Fruit beers seem to have gotten quite a bad rap in the past years. Guys will walk up to the bar and balk at the suggestion to try anything with fruit in it. “I don’t do fruit beers” is usually what follows, as if drinking one is the equivalent of a night of binge-watching Sex and the City.
There really is nothing girly about fruit beers. I love brewing with fruit. It is a great way to add complexity to a beer, and contrasting or complimentary flavors. The key, I believe, is to create a beer that still tastes like a beer. Fruit flavor is actually pretty one-dimensional; fermentation strips away a lot of the depth of flavor. Too much fruit will dominate a beer and cover up any malt, hop, or yeast flavors.
There are many different kinds of fruit, but not all are great to brew with. Raspberries, cherries, blackberries, mulberries, apricot, elderberries, and citrus zest are the stand-outs. All of these fruits have a strong enough flavor that is not so delicate that fermentation will drastically change the profile.
How much to use? Everyone has their personal preferences, but what I do is take the conventional wisdom for the amount to use, and cut it in half. Then I brew the beer, taste it, and adjust on the subsequent batch. I’ve never actually increased the amount after doing this. This is a good method because it will teach you subtlety and you won’t run the risk of brewing a beer that is unpleasant to drink on your first batch.
I most commonly use berries. They are easy and inexpensive to obtain or grow, easy to work with, and produce reliable results. Here are some guidelines:
Raspberries: Half a pound to a pound per five gallons
Blackberries: Three to five pounds per five gallons
Mulberries: One to two pounds per five gallons
When designing the recipe, keep in mind these two rules:
1. Fruit adds acidity, which can mean tartness. A light beer will become lighter. A heavier beer will become lighter. I prefer to contrast a malty beer with fruit, which may seem counter-intuitive. A beer with no backbone will become too light.
2. Tartness and bitterness have a synergistic effect. So if you add fruit, drop the IBU’s. Five to ten IBU’s less is generally a good rule of thumb.
How do you add the fruit to the beer? I first freeze the fruit to break down cell walls. Then I place the fruit in a nylon paint strainer bag (available at any hardware or paint store) and tie the opening shut with butcher’s twine. I then lower it into the kettle at the end of the boil for about 15-20 seconds to kill off any yeast on the surface of the fruit. Don’t worry, lightly boiling your fruit will not create pectin haze. I then place the bag of fruit directly into the primary fermenter and let it ferment along with the beer. Secondary fermentation is almost always unnecessary and adding fruit after fermentation will restart fermentation and add more time until the beer is finished.
Here is the recipe for my raspberry dark IPA, Summer Storm. This is a really cool beer that takes you on a rollercoaster of flavors, starting with raspberry and chocolate and finishing with hops. Notice the lower IBU’s, to account for the fruit and the Carafa malt.
Recipe: Summer Storm Brewer: Asst Brewer: Style: American IPA TYPE: All Grain Taste: (30.0) Recipe Specifications -------------------------- Boil Size: 8.41 gal Post Boil Volume: 7.28 gal Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal Estimated OG: 1.064 SG Estimated Color: 25.3 SRM Estimated IBU: 55.9 IBUs Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 % Est Mash Efficiency: 87.5 % Boil Time: 60 Minutes Ingredients: ------------ Amt Name Type # %/IBU 9 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 66.7 % 3 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 2 21.1 % 1 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 3 7.0 % 12.0 oz Carafa III (525.0 SRM) Grain 4 5.3 % 1.25 oz Warrior [15.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 49.3 IBUs 3.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Boil 2.0 min Hop 6 6.7 IBUs 1.0 pkg Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast 7 - 0.75 lb Raspberries (Primary 0.0 mins) Other 8 - 3.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Dry Hop 4.0 Days Hop 9 0.0 IBUs Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge