Belgian Table Beer (split w/ Peaches and Cherries)

Puree'd peaches and cherries

Puree’d peaches and cherries

I really like the concept of a table beer. Low-alcohol, quaffable, refreshing beer that you can casually sip during a meal, conversation, or quick break from working outside; shoveling snow on a cold winter day or mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. It’s making me thirsty just thinking about it! This is a really simple recipe, as i plan to split this 10 gallon batch with peaches and cherries in either carboy. Anticipated OG 1040, 17 IBU, 2 SRM and about 4% ABV. The fruit will add some sugars later on, but I’m not really concerned that it’ll bump it up to high.

  • 14.6 lb Belgian Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.4 lb Caravienna (20L) (Dingemans)
  • 2 oz Hallertau (4.1% aa) 60 min
  • WLPXXX Belgian Golden Ale (two 1L starters)

// Mash-in 1.75 qt/lb (6.5 gal), rest at 152F for 60 min, sparge w/ 9.25 gal 168F water to collect 13 gal 1.036 wort. Boil 90 min. Chill to 65F, pitch entire 1L starters into each carboy. Collect 10 gal 1.042 wort. Fermented at 66F. Brewed 11/22/14 //

UPDATE (11/27/14):  Gravity down to 1015. Excellent soft biscuit malt flavor, with a hint of crisp hops poking through in the finish. Subtle yeast character – peaches, lemon.. really like how this yeast has done at a low temperature.

fruit preparation:  Use 6 lb each of frozen dark sweet cherries (pitted) and peaches (pitted pealed and sliced) bought from Wegmans. Pour out frozen bags into separate large tupperware containers to thaw at room temp for a few hours until soft, then puree each in a blender. Pour back into tupperware, add one campden tablet to each fruit puree and let sit at room temp 24 hrs with a loose lid to allow any gas to escape.

A few minutes after adding fruit.

A few minutes after adding fruit.

UPDATE (11/29): Gravity at 1010, same notable characteristics and tasting great, still very cloudy though. Added the fruit to each carboy using a funnel, resulting in not a ton a headspace left. Fermentation started up quickly again, with some blow-off immediately from the peaches.

UPDATE (11/30): Fermentation was out of control – extreme amounts of blow-off in both batches.  The fruit fermented out very quickly (just under 24 hrs before the airlock stopped again), and both gravities were at around 1010 again. The peach works the best with the base beer / yeast so far and has a nice acidness to, and the cherries are OK too, but not nearly as effective. Moved both carboys to the chest freezer at 32F.

...and the next morning.

…and the next morning.

UPDATE (12/3): Most of the excess fruit float on top of the beer has sunk to the bottom of both carboys, so I kegged the cherry batch. It’s developed a bit of a rotten egg / sulphur smell, but underneath that there’s a veeeery subtle berry-like flavor followed by the nice biscuity belgian malts, with a faint ester note from the yeast. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell that this was a cherry beer had i not known, though. The low temperatures really helped to keep that yeast under control – i love the way that component tastes. After a few days of venting in the keg, hopefully that weird smell will go away.

 

THE VERDICT

This was my first fruit beer, and I think it had some positives and negatives.  Here are some of my overall impressions:

The peaches wound up being my favorite in the end. It’s very subtle yet very complimentary to the Belgian esters underneath. The level of peach flavor could afford to be doubled. I actually experimented with making a shandy of 1/4 orange juice, 1/4 sparkling water, and 1/2 of the peach ale; this was absolutely delicious. I think a tart Berliner-weiss yeast blend would send this beer through the roof, though.

The color of the cherry beer was beautiful – a vibrant cotton-candy shade of pink head and red rose body – but the flavor paled in the comparison. Just far too little cherry flavor left in the beer. It would be cool to do an all cherry beer, or half malts and half cherries, in order to get big, luscious cherry flavor. The weird smell did fade after a week or so.

In the end, I think the biggest downside of both beers was the level of fruit flavor. Six pounds of each fruit yielded a very mild flavor, but most people that tasted it wanted more fruit. It was amazing to see that all of the sugars from the fruit fermented out so much. Both beers would have been great as sour beers.  The acidity of fruit and sour beer would be really nice together, and I think that would have helped the overall character of both beers significantly. Maybe I’ll venture into making sours soon, and remake this recipe.

 

 

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Filed under All-grain, Belgian, Experimental

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