometimes encounter a stewed fruit kind of flavour. To counter this it is sometimes necessary to add pectic enzyme.
The other main disadvantage is that boiling drives away the aromatic flavours we are trying to introduce. Especially if you are using delicately flavoured fruit in the first place. Boiling should be reserved to stronger tasting more fleshy fruits if used at all.
Adding fruit during fermentation is a great way to avoid the issues that surround boiling.
You will find adding fruit just after the primary fermentation has died down will mean you retain the most flavour. Carbon dioxide created during primary is likely to drive off some of the aromatics you want in the beer but as the fermentation is dying down this is the time to add fruit.
So adding the fruit at this point is the most beneficial flavour wise but we still want to make sure that there are no issues of introducing spoiling organisms.
Using Fruit Juices or Purees
If you are using juices or shop bought purees they will be ready to use without any processing. The fruit will have already been pasteurised before packing when it was produced.
These fruit additions can go straight into the fermenter, again ensure there are no preservatives used in these products.
Using Fresh Fruit
If you are using fresh fruit some brewers add it without any precautions and in most cases, this will be fine. There is alcohol present from the initial fermentation that will make it hard for any bacteria to survive in the beer.
That being said I occasionally like to pasteurize the fruit I use. If you are putting the skins of the fruit of something like plums or grapes, the skin is covered with wild yeast that will try to establish itself in the beer.
If the beer is of lower alcohol content then this pasteurising process will be a good idea and avoid any potential spoiling.
How Long To Leave The Fruit In Contact With The Beer?
If you are adding the fruit to the fermenter then you will want to think of it like dry hopping a beer.
You need to leave the fruit in the fermenter for long enough for the flavour and aroma to infuse. The alcohol in the beer acts as a solvent stripping the colour and flavour from the fruit, the yeast will ferment the sugars.
I always leave fruit in the fermenter for at least 7 – 10 days in most cases to allow the yeast to break down the sugars and plenty of time for the flavours to infuse.
It is also worth mentioning that some fruit floats so making sure they are submerged by either weighing down the bag that contains them or stirring daily may be necessary.
Is It Necessary To Pasteurise Fruit Before Adding It To Your Home Brew?
In most cases, no.
The pH of fermented beer is acidic enough to inhibit off most bacteria. This along with the alcohol content is usually enough to keep wild yeasts and bacteria out.
That being said, if the ABV of the beer is under 5% I would be cautious and maybe consider pasteurising the fruit before adding to the beer.
Pasteurising The Fruit
Take your fresh fruit and prepare it ready to add to the fermenter. I usually mash the fruit and break it down a bit. It doesn’t have to be completely pureed but just broken down enough to give some extra contact area with the beer. Some fruits are fine just by chopping or slicing them into smaller pieces.
Place the fruit in a pan and add a small amount of water and very gently heat the mixture.
Stirring all the time to avoid heating too much, bring the temperature to between 66°C – 70°C (150°F – 160°F)
Once you reach this temperature, lower the heat and maintain this temperature range for 5 – 10 minutes. Try not to go too hot or the aromatics will change and pectin will be realeased by the fruit.
Allow to cool. The fruit is now ready to be used.
Separating Fruit And Beer
When you are adding fruit to the fermenter or at the end of the boil you’ll need to remove it before bottling.
Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to add the fruit in a clean and sanitised muslin/straining bag. The whole thing can then simply be taken out.
It’s not necessary to use a straining bag, however. Simply racking the beer off the fruit with a syphon and racking cane into a clean fermenter will remove most of the solids. Placing a small filter at the end of the syphon will also aid the process.
If you are adding the fruit freely then cold crashing the beer will help to encourage particles to sink to the bottom of the fermenter before you syphon the beer off the top.
Waiting a few days longer during fermentation will also help clear the beer as you’ll find more debris and fruit particles will have sunk to the bottom of the fermenter.
Conditioning and Drinking
Using fruit in homebrew will completely transform both the flavour and usually the colour depending on the type of beer. Strawberries will turn a pale beer a magnificent red hue.
Fruit does also add a small amount of protein and tannins that can affect clarity. Conditioning the beer in bottles or kegs cold for a short time will help precipitate out some of the haze forming products. Use of Irish moss or protafloc in the boil will also reduce some of the chill haze.
The benefits of course of adding fruit to your homebrew are the flavour and aroma enhancements. It doesn’t really matter how the beer looks as long as you get the flavour you want.
Apple mead goes by a variety of names, Apple Melomel, Cyser, Applejack or simply apple mead. It is the combination of two delicious drinks and the result is unique and delicious in it’s own right. Making Apple mead is really simple to make and this recipe is definitely one to try.
Mead & Cider Combined
The combination of mead and cider goes back centuries in western Europe. Mead is the most ancient of alcoholic beverages in the world and many European countries have the correct climates to produce lots of apples.
Cider makers would have seen the opportunity to increase the strength of their cider by the addition of simple sugars in the form of honey to produce a more complex, much stronger beverage.
What Strength Is Apple Mead or Cyser?
The alcoholic strength of any drink is determined by the amount of sugar available for the yeast to ferment. The sources of sugar in apple mead come from honey and apples.
