As spring fades into summer, your local supermarket fills with fruit and other produce once again. This season is a favorite among homebrewers because it gives them the chance to make fruit beers.
A good homemade fruit beer doesn’t require new equipment, and the process is simple enough for regular homebrewers. But fruit brings a lot of additional factors to the beer, including color, aroma, sweetness, and even some microorganisms.
Keep these tips in mind if you’re planning to try your hand at brewing fruit beer.
Choosing your fruit
Plenty of brewers prefer to use fresh fruit to keep the natural aroma and taste during processing. This is why the best fruit beers come from fresh produce. But there are some disadvantages to this method.
The biggest catch is that fresh fruit carries a wealth of microorganisms and wild yeast. These bacteria can multiply and affect the taste and aroma of your beer if your fruit isn’t properly washed.
Some brewers avoid this by using fruit juices, purees, or concentrates. The market offers plenty of flavors made specifically for brewing, from aseptic mango puree to raspberry concentrate. These products are packaged sterile, preventing contamination.
Avoid using fruit jellies or jams for brewing. These contain a lot of pectins, a type of starch that can make your beer hazy.
Sanitation is a critical step in the brewing process. Thoroughly sanitized equipment helps maintain a healthy, happy environment for the yeast and keeps away microorganisms that can affect the fermentation process. Although there’s no way to eliminate bacteria, you want to get them to levels where they won’t affect the yeast.
Don’t use bleach and other household cleaners on your brewing equipment because these might give your beer off-flavors. Instead, use a no-rinse acidic sanitizer developed specially for sanitizing brewing kits.
Another common dilemma among fruit beer brewers is getting the sweetness level they want. Some brewers make the mistake of adding fruit to the boil. This changes the character of the fruit, diluting its flavor and aroma. Others don’t use enough fruit to try and keep the gravity of the beer in an appropriate range.
If you want your fruit beer sweeter, you can add a non-fermentable sugar such as lactose when you keg the beer. But lactose isn’t a powerful sweetener, which is why commercial brewers use fermentable sugars then pasteurize their beer.
Slowly sweeten a pint of your fruit beer to taste. From there, calculate the amount of sugar that you’ll need for how many gallons you’ll brew.
Getting the right acidity level
Some brewers prefer acidic over sweet fruit beers. If you belong to this group, you can use less mature fruit to make your beer sourer. The acidic content of fruit declines as it ripens. You can also add a food-grade acid such as lactic or phosphoric acid.
Add acid to a small portion of your beer first to see if it will produce the flavor you want. From there, calculate the amount of acid you’ll need for the entire batch.
Fruit beers are a challenging brew, so don’t feel discouraged when you don’t get it right on the first try. Just keep trying and perform the brewing process slowly but surely to make sure that you don’t miss anything.