Crimson and Clover – An Experiment With Honey

May 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2 comments

To search for our next brewing project my wife picked up our copy of The Homebrewers Recipe Guide for some inspiration. When Hop Mom chooses a beer to brew the ABV is typically no less than 8%, it requires a pile of hops, and there are often some uncommon ingredients. The more complex the recipe, the more it appeals to her. So, I was a little surprised when she suggested “We should make a red ale.” Then I looked at the recipe and saw “6 pounds pale malt extract, 6 pounds clover honey” for a five gallon batch. That’s a lot of sugar.

Here is the recipe from the book:

5 gallons

Malts and Sugars
6 lbs light malt extract
6 lbs clover honey

1.5 ozs Saaz @ 60 minutes
.5 ozs Fuggles @ 5 minutes

1 tsp. Irish moss @ 10 minutes

Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale

The Numbers*
OG 1.054
FG 1.010
SRM 13

(*Only the OG was printed. The others are the results of my calculations.)

Look at that starting gravity – twelve pounds of sugars and your OG is only 1.054? When I plugged the numbers into my favorite recipe calculator “The Recipator”, the resulting OG didn’t match at all. It was much higher – 1.096. That would ferment out to a 11.2% beer! Now it makes sense why Hop Mom chose this one.

The OG printed in the book didn’t make sense to me until I did a little research on brewing with honey.

The Buzz on Honey

It turns out that honey, while being quite fermentable, requires some additional nutrients to make it palatable to some cultured strains of brewing yeast. The Crimson and Clover recipe doesn’t call for a yeast nutrient so it may be that the author didn’t intend for the honey to be considered in the fermentation calculation. That’s my best guess because if you remove the honey from the equation the OG comes out to 1.054. If I’m wrong and the yeast have a feast on the honey we will just have to call this Crimson and Clover Braggot.

Check out this document for some information about honey in beer. John Palmer, author of the classic home brewing book How to Brew, has this to say about brewing with honey, too.

The Brewing

After adding the malt and honey I checked the gravity – it was off the refractometer’s scale! That’s because I was checking the 2.5 gallon boil volume and not the full five gallon volume. After adding water to bring the wort to five gallons I took a sample. The starting gravity is 1.096.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this beer. The yeast may not like all of the extra sugar and, without added nutrients, could create off flavors. Plenty of homebrewers use honey, though, so the beer may be just fine.

If you have used honey in your home brew and have any suggestions or wisdom to pass on please chime in!

Entry filed under: Brewing, Recipes. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brian  |  May 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Please fetch me a beer, honey! Check that. Please fetch me a honey beer!!

    • 2. Hop Dad  |  May 23, 2012 at 6:07 am

      Don’t worry. It’ll be red-y soon! Haaa! Oy…


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