Cider apples or apple juice typically ferments to produce an ABV of between 4 – 7% on top of this in an apple mead we have honey. Honey is just sugar so however much we add will determine the finished alcohol content. The more honey we add the higher the ABV.
This recipe will produce a apple mead of around 12 – 13%. At this level, the apple mead is like a dry white wine. It is crisp and refreshing. If you add more honey the apple mead will be sweeter, more like a dessert wine. I prefer my apple mead to be on the drier side.
What Apples To Use?
The kind of apples you would ideally use are cider apples. Cider apples have more acidity and more astringency that really balance a cider, eating apples are ok and provide ample sugar but not really enough acidity.
A variety of cider apples will make a great apple mead and if you can get them then this is almost always the way to make the best cider.
If you want to use eating apples then I would suggest combining them with cooking apples and crab apples if you can find them growing wild. This will help balance the finished apple mead.
If you are using whole apples then you’ll need to juice them to make apple mead. For small amounts a regular juicer will suffice for larger volumes a press is required.
The alternative is to use apple juice.
Using Apple Juice
Using apple juice is by far the easiest option as most of the work has been done. It is not easy to get cider apple juice and usually, you are only going to be able to get drinking juice that will need additions to make it more acidic and balance the mead.
Mixed acid and tannin is often used in fruit wine making and is easily dosed as they come in powder form. Getting these and using them in our Apple Mead will mean we can use store bought Apple juice.
As mentioned above mixed acid and tannin are used additives for balancing this mead. Both of these can be added at any point of the process right up to just before bottling. This really allows you to tweak the apple mead to your liking. It should be noted that apples and apple juice are slightly acidic so it is good to wait till later in the process before tweaking te acidity.
Take a sample of the mead and add tiny amounts of the acid diluted in water, do the same with the tannin. This can then be extrapolated for the whole batch.
Pectic enzyme is used to break down any pectin in the apple and prevent any haze from forming.
Yeast nutrients are essential for mead and provide all the right nutrients to ensure the yeast are healthy and can ferment all the sugars present. Without yeast nutrient, you can suffer from a stuck fermentation or sluggish fermentation.
Patience Is Key For Great Mead
It can take a while to make mead. Well, the process doesn’t take that long it is the waiting that takes time.
I have written about the time it takes to make mead before but the gist of it is, the longer you wait for the apple mead to mature and condition the better is tends to be.
6 months or more is great, 8-12 months is even better.
Equipment You’ll Need For This Apple Mead Recipe – Makes 1 Gallon / 4.5 Litres
Thoroughly clean and sanitise your fermenter and funnel if using. Sit the jars of honey in hot water to loosen them up.
In the fermenting vessel add the apple juice at room temperature and then carefully pour in the honey. Mix this thoroughly to ensure all the honey gets dissolved. At this point, you can take a hydrometer reading to note down the OG.
Add the yeast nutrient, acid blend, tannin and pectic enzyme and stir thoroughly.
Pitch the yeast either by sprinkling directly onto the surface of the mead or by rehydrating according to the package instruction. It is preferable to rehydrate the yeast.
Fit the lid and airlock and the fermentation will begin after a short lag phase of 2-3 days.
Allow fermentation to continue for a week and you’ll notice that fermentation will begin to fade down, fewer bubbles will be leaving the airlock. After 10 days you can take a hydrometer reading and carefully syphon the apple mead to a demijohn/carboy.
The bulk of activity is now over and the final stages of fermentation will happen in the demijohn. It is best to leave the apple mead in the demijohn for a month or more as it clears. After a month or two, the apple mead should be clearing and it can be syphoned to a newly sanitised demijohn to condition further.
The longer the mead is left to condition the better. I would recommend at least 4-5 months but longer will not hurt. Take a sample at this stage and you can adjust the acid or tannin if you wish.
If you are looking to make a sweetly scented, summery tasting wine then this peach wine is a winner. A lightly coloured, almost pinky, orange coloured wine with fruity fragrances and simple to make too, all you need is a glut of peaches (or nectarines) and a few basic wine making ingredients.
Peaches Are Great For Wine Making
Peaches have quite a high sugar content in comparisons to fruits like berries at the same time they have quite a lot of acidity which makes them a great fruit to make wine with.
The sugar content can also be boosted if you let the peaches ripen further. Peaches like nectarines, bananas, pears and similar fruits continue ripening after being picked. This process can also be speeded up by keeping them in brown paper bags or next to bananas. This additional ripening boosts the sugar content which makes them all the better for winemaking.
The trick is, of course, getting the peaches overripe without them going bad. This is something you have to decide for yourself, much like a vintner deciding when to harvest their grapes. The thing to remember though is the riper the peaches the better the wine.
Begin by heating half the water in a large pan. Stir in all the sugar to dissolve, and keep an eye on it to ensure the sugar doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. Bring the pan to a boil and simmer for a few minutes and remove from the heat.
While the water and sugar are heating add the straining bag and place it in the sanitised fermenting vessel. Add the prepared peaches and mash the fruit to begin breaking it down. Once the peaches have been thoroughly broken up secure the fruit in the bag.
