Monday, April 4, 2016

Honey Sour Beer Tasting

These five sour beers were split from the same primary fermentor with Conan and East Coast Yeast Flemish Ale (recipe). When fermentation slowed, I divided the young beer into five one-gallon jugs each with a half pound of a different single-varietal honey. Once the gravity was stable I bottle conditioned with one ounce more of the same honey to trap some volatile aromatics (something I usually caution against). All told, the honey provided about 35% of the fermentables!

This wasn’t my first time adding honey to sour beer, but I wanted to play with a variety of new flavors in a bland-ish base beer to evaluate them!

Five glasses of honey sour beer!

Honey Sours: Five-Way

Appearance – Quintuplets: clear gold body, nice foam on the pour, but mediocre retention (see it as I poured left to right). Honey shouldn’t hurt head retention, but sugar without protein doesn’t help either.

Smell/Taste – Even at one third honey, the differences between the aromas are subtle. They have more alike than unalike. They each have a mild fruity aroma, light horsey-Brett funk, pleasant acidity, and restrained maltiness. Similarities are always a good sign for a split-batch, no major process issues!

Acacia: This was the oddball through most of the fermentor samples I’ve pulled (weird plastic/stable aromatics). It has calmed down, but the honey doesn’t add much. It is abrupt, changing course mid-palate from fruity to funk. However, it has some interesting white-wine and watermelon rind notes I don’t get from the rest.

Sourwood: Classic honey aroma, with some vinous notes behind it. Fresh, honey on your pancakes flavor. Not exactly what I’m looking for in a pale sour, but I drank it quicker than any of the others. Wonderful lingering floral note!

Gallberry: Subtle waxy aroma. The most herbal, a nice counter to the berry. The honey flavor is nicely integrated into the base sour. The most interesting of the posse, with subtleties that needed a pale canvas to showcase.

Raspberry: Young this had a big cotton-candy note, but that has mostly faded. It is still the fruitiest and suggests the most sweetness. Least funky, most acidic. The nose is almost acetic, but the flavor doesn’t bear a trace. An outlier, but then it always has been.

Blueberry: Light, fruity, berry but not distinctly blueberry. Balanced, pleasant, the maltiest, but not quite the right match for a pale sour. Would be ideal for a sour red!

Mouthfeel – Happy that they all seem to have fermented out and carbonated at similar rates. Could be spritzier, but I don’t mind it as is.

Drinkability & Notes – This is the sort of batch that I love to brew! One of my recent pushes has been to brew beers that embrace homebrewing. A large brewery couldn’t procure enough gallberry honey to brew a batch at a reasonable rate. As homebrewers we have the opportunity to produce beers on a scale that allows us to use ingredients that are impractical for even brewpubs because of availability or cost. I’ll be talking about this for one of my talks at the Norwegian Homebrewer Weekend (aka Hjemmebryggerhelgen 2016) later this month, I’ll also be talking to Brad Smith about it for his BeerSmith Podcast if you can’t make it to Drammen!


Ole Kristian said...

Looking forward to meet you in Drammen!

CRUSADER1612 said...

Hi, Un-related question.
I have a golden sour with Melange, which is slightly tart, but lacks real-sourness, which is what I'm looking for. It's been in for 14-15 months now, so I got some advice and was told to fruit it, which should add some acidity to it, and make it more sour from the fruit sugar i assume.
so, as I live in NZ I have access to a wineries grape juice Its kosher and 100% Juice.
Its from a local winery, they bottle it up as normal grape juice unfermented.
I was planning on adding some to half the 5gal batch.
Would this work nicely, and complement the flavours? I feel as though it would. (Chardonney juice is whatthey're calling it.)
And any idea how much? bearing in mind it is juice and not concentrate.
The other half will get Sour Cherry concentrate.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep, fruit will both feed the microbes and add some acidity from its own acids.

If you like the flavor, certainly add it! Wine grapes are more flavorful than most fruits. For fermented wine, even 5% by volume is enough for a subtle flavor. For an assertive flavor you could double or triple that (depending on the beer and wine).

Best of luck!

CRUSADER1612 said...

Thanks Mike,
Any recommendation for 2.64 gal of beer?
they sell the bottle of grape juice (Not Wine) by the quart.
Would 1 quart be enough?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That would be 9.5%, should be an expressive wine grape character. You can always add more once it ferments out if you want more!

JoelS said...

Maybe you already know, but the Swedish championship in homebrewed beer is held 30th of April. In case you are passing by then. :) see

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Would have been fun, too bad the timing didn't work out!

Stephen said...

Off topic question. Who makes the stemware that you have pictures of in most of your pictures? They're really nice looking.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks! The one in the middle of this one is Ikea, the rest are Sahm Sensorik (same one that is on the cover of the book). I also buy from thrift stores, great source for weird/inexpensive pieces!

Phaz3 said...

I have a bunch of Sour Meads on the Go right now using my local Western Australian Honey.
I racked and taste one already and it is fantastic, I get a Greek pot set Yogurt and honey character, I have now racked onto Cherries for more fun.

I also have a large list of WA honey to go through since no one else is :P

Sour Mead 1 - Lacto Rhamanosus, Lacto Brevis, Oude Gueze Dregs with Mallee Honey
Funky Sour Mead 1- 2015 Best Aussie Homebrewer's Kriek Dregs, Siren Craft Brew, All Brett are off and Uncle Zester with Mallee Honey.

Funky Mead - Banksia Honey and Wyeast 5112 -Brett Brux

Keep up the good work Mike

Stephen said...

Thanks for the info on the glasses. I'll be ordering some of the Sahm's tonight!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Were you able to find them for sale anywhere? I ended up having to email the company to get some "samples."