Beer Quotes & Wisdom

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline-it

helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear

weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. -- Frank Zappa

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Very Late Addition to the Boil

I brewed one of my perenial favorites on Sunday, Thistle Dew.  Its a Scottish ale made with a pound of thistle honey.  I've probably made more batches of this beer than any other.  But this batch had me confused.
Everything was going smoothly, even though I was trying to squeeze this brew in before heading off to work.  I had to get this beer in the primary on this day because it is to be my yeast starter for the double batch of Susie's Sweet Stout I am going to brew in a little over a week's time.
As the final hurrah in my year of fame as brewer of the Best of Show in the 2009 Indiana Brewer's Cup competition, I have to make 10 gallons of the award winning beer for the 2010 awards dinner as it will be the featured beer of the evening.
But I digress.  Everything was going smoothly with the mash, with the initial gravity reading falling right where it should be.  Even the boil went without incident, without so much as a threatened boil over. The chilling & transfer to the carboy went smooth as silk. Everything went right in with not even a drop of spillage on the floor.
But here's where things took an odd turn.  In checking the OG, I was surprised to find the reading to be a bit low.  Actually, quite a bit low.  The mash efficiency was running at 74% and the initial reading into the kettle was right on the money.  Gravity readings are supposed to go up after the boil, this went down according to the Beer Smith brew sheet .  I was confused.
It wasn't until the next day when I opened the cupboard and found the jar of thistle honey still sitting on the shelf that I realized why the gravity of the finished product was off.
Now comes the delimna of how, or even should I try to add the honey while I have a very active fermentation in progress.

I've read about the late addition of honey to the boil to retain more of its aromatics, so why not add it now?  But how?  Honey poured into the carboy will go right to the bottom, and I'm a bit leary of adding raw honey right to the beer without some sort of sterilization or at least pasteurization.
I decided to go the pasteurization route.  I got out the double boiler and put the honey in to heat it up and thin it out.  While this process was taking place it occurred to me that I would have to cool the honey back down before adding it to the beer, and it would thicken up again.
So I drew off a quart of the very active beer and stirred it in, thinking that all the brave little yeasts that would be giving up their lives in the process would be for the better of the rest of the colony. 
20 minutes later, I cooled down the mixture and added it back the the carboy to bring the gravity up to where it should have been all along.
Now in a little over a week's time, I'll find out how a very late addition of honey changes up the final product.  Maybe an act of stupidity will lead to a new discovery and technique.  Neccesity may be the mother of invention, but stupidity is its cousin.


  1. Seems like a perfectly logical solution. Similar to adjusting the gravity of the beer using DME and water which I've done once or twice in the past.

  2. I wonder if you will be able to notice a difference in taste. One of these days I want to make a mead, and during my research on meads I have found there is a very divided line between folks who pasteurize the honey mixture via heat and those who are adamently against putting heat to the honey due to claimed negative changes in flavor. While heating the honey did you notice any protein junk rising to the top of the pan? If so, did you skin it off or leave it in?

  3. I did not notice anything in the heating of the honey. Plus after I added the quart of beer, there was quite a bit if foaming that would have hidden anything if there was. But considering I've always added the honey directly to the boil, any byproducts produced have always been left in the beer


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