Pour the hot sugar solution over the peaches in the fermenting vessel and give everything a mix. Add the remaining water which will drop the temperature down. Allow to cool to room temperature and then add a crushed Campden tablet and stir.
12 hours after the Campden tablet add the acid blend, yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme and wine tannin. Allow 24 hours before proceeding with the next step. If you want to take a hydrometer reading now is a good time to do so.
After 24 hours it is time to pitch the yeast. Rehydrate as per the packet instructions or alternatively pitch by sprinkling directly onto the surface of the wine must. Secure with the lid and airlock.
After a few days, the fermentation should spring into life. Each day you will need to give the fruit in the bag a gentle swirl and stir to keep things rotated and ensure a good extraction. Do this for 7 days before lifting out the bag with the now spent peaches. Allow to drain thoroughly without squeezing and secure the fermenter with the lid and airlock again.
Allow the peach wine 2 – 3 days to settle. The majority of fermentation will have died down and now is the time to transfer the wine to a demijohn. Syphon the wine to a demijohn and secure with a bung and airlock.
Allow the wine to condition and mature in the demijohn for at least 3 months, but preferably, for longer, 5-6 months would be great. Rack to a clean demijohn at intervals as sediment builds up.
Most maltsters produce an aromatic malt in their lineup of products. It is a highly kilned malt whose name conjures up a sense of what this malt could bring to a beer. What aromatic malt does bring to a beer is a bold maltiness that is slightly stronger than malts like Munich or Vienna.
A Bit Bolder Than Base Malts
Aromatic malts are made by lightly toasting pale malt at temperatures just over 105C / 220F. This toasting brings flavour and aroma that produces a pronounced malt flavour. Depending on the amount used the flavour of aromatic malt can range from honey to raisin like dried fruit.
Aromatic malt will need mashing and depending on the maltster will have some diastatic power so will be able to convert its own starches in the mash. Be sure to read the malt specifications as if there is diastatic power larger proportions can be used in the mash, up to 50% in some cases.
Aromatic Malt Colour
Aromatic malt is highly kilned so is darker than a typical base malt. In comparison to Munich malt it is fairly dark at around 50 EBC compared to 25 EBC of Munich.
Used in small percentages in lagers or Bocks will provide a subtle honey colour and in larger amounts it is best used in darker beers.
Maillard Reactions Boost Flavour
The high temperatures in the kiln promote maillard reactions in aromatic malt. Compared to Munich or Vienna which is kilned at a lower temperature for longer there are more of these flavour boosting reactions happening.
These maillard reactions are what give the malt a more intense malt aroma. The flavour also gives the impression of a fuller body to the beer.
Typical Beer Styles To Use Aromatic Malt In
As for the beer styles that are suited to aromatic malt you want to think about where you would use other kilned malts such as Munich, Vienna or these types of variations. Typical beers where you want to boost body and have a nice, crisp malt backbone.
Belgian style beers, Oktoberfests, Bocks are examples that use a small percentage of 5 – 10% of aromatic malt to boost body and malt complexity.
Darker beer styles are also suitable for using higher proportions of aromatic malts: dark lagers, brown ales, English bitters, milds and even porters or stouts are suitable candidates that can cope with a more pronounced or fruit malt character that large percentages of aromatic malt can bring.
Typical Usage Amounts
When deciding on on much aromatic malt to use you will want to check maltster specifications. As the intensity and amount of toasting can range from one maltster to another it makes sense to check. Keep this in mind when developing a recipe.
As an example, Simpsons Aromatic malt can be used in amounts of upto 50% of the grain bill for darker beers without a problem. Dingemans malt on the other hand has a more pronounced flavour and would be better used in smaller amounts upto 10%
In most cases you want to avoid overpowering a beer so consider what you are brewing. A paler beer would suit an addition of 2 – 3%.
A darker beer will cope better with additions upto 10% or more.
I am sure almost every home brewer has had the thought of what it would be like to turn a home brewing hobby into a career. To earn money from doing something you love I’m sure is high on everyone’s list of a fulfilling job.
I have actually had that opportunity. I was a professional brewer, the head brewer of a small brewery for 3-4 years and this is what I learned from taking my beloved hobby and making it my job.
This photo was for a hat photo shoot. I had to give the hat back at the end of the day!
I have been home brewing for as long as I have been legally able to drink (if not longer) so around 14-15 years. It wasn’t until I was writing about brewing on this website that I really considered becoming a brewer.
In fact, my brother was actually a brewer at a large regional brewery and whilst I was brewing at home I really had no interest in joining him in the brewhouse.
During the course of writing articles for this website I volunteered at a few breweries to get the taste of what it was like to brew commercially. It was around this time that someone read Home Brew Answers and said they were planning a new brewery and wanted some input. This is where it all started.
From Home Brewer To Head Brewer
As things started moving forward the owner turned plan into reality and I was offered a position as brewer.
The brewhouse was 3BBL so pretty small meaning it was just me and the owner. I was in charge of all brewing, packaging into cask and bottles and all the manual labour (cleaning) around the brewhouse. The sales, marketing and overall vision for the brewery was the realm of the owner.
The brewery consisted of Hot Liquor Tank, Mash Tun and Kettle and to begin with 2 fermenters with cooling jackets, this was later expanded to 4 fermenters one being 6BBL to accomodate 2 back to back brews.
