Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cranberries and Brett...again...but different

I should probably ditch this fascination I have with trying to use cranberries in a beer, but there's something about using a locally-grown, native fruit that I just can't let it go.  My first attempt at using cranberries was HIGHLY experimental and had disappointing results (though I am geared up for another tasting to see if time has helped).  Cranberries contain a lot of tannins and they seemed to add a fair amount of astringent bite to the last beer, which was too much for such a dry beer to handle.  But, I've been thinking that a richer, maltier, "sweeter" beer would work well with cranberries.  Especially if I don't overdo the cranberry addition.  So, I brewed up an English-style brown ale sort of beer that will hopefully hold up to the cranberries.

As you can see from the grist bill below, this is decidedly not a standard brown ale recipe and is not the way I would build a brown ale if I were starting from scratch.  But I wasn't starting from scratch.  You see, I had grain already milled for another version of my ongoing attempt to perfect a hoppy red ale recipe I've been playing with the past couple of years.  However, I never got around to brewing it, and I wanted to brew up this new beer so that it would be ready in time for Thanksgiving, and I didn't feel like wasting all this grain.  So, I decided I could start with the grain I had, add some more crystal malt and some chocolate malt and...voila...turn it into a "brown" ale.  Some of the grain weights are a little weird too since I had too much grain in the original red ale recipe for the lower gravity I was looking for with this beer, so I pulled out a couple of pounds of grain and just extrapolated the remaining grain weights based on percentages.

As for the yeast...I decided to go with the Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois strain I harvested from my multi-grain farmhouse style ale I brewed over the summer.  I absolutely loved the fruity character I got from that strain and I am thinking that it will complement both the malt and the cranberries.

Speaking of the cranberries....I am planning on picking up some freshly harvested fruit from one of the original cultivated cranberry bogs on Cape Cod.  This bog is now currently owned by "Annie's Crannies", but was originally farmed by Captain Henry Hall, the man credited with being the first to commercially cultivate cranberries.  I'll add the fruit to secondary once the fermentation is fully complete.  I'm not sure yet how much I will use, but am thinking on the order of 0.25 pounds per gallon.  I figure it is better to be conservative.  I may also bottle some of the base beer without the cranberries just in case the cranberry version turns out to be not so great.

So much for trying a simpler approach this time around....

[UPDATE 10/21/12 - I decided to rack the entire batch onto 1 pound of cranberries.  The cranberries were picked up fresh from Annie's Crannies, as mentioned above. I vacuum-sealed them, and then froze them, thawed them, then froze them again, before thawing them a second time before racking the beer.  I'll let the beer sit on the cranberries for 10 days or so.  Not sure if this is enough time, but I want to get it in the bottle in time to be ready for Thanksgiving.]

Henry Hall Ale
brewed on 9/26/12

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Estimated Color: 22.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
OG: 1.046 SG
FG: 1.012
ABV: 4.5%

3 lbs 10.0 oz Pale Malt - 58.9%
12.0 oz Pilsner Malt - 12.2%
6.0 oz Crystal 120 - 6.1%
6.0 oz Crystal 60 - 6.1%
6.0 oz Munich I - 6.1%
6.0 oz White Wheat Malt - 6.1%
3.0 oz Chocolate Malt - 3.0%
0.7 oz Roasted Barley - 0.7%
0.7 oz Acidulated - 0.7% (for mash pH)

9 g EKG [4.50 %] - 60 min
7 g Challenger [7.20 %] - 30 min

1 lb of fresh cranberries added to secondary

Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois (WLP644)

Mash Schedule
Single Infusion, 150ºF, batch sparge


lavender_pepper said...

I *totally* hear you on cranberries! They're AWESOME!! After a friend's amazing success with a Cran-Weizen last winter I'm giving it a try myself!

Jim Lemire said...

lavender - I'm excited and cautiously optimistic about this year's attempt. Any idea what your friend used for cranberries as far as pounds/gallon?

lavender_pepper said...

She used fresh ones from the produce section. Here's her blog post about it:

Hope this helps and thanks for adding me to your blogroll!

jacob said...

I did a big cranberry wheat beer for a work friend last year. It was an extract brew but the cranberries were from a bog in MA. I did a 1:1 lb per gal ratio in secondary. For me, it was too much cranberry, but my coworker, wife, and family (including my maybe-too-honest mother-in-law) had said it was a good amount. So depending on how much you love cranberries I'd say more is in the cards. I found the fruit estery wheat beer to compliment the tart-punchyness of fresh cranberries.

Jim Lemire said...

@lavender_pepper - thanks for the link!

@jacob - thanks for the info too.

It is interesting to see both recipes using a pound or more per gallon. I did this last time and I really thought it was too much, so I was worried about going in that direction again this time. I opted to go considerably more conservative - I only used a pound of cranberries for about 3.5 gallons of beer. I figure if I don't get a ton of cranberry flavor, at least I should have a nice brown ale!

Anonymous said...

Would it be out of the question to let the cran into the primary so as to let Brett have time to work through some of the astringency?

Lewy said...

Any update on this? I have a couple Belgian Blondes going with a dregged single strain of Brett for primary. The 1st one is done and tasting great. I was thinking cranberry next time, but after reading your post I was thinking about mixing in some passion fruit juice to the fresh cranberries. Any thoughts?

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