Home Brewing Help!!!
January 16, 2009 1:06 PM   Subscribe

To all home brewers out there: Need help with a recipe.

I know the basics when it comes to home brewing, however, I am trying to make a Cherry Wheat Ale. (Kind of like Sam Adams version.) My first batch I made turned out ok. It had a mild cherry flavor and a sweet wheat flavor. Not bad but it really didn't taste anything like a Cherry Wheat. After about a week when everything was said and done (after the 1st and 2nd fermentation) the cherry flavor that was there disappeared. It was like it was never there to begin with. All the bottles were capped and sealed. When you opened the bottle the beer was still bubbly and foamy. I am not sure what I did wrong? I used a cherry extract and I brewed 6 bags of cherry green tea for the cherry flavor. Anyone have any experience making this type of ale before? Any hints on making fruit flavored wheat ales in general? Should I have used actual cherries in the brewing? All help will be appreciated.
posted by Mastercheddaar to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've found that a lot of flavors will diminish over time. When did you add the cherry flavorants? It helps to add stuff later in fermentation, as the bubbling tends to scrub out flavors. For example, cherry extract doesn't really ferment so you could add it at bottling. A canned cherry product should be sterile and could be added in the secondary fermenter.
posted by exogenous at 1:14 PM on January 16, 2009

I have forwarded this link to a friend who is an accomplished home brewer and who I KNOW made a great summery raspberry wheat beer a few years ago. Hopefully he'll join MeFi to post a response, or at the least I'll cut-n-paste his reply here.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:36 PM on January 16, 2009

If you add fruit to the primary fermenter a lot of the flavor can get driven off.

Me and a brewing buddy use frozen cherries in our Saisons and Wits, and I use them in ciders quite regularly. Crush them up a bit in their bags -- just enough to break the skins, pretty much -- then just pour them into the secondary fermentation vessel and siphon the beer on top of them. You can leave the beer on the cherries for a while; a couple weeks anyway. Then siphon into a tertiary for a week or so to let it clarify, then bottle/keg/whatever.
posted by cog_nate at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

After about a week when everything was said and done (after the 1st and 2nd fermentation)

Do you mean that, in the space of a week, you both racked to secondary and then bottled? Did you take any gravity readings? Sorry to go slightly off-topic, but that sounds like it might be dangerous (the bottles might burst because it wasn't done fermenting when you bottled).

Personally, I'd brew up an American-style wheat (supposedly the Danstar dry Wheat yeast isn't as estery as some of the liquid wheat yeasts) and just mix up some cherry extract with the priming sugar at bottling time. As cog_nate says, I wouldn't put cherries in the primary, at least not during active fermentation.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:44 PM on January 16, 2009

(Actually I meant Safale WB-06, not the Danstar Munich yeast.)
posted by uncleozzy at 1:53 PM on January 16, 2009

Nthing waiting on the flavouring until the secondary at least. Your secondary should likely be longer than you left it, too, from the sounds of it. I usually don't keg for several weeks-ish, depending on the recipe.

It's really important that you do gravity readings, especially if bottling, as uncleozzy said, because the possibility of continued fermentation in the bottle can lead to bursting.

(Damn, I REALLY have to start brewing again. Now. To the basement, batman!)
posted by liquado at 4:23 PM on January 16, 2009

mix up some cherry extract with the priming sugar at bottling time.

Do this. It's how I do all of my fruit flavored beers. Fresh/frozen fruit is almost always more hassle than it's worth. It often ends up quite tart and is a serious infection vector if not properly handled.
posted by esch at 4:56 PM on January 16, 2009

Fruit flavored beers are a challenge to brew. We tried a passionfruit-wheat and it came out...not so good. Hearing about putting the fruit in the secondary sounds like a good thing to try. Maybe fruit is better in brewing the later it is added? I will experiment with this idea.
posted by telstar at 6:38 PM on January 16, 2009

Best answer: My friend (finally) replies:
I agree with the earlier posts that the cherries should go in later in the fermentation process so the aromas don't get blown off with all the CO2 during primary fermentation.

One thing to be careful of with cherry flavor (natural or flavor extract) is that it can come out tasting like cherry cough drops if overdone. One way to avoid that one-dimensional cherry flavor when using fruit is to leave the pits in for more depth of flavor. (Also be aware that natural cherry flavor doesn't necessarily have any cherries in it--it just means that it is synthesized from plant sources, often corn--yum!)

One problem of fruit beers in general is that much of the flavor we associate with fruit is sweetness, which ferments out in a beer. You might try adding some crystal malt for a little extra sweetness, or if you mash, mash at a higher temp for more unfermentables. Cream stouts are traditionally sweetened with lactose, which yeast won't ferment, so that might be another option for increasing the sweetness, if necessary.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:49 PM on January 17, 2009

Response by poster: Thx for all the help. I am going to try and brew another wort tonight after work.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:54 AM on January 19, 2009

Sorry this is so late, but the recipes I've seen all call for seedless cherry puree as part of the primary and then cherry flavoring right before bottling. Consider some pectic enzyme to eliminate haze. Good luck!
posted by battlecj at 2:37 PM on January 30, 2009

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