As breweries go this is on the small side for a commercial operation. The brew length was roughly 900-1000 pints for context but for me being a home brewer this was a massive leap.
Welcome To The Big Leagues! (Relatively)
Becoming a professional brewer in a town like Falmouth in Cornwall, where there isn’t much work, was a dream come true. Starting to actually brew beers commercially was more of a baptism of fire.
There is a story about Sierra Nevada brewing their pale ale time and time again to get it just right on their first brew kit. I think they brewed their pale ale 10 or 11 times. Now, we didn’t have to brew our first beer this many times but it was a good 5 – 6 brews until we had something exactly as we wanted.
All that beer, around 2800 litres was run down the drain. The thing with a commercial operation is that you have to sell the product, if the product is not 100% right, you cannot sell it.
Once we got to grips with the brewery plant things all settled into place. The range of beers grew and we were off and running.
Lessons From Brewing Beer As A Job
Brewing beer for a job definitely involves a different mindset to just brewing beers for your own consumption. This is what I learnt as a professional brewer.
Brewing The Same Beer Consistently, Every Time
Most home brewers will only ever brew beers once. As a professional brewer we did occasional one off beers but you have to get used to the fact you will be brewing the same beer over and over and over.
Getting a beer exactly the same every time you brew is a lot harder than most people realise. The average drinker won’t notice subtle differences from batch to batch but when you taste the beer each time, at each stage of the brew you’ll notice these minor differences. Every batch is a test to see how consistently you can make the same product.
What You Want To Brew Is Not Necessarily What People Want To Buy
Cornwall in the UK doesn’t have the most progressive beer scene. Things are changing but most of the beer scene in Cornwall is definitely a few years behind the rest of the UK.
Pub landlords would always ask for pale, low alcohol session beers below 4% ABV. The price point on these beers is lower, people can drink them in the afternoon and enjoy the Cornish sunshine.
We brewed a 3.8% beer with Citra. Over the summer we couldn’t keep up with demand. Some weeks this is the only beer we would brew. It was by no means the most exciting beer and became a chore to brew time and time again but this is what everybody wanted, so this is what we had to brew.
The Imperial Stouts and Double IPAs are few and far between.
There Is No Downtime
Brewing at home is a pleasure. I mash in, setup a playlist on Spotify and kick back. Start the boil and flick through books and take notes.
Commercial brewing is obviously not the same. There was next to no downtime brewing professionally and, of course, it is a business so why would there be.
A typical day brewing would involve the following:
Filling, fining and stacking filled casks.
Prepping grain bill for brew and mashing in.
Cleaning down newly emptied fermenter, prepping and sanitising to fill up with wort again.
Weighing out hops for the beer that is being transferred to the kettle.
Hot caustic cleaning of casks recently returned from pubs and bars.
Preparing yeast for pitching at the end of the brew.
Emptying spent grain from the mash tun and delivering to a nearby farm.
Cleaning the brewery after finishing the brew.
Setting temperature controllers.
The list could go on but the point is, there is a lot going on and I liked being busy but it was by no means a brew like I would do at home.
I Didn’t Feel Like Brewing At Home
This was one of the biggest downsides to brewing professionally to me. I guess this might be different for everyone but I tended to not want to brew at the weekends.
If I had been brewing all week at work then I couldn’t summon the motivation to brew much at home anymore. I still worked on ideas and test batches for beers we might possibly make at the brewery but the ideas were mainly brewery focussed from then on, not personal beers.
You’ll Never Run Out Of Volunteers
It seemed like every week that we would have different people volunteering to lend a hand brewing, to see the process and get involved.
This was great for me as people (inexplicably) love the idea of digging 300kg of spent grain out of a mash tun.
Inevitably people would soon realise that brewing beer in a brewery is not the same as a piss up in a brewery and only a few would come back more than a couple of times. Unless it was just my conversational skills the excitement of volunteering at a brewery seems to run thin pretty quickly.
The Process Of Brewing Is Exactly The Same Despite The Scale
The brewery I was brewing on was relatively small. We had open vessels and things were done manually so the process of brewing 500 litres was the same as what I had done at home making 20 litres.
We of course had equipment that made things more efficient but in general you are really just using bigger vessels so the process of brewing was exactly the same. Everything is just a bit beefier and a lot more demanding.
Things In The Brewery Constantly Break Or Need Maintenance
When there is more at stake than just a few litres of beer in your kitchen then you need things to run smoothly. In reality, things can and often do stop working without warning.
The brewery was in constant use, the strain on equipment is a lot more than any home brewery. Pumps would stop working, need stripping down and parts replacing and there are a lot of pumps in a commercial brewery. There are pumps in the brewery itself but also in the cask washer, cleaning systems, cooling units.
We had problems with the electricity supply on the industrial estate the brewery was located. Power cuts would reset control units, switches would blow and stop working and all of these things could stop a beer being brewed or affect one that was fermenting under controlled temperature.
I went through more hose spray guns than I could count.
