This month’s theme is fruit beer! Sadly, I won’t be able to join you all for this month’s meeting, as I will be competing in an annual river triathlon that my brother hosts in central Florida. But VP of Competition Gary Elliott will be there to capably lead the business meeting on Thursday.
If you don’t know, well now you know, this Thursday is the general monthly meeting of the Fellowship of Oklahoma Ale Makers, from 7-10 at the Hope Unitarian Church, 83rd and Sheridan. I hope you can make it.
Have you ever brewed a beer with fruit before? It isn’t very difficult to do and can add layers of complexity to your tried and true recipes. Here’s a brief snippet from the Homebrewer’s Association on working with fruit:
Whole, puree and juiced fruit is often added in the last minutes of the boil. This acts as a quick pasteurization step to prevent any potential bacterial contamination that could make your fruit beer go south. Adding fruit to the boil means the fruit is in the wort during active fermentation. Having fruit in the fermenter during fermentation causes a much different fruit character then you might find when adding fruit post-fermentation.
For starters, the fruit will likely add fermentable sugars to the wort, which you may want to account for when formulating the recipe. Fermented fruit also has a much different character then post-fermentation fruit additions. A lot of the fruit character will be blown off from the rigor of fermentation, and what remains will be a more wine-like fruit character since the fruit’s sugars were fermented, rather than a fresh fruit quality. In some fruit beers, especially those that may use wine grapes, the fermented fruit character may be desired.
Purees and juices can be added directly to the boil kettle. You can do the same with whole fruit, but you may want to consider mashing or pulse-blending the fruit before adding it to the boil to help release more of the juices. Bagging the fruit in a hop bag is suggested if dealing with a lot of flesh and seeds, but it’s not 100 percent necessary if you take care not to rack the solids into the primary fermenter.
If you’re after more fresh fruit character that is reminsicent of the raw fruit being used, then stick with post-fermentation additions after primary fermentation has nearly completed. However, since you don’t have the high temperatures as you would when boiling fruit, you need to take extra care to avoid contamination (unless, of course, you are after something wild). Often times juices, purees and frozen fruits undergo flash-pasteurization which leaves little risk for contamimation if added to beer. Whole fruit, on the other hand, is another story.
First, mash or pulse-blend the fruit to release the juices and create more surface area for the beer to be in contact with the fruit. Now you have three options for pasteurization. First, is a low-heat pasteurization method that you can do in a double boiler or carefully directly on heat. Hold the mashed fruit at around 150-170°F for about 15 minutes, and that should rid the fruit of most of the unwanted bacteria. Second, simply freezing the mashed fruit before adding it to the fermenter. It is said that freezing and thawing fruit a few times helps release more flavors by breaking down cell walls, which means a fruitier brew!
Once you’ve pasteurized your mashed fruit, bag it in a hop bag like you would dry hops and add it to your secondary fermenter or keg. Make sure all the juices make it into the fermenter, too, even if the bag doesn’t contain it. Then, simply age it on the fruit like you would dry hops. Pull samples and once it tastes as you hoped, yank the bag and bottle or start serving!
If you have some fruited beer in your cellar, February is the month to bring them to share with the club. And if you’ve never taken the leap into brewing with fruit, hopefully this is an informative and inspirational moment for you. Just go for it!