If You Haven’t Got Hop Contracts Don’t Count On Any One Variety
As a commercial brewery you want to have a contract for any hops you want to use in a beer. A contract would mean we had an allocated amount of that hop every year. You can work out how much you think you’ll need for the year and ensure your supply for that recipe.
I would often brew a one off, hop forward beer. It would go down great and there would be demand for future brews because people liked it. We would try to get hold of more hops and there were none to be found anywhere or at a price that would make the beer too expensive to reasonably sell. You learn quickly what is going to be a one off beer and what you can reliably brew year round by the ingredients you can source in a competitive market.
Making Beer Is One Thing, Selling It Is Another
95% of our beer was cask beer and selling cask beer is not easy. We were lucky, from very early on the owner had secured regular customers that would buy beer every week.
I was very happy making beer but I was extremely happy I didn’t have to sell it. That part of the business was foreign to me and it would be one of the reasons why I would not want to run my own brewery. To have any chance of success you have to be able to run a business and sell first and foremost.
It Is Incredibly Rewarding For Strangers To Buy Your Beer And Say They Love It!
It is one thing giving your homebrew to friends and family and getting their feedback. It is another for a stranger to part with their money and keep going back because they like your beer. This makes the experience of being a professional brewer totally worthwhile.
This List Could Go On and On
In the end my time as a professional brewer came to an end. My life took priority when my son came along and it was more viable for my wife to work as she was paid more than me (another lesson to learn if you want to go pro).
I look at my time as a brewer as a truly great experience and it makes me appreciate the art and craft a lot more. I do still prefer home brewing as a hobby and having the freedom to make whatever I want without it having to be a viable product.
I have gone back to brewing a lot more often in my free time and have even scaled down my batches to just 10 litres at I time. You could say that after brewing over 100,000 pints a year I appreciate brewing at a much smaller scale.
I have lots of stories and plenty of different experiences of brewing commercially now. If you have any questions or want to know something about brewing professionally drop a comment below and I will get back to you.
Amber malt is one of the most versatile toasted malts around for brewers. The range of beers that amber malt can find itself in is wide in part due to its colour and the biscuity, toasted flavours it imparts. It can find itself in the darkest of beers, right through to amber beers and even lagers.
Amber Malt: Amber Colour
When you see the copper coloured hue of amber malt it is easy to see how it gets its name. Amber malt starts out the same as regular pale malt but after germinating, drying and kilning it undergoes an additional step of high temperature heating to toast the barley further.
This toasting step gives amber malt a amber, copper colour and imparts additional flavour as a direct result of this toasting phase.
History Of Amber Malt
Modern versions of amber malts are not the same as they were in the past. If you are a fan of brewing historical recipes then you may find amber malt as a good substitute but not exactly how it would of been all those years ago.
Originally amber malt would have had many of the qualities of a base malt with plenty of enzymes and diastatic power, modern versions do not. It was also common to toast amber malt over open fires which would of imparted a subtle smokiness.
It is of course not very practical to produce amber malt in this way anymore but it is good to have an amber malt available when it could of nearly disappeared altogether if it wasn’t for craft brewers wanting to make use of historical recipes and ingredients.
Amber Malt Flavour
The toasting of amber malt gives the barley a biscuity, dry cracker like flavour which makes it a versatile malt for a variety of beers.
Probably the most common usage is in darker beers like stouts and porters alongside other darker roasted malts like roasted barley, chocolate malt and black malt. The flavour profile alongside these darker malts are a good match.
Used in smaller quantities amber malt can also work well in lighter beers to add a nice toastiness. Beers like English pale ales and even some lager make use of amber malt for the savoury, toasted character it adds
Amber Malt Enzymes & Diastatic Power
The highly kilned, toasting phase of making amber malt means there is little enzymes or diastatic power left in amber malt. There is still a lot of potential extract available as it is only toasted rather than completely roasted.
Mashed alongside other base malts is best way to use amber malt, steeping amber malt as part of malt extract beer will introduce too much starch so all grain or partial mash is the way to utilise this malt.
Variability Between Maltsters
You need to take note that depending on which maltster produced the amber malt you are using there is quite a lot of variability.
Check the colour and the maltsters specifications for an idea of the strength and final colour of your amber malt because this could make quite a difference in the final beer.
Amount of Amber Malt to Use
Typically, you will find that the use of Amber malt will top out at around 5% of the grain bill. The flavour of amber malt is quite unique and can overpower a beer if used in too high of an amount.
I would suggest amounts in the range of 2 – 5% but some maltsters suggest more than this and upto 10%.
Orange wine is unique. Maybe not as popular as some of the other fruit wines but can make a great early evening sipper with a little thought going into the recipe. This recipe is good for any type of orange, tangerine, mandarin or blood orange so it is worth experimenting to find your perfect flavour.
Light & Zesty Orange Wine
If anyone has ever tried fermenting orange juice then you will know that the outcome is usually not so good. Orange juice, of course, is just one part of the fruit. There is the juice, the pulp and the zest. Nearly all of that orange flavour we want to retain in this wine recipe comes from the zest.
The juice is delicately flavoured and light tasting, fermenting this alone drives off the “orangeness” we want to remain in the finished wine. The zest, on the other hand, is packed full of oils that are truly the essence of orange. Utilising the zest in this orange wine recipe is crucial to the flavour and taste of this orange wine.
An Orange Wine Is The Sum Of Its Parts
Oranges are primarily juice, this is great for wine making but fermentation changes the flavour so much we need to help the wine along. Juice, pulp and zest from the oranges is better than just the juice alone but we can also accentuate the flavour by using other ingredients:
Orange Blossom Honey
Using honey rather than normal white sugar adds another layer of flavour that can really round out and enhance the orange wine.
Better yet, we can use honey derived from the orange tree in the form of orange blossom honey. Whilst orange blossom honey is not “orange flavoured” necessarily it really completes the circle of utilising one ingredient to the maximum.
Using honey can enhance any fruit wine and is something I have learnt from making mead. It does really well in this orange wine so it is what I recommend for this recipe. You can still use normal white sugar if you wish but I urge you to spend a little more and use honey in this recipe if you can.
Choosing Your Oranges, Blood Oranges, Tangerines, Mandarins, Satsumas
All these fruits are familiar to the orange but each has their own unique qualities. It is personal preference as to which you use, each will produce a great wine so I would suggest choosing according to some of the following criteria:
Availability: If you so happen to have a glut of oranges then you should definitely use these. If one variety such as tangerines are in season where you live then use these, they will be tastier and riper than other oranges.
Seasonality: At certain times of the year you will find blood oranges in your local store at others satsumas. Following the season means the quality of the fruit is better and the orange wine will be better.
1 Sachet Yeast (Lalvin 71B-1122 is a good choice but experiment with others)
Orange Wine Method
1. To begin, prepare the oranges zest half of them with a potato peeler to end up with fairly large sections of zest. Take care to zest only the outer layer of zest and leave as much of the white pith as possible behind.
2. Add the zest to the straining bag and begin to peel and segment the oranges. Segment the oranges with a knife and leave as much of the pith between the segments behind. Do this for all the oranges and add the prepared orange segments to the straining bag.
3. Put the straining bag in the sanitised fermenter and start heating half of the water in a large pan. Bring the water to the boil for a minute or so and then remove from the heat.
4. Add the honey to the hot water and stir to combine, then pour over the fruit in the fermenting vessel. Give everything a stir to combine and then add the remaining half of cold water to bring the temperature down. Add the crushed Campden tablet and leave, covered, for 12 hours.
5. 12 hours after adding the Campden tablet, add the yeast nutrient, tannin, pectic enzyme and stir gently to incorporate. Leave the must for 24 hours.
6. The following day, add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must (you can rehydrate according to the packet instructions for best results). Cover the vessel and fit an airlock and allow to ferment.
7. Fermentation will start several days after pitching the yeast, stir the must every day to keep the fruit circulated. After 7 days lift out the straining bag and allow to drain thoroughly but avoid squeezing out any liquid. Cover the fermenting vessel and allow to settle for at least 24 hours.
9. Over several weeks or months, the wine will clear. After a month or so some sediment will have built up, rack to a clean demijohn and allow to condition. Repeat this procedure when any substantial sediment has begun to settle.
10. After at least 3 – 4 months the wine will have cleared and you can think about bottling. It is best to allow the wine to condition as long as possible. Leaving the wine in the demijohn for 6-8 months is not a problem and will in most cases be beneficial.
This orange wine is a great sipping wine where the whole fruit is used. The flavour of whatever orange you use shines through in the finish in part due to the flavour of the zests. It is definitely worth making and you can usually make it year round due to availability
Pineapple is a tropical fruit but even so, it is available year-round in many places, either fresh or in cans so it makes a great wine to make when other fruits are out of season. It’s great for bringing a tropical shine to even the coldest weather when not much else is growing.
You’ve Never Heard Of Pineapple Wine?
Pineapple wine may not be that common compared to other fruit wines. In countries like Hawaii and other tropical countries where pineapples grow, making alcohol with pineapples is quite commonplace.
Pineapples are one of the sweetest fruits around and this high sugar level is perfect for winemaking. The flavour and natural acidity of the pineapple come through in the finished wine, reminiscent of a pineapple flavoured Sauvignon Blanc.
Fresh Or Canned Pineapple?
This pineapple wine recipe works with both fresh or canned pineapple so the odds are that if there are no fresh pineapples available near you can still make this pineapple wine. It makes this wine a real year-round possibility.
I would usually recommend fresh if available as you can choose the fruit yourself and test how ripe it is but really you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between canned pineapple wine or fresh.
One thing you will want to note however is that if you do use canned pineapple for this wine recipe that there are no preservatives or additives. These preservatives will interfere with fermentation and possibly stall the fermentation. Always look for 100% natural ingredients, just pineapple canned in its own juice.
Picking The Best Fresh Pineapples
If you use fresh pineapple for this recipe then taking the time to pick out ripe pineapples will make a lot of difference to the finished wine.
You want ripe pineapples, you can tell as the leaves can be easily pulled from the crown with a short tug. Under-ripe pineapples have less sweetness and are slightly tarter but are better to use than over-ripe pineapples.
Over-ripe pineapples should be avoided. You will notice the surface of the fruit will have a grey powderiness and it is quite possible the pineapple is already fermenting so avoid this at all costs.
Building Body In the Pineapple Wine
Pineapple wine needs a little help to retain the flavour and body you would expect from such a full flavoured fruit. After fermentation, the wine can be a little thin so we need to boost the body and bolster the flavour.
Adding raisins to the must give the finished wine more body and the wine will have a sweeter quality so the pineapple flavour can really shine.
What You’ll Need To Make Pineapple Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
1 Sachet Yeast (Lalvin D-47 is a good choice but experiment with others)
Pineapple Wine Method
1. Prepare the pineapple by cutting the top and the skin from the flesh. Cut the flesh away from the core into small thumb sized pieces. 2. Chop the golden raising roughly and add these along with the pineapple to the straining bag. Set the staining bag with the fruit and the raisins into a sanitised fermenting vessel and ensure the top of the bag is secured. 3. In a large pan heat half the water and slowly add the sugar to dissolve. Bring the pan up to a boil and ensure all the sugar is stirred in to prevent scorching. Once boiling simmer for a few minutes. 4. Remove the sugar solution from the heat and pour over the pineapple and raisins in the straining bag. Give everything a gentle stir around. Top up the fermenter with the remaining cool water and allow to cool to room temperature before adding a Campden tablet. 5. 12 hours after adding the Campden tablet, add the yeast nutrient, tannin, pectic enzyme and acid blend and stir gently to incorporate. Leave the must for 24 hours. 6. The following day, add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must (you can rehydrate the yeast according to the packet instructions for best results). Cover the vessel and fit an airlock and allow to ferment. 7. Stir the fermenter gently every day to ensure the pineapple gets fully broken down. After 10 days fermentation should have begun to slow or stopped remove the straining bag with pulp and allow to drip dry and discard. Cover the fermenting vessel and allow to settle. 8. The following day rack the pineapple wine to a demijohn / carboy for clearing and conditioning. Fit the demijohn with a bung and airlock. A hydrometer reading will inform you that the wine has reached finishing gravity, around 1.000 +/- 0.003. 9. Over several weeks or months, the wine will clear. After a month or so some sediment will have built up, rack to a clean demijohn and allow to condition. Repeat this procedure when any substantial sediment has begun to settle. 10. After at least 3 – 4 months you can think about bottling the wine. The pineapple wine will improve with ageing so leaving the wine in the demijohn up to 6 – 8 months is perfectly fine.
When bottling the wine you can consider back sweetening and stabilising. Sample the wine if you would prefer a sweeter finish then follow the instructions here.
This pineapple wine is best aged in the bottle for upto 6 months before sampling. The longer you leave the wine the better as it will continue to improve with time.
It’s nearly December already. Every year around I has gotten into the habit of brewing a spiced beer for Christmas. My wife now insists that this happen and it’s turned into something of a family tradition.
Usually, I would spice a whole batch of beer adding spices and flavourings at the end of the boil. This year, however, I have decided to split a batch. Spicing one half of the beer and keeping the other half just as it is.
This year I decided to brew a sweet and nutty brown ale.
These style guidelines can be really useful when looking to develop your beer recipes. I kind of just amalgamated a couple of these together and completely omitted some of the suggestions like Crystal malt.
I know what I want from this beer before looking at the guidelines. I know I want it to be fairly sweet with plenty of body. It’s going to be a winter warmer style beer and half of it’s going to be spiced. I don’t want a thin dry beer that isn’t going to carry those spice flavours. Thin and spiced can come across as quite astringent in my opinion.
Low ABV, Lots Of Flavour
The ABV of the beer is going to be low at 4%. I have been brewing lots of lower ABV beers at the moment and am getting the hang of making more complex session beers. It’s a more tricky proposition brewing something with a low ABV and I like the challenge.
Keeping the alcohol content low and the sweetness/body high is going to need a higher mash temperature. This beer I mashed at 71°C which at first may sound really high but it works well in these kinds of malt driven beers and especially with added spices.
Splitting the Batch
As I mentioned this batch is going to be split into 2 separate beers. The brewing and fermentation takes place together and the spices are going to be added during bottling.
This method of adding extra flavourings is one of the best ways I can think of to experiment with herbs, and spices without committing to a whole batch. It allows experimentation but avoids the issue of possibly overwhelming a beer with spices.
The method involves steeping your spices in alcohol, in my case this was vodka. The spices are allowed to infuse in the alcohol for a few days and the resulting infusion can then be added to the beer.
I chose to use cinnamon and cloves in this Brown Ale. These two spices I feel are particularly Christmassy. I would recommend subtlety with these added spices. I want the majority of the flavour to be the beer itself, the spices are an added layer of flavour, not the star of the show.
My spice infusion for this 10 litre batch is:
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Vodka to cover
That’s it! You let this infusion sit for a few days and the vodka goes a deep brown taking on all the aromatics.
Adding The Spices
When it comes time to bottle I fill the first 18-20 bottles with the regular brown ale then dose the remainder of the batch with the vodka infusion.
To work out how much of the infusion you need to add:
I take a 250ml sample of the beer as I’m racking it into the bottling bucket.
Using a pipette add a few drops of the spice infusion, mix and sample
Keep adding drops until you reach a level of spice in the beer you find appropriate.
Next extrapolate the amount of drops in 250ml to the amount of beer you want to flavour. 1 drop = 0.05ml. Add the amount of spice infusion to the bottling bucket.
This Brown Ale was split into 2 equal sized batches. 10 litres being the straight unspiced beer and the other 10 litres being spiced.
I added 40 drops per 250ml of beer so extrapolated this up to 10 litres. This meant I needed to add 80ml of spice infusion (for the curious this will only affect the ABV of the beer by 0.003%).
When looking at the recipe take note that there is a small portion of roasted barley added late in the mash plus the high finishing gravity due to the high mash temperature.
Brown Ale & Spice Brown Ale
Batch Size: 19.490 L
Boil Size: 20.990 L
Boil Time: 60.000 min
Bitterness: 22.4 IBUs (Tinseth)
Color: 23 SRM (Morey)
Name Type Amount Mashed Late Yield Color
Pale Malt (2 Row) UK Grain 4.500 kg Yes No 78% 3 L
Chocolate Malt (UK) Grain 70.000 g Yes No 73% 508 L
Brown Malt (British Chocolate) Grain 180.000 g Yes No 70% 76 L
Black Barley (Roast Barley) Grain 30.000 g Yes No 55% 660 L
Black Barley (Roast Barley) Grain 70.000 g No Yes 55% 500 L
Total grain: 4.850 kg
Name Alpha Amount Use Time Form IBU
Apollo 12.0% 15.000 g Boil 60.000 min Leaf 22.4
Willamette 5.0% 45.000 g Boil 0.000 s Leaf 0.0
Name Type Use Amount Time
Cinnamon Spice Boil 15.000 g 0.000 s
Cloves Spice Boil 2.000 g 0.000 s
Name Type Form Amount Stage
Safale S-04 Ale Dry 11.000 g Primary
Name Type Amount Temp Target Time
Infusion 17.240 L 76.700 C 70.000 C 60.000 min
Final Batch Sparge Infusion 8.936 L 84.176 C 74.000 C 15.000 min
Black malt or black patent malt is one of the three main dark grains that are synonymous with brewing dark beers. Although it has not quite got the allure of chocolate malt or roasted barley, partly due to the name, it is still essential to brewing not only dark beers but adding colour and complexity to other beers. In this article, we will take a look at how black malt is made and how to use it in your beers.
Black Malt: An Obvious Name
Black malt has an unfortunate name and not a stellar reputation in most brewing literature. Unlike chocolate malt or roasted barley whose names evoke something a little more appealing than black malt, it is, however, easy to see why it is called black malt.
Just take a look at black malt and you can see it is completely black and generally when you perceive something black it doesn’t necessarily look appetising. It has led black malt to have a reputation of tasting acrid and burnt in some cases. Is this really the case?
What Does Black Malt Add To A Beer?
First and foremost black malt adds colour to a beer and is primarily used in dark beers on its own or alongside other dark grains. It’s one of the darkest grains available to brewers and used in any large amount will produce dark-brown to black beers. Used in smaller amounts, however, it is a useful malt to adjust the colour of beers.
Whilst black malt provides a lot of colour to a beer it is useful to note that it does not colour the beer foam. This can result in fluffy white heads on the finished brew whereas other dark grains can turn the beer foam a cream, tan or brown colour.
Black Malt For Colour Adjustments
Black malt often finds itself in recipes as a means of making it slightly darker. Used in small amounts you can achieve a shade darker tan or even a reddish hue to a beer.
The usefulness of black malt used in small amounts like this is the flavour imparted is minimal. Most people expect even a small amount of black malt to add burnt, roasted flavour to the beer but this is not true. Used in small amounts black malt can be really subtle. It is not until you start increasing the proportion of black malt that the flavour really starts punching.
Black Malt Flavour
The flavour of black malt is of moderate roastiness and a combination of coffee, bitter chocolate and an acidity. The more you use the more it can, of course, overpower a beer but used alongside other malts it can be very characterful.
How Black Malt Is Made
Black malt starts life as pale malt like most other malted grains. Unlike a grain like roasted barley that is unmalted.
The pale malt is loaded into a roasting drum and heated to 220 – 230°C (428 – 446°F). The malt is then kilned for a period of up to 4 hours. The black malt has to be carefully watched as if the roasting goes on for too long the malt will literally turn to charcoal and burn.
Debittered Black Malt
Many maltsters offer a debittered black malt to produce beers with lots of colour without flavour associated with dark grains. The process of producing debittered black malt involves removing the husk of the grain. The husk on the grain when roasted produces bitter flavours so by removing the husk you have a grain that has a smoother less astringent character in the finished beer.
Amount Of Black Malt To Use
Typically up to 10% in Porters. Stouts and other dark beer.
1 – 3% to add colour to lighter beers.
Used on its own or with other dark and roasted grains black malt is used as up to 10% of the malt bill in stouts and porters. Black malt adds colour without so much of the flavour as roasted barley so it is good to boost colour without overpoweringly roasty notes.
In lighter beers, it adds colour without flavour which is particularly useful in schwarzbiers, dark lagers and dark beers where you do not want so much of the roasted flavour.