Thursday, 29 January 2009

Honey Beer. Why?


I note that JDW have commissioned the respected Freeminer Brewery to bring out a new spring ale for them. Honey Dipper is made from First Gold hops from Worcestershire and honey from Fairtrade suppliers in Chile. It is a “full-flavoured”, gold-coloured, 4.6% abv ale. I presume it tastes of honey, a flavour I personally dislike. In brewing terms, honey is good. It ferments easily and imparts a noticeable honey taste, depending on amount used. I assume unless you want it to taste slightly (or more) of honey, then there is no point in using it.

Are there good honey beers out there? Do you have to like honey to like honey beers? I'd think so. Am I wrong?

34 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

No, I think fermented honey is a different animal.

There are a few honey beers I've enjoyed: Barbar, for instance, and that Portman Group favourite Speedball.

camragirl said...

No and yes,as far as I'm concerned.

Tandleman said...

BN - Is it your contention that fermented honey doesn't taste of honey? If not, what does it taste of?

The Beer Nut said...

Fermented honey (mead) does, mostly.

What honey tastes like in beer varies a lot in my experience: sometimes it's just an extra sweetness that could equally have been caused by syrup or candi or even extra malt; sometimes (like St Peter's Honey Porter) it's a really powerful perfumey flavour; and sometimes, like in Honey Dew, it tastes like bugger all.

Tandleman said...

Um. You are not making a convincing case for using it. Not that you have to. If it doesn't taste of honey, it ranges from sweet to bugger all.

I have to agree though with Honey Dew. It tastes of bugger all indeed.

The Beer Nut said...

I have to wonder what, outside the zero-to-sweet range, you think honey might do.

Speedball is not a sweet beer, however, and is the best argument I can think of for not saying "Ew, that's got honey in so I won't drink it".

Ron Pattinson said...

Not that I've tried and no.

Tim said...

Beer with fermented honey is called Braggot. It is the cause of the biggest hangovers known to man.

Tandleman said...

BN - I thought I'd made that clear. It makes beer taste of honey, which I don't like and which, imo, it shouldn't.

The Beer Nut said...

But the taste of honey is well inside the zero-to-sweet range. Unless you've been subjected to some really strange honey at some point. Made by the bitterest bees in Christendom.

Rednev said...

This discussion just goes to show how difficult it is to describe a taste, especially as research shows we all actually taste things quite differently anyway. This beer sounds interesting so when it's available, I'll test it for myself.

Dubbel said...

I don't particularly like honey in ale but wouldn't go so far as hating it. It would probably put me off trying it if there was a decent non-honeyed alternative on offer though.

I liken it to coffee-flavoured beer. Either you like it or you don't - and if you don't, you won't appreciate the subtle differences within the style.

Pooh Bear said...

mmmmmm..Honey, I like honey. Beer that tastes of honey...mmmmmm

Tyson said...

Can't say I'm a fan of honey in beer. It seems like a bit of a gimmick, often rendering the beer too sweet for my palate. Of course, Phoenix uses Mexican honey to avoid this problem, but that raises the question, why bother then?

Gazza Prescott said...

The trouble with honey, in my experience, is that brewers put it in after the boil so as they don't lose all those hunny essences up the chimney. Sadly, what they also don't lose by not boiling it are the gazillions of bacteria and other nasties it contains which is why most honey beers are horribly infected unless -

a) it's not honey they use but honey essence (as, allegedly, in Barbar and suchlike), or
b) they can brew properly and put it in during the boil, or
c) they pasteurise the bollocks off the finished beer so the bugs all die.

So, I don't like honey in beer as most brewers can't handle it properly and I don't think you're wrong either.

Barm said...

If honey is full of bacteria waiting to infect anything and everything, why does it keep for years without spoiling?

Paul Garrard said...

Fuller's Honey Dew is okay, but in general I dislike honey beer. Honey on it's own is great. In beer, no.

The southport drinker said...

Always avoid honey beer. A mouthful is ok, a pint not

Boak said...

I love honey, and I love the idea of honey beer. Unfortunately, it rarely works.

I do like Barbar though (but not the Winterbok)

Curmudgeon said...

I'm not a great fan of honey as such, but I do enjoy honey beers - some pints of Enville White are especially memorable.

The Woolpack Inn said...

Honey, if put in before fermentation, should not make the beer sweeter. Honey is very fermentable, adding nothing to the P.G. and therefore sweetness.

Some brewers add honey right after the boil has finished. Adding a relatively small amount to a large volume at 100 centigrade will not cool it much and will pretty much kill everything. Leave it 15mins or so before the cooling starts and all should be OK. Hopefully the volatiles won't be boiled off.

Some brewers add honey after the fermentation has got going. This results in the yeast taking over oxygen supplies that spoilage bacteria need to grow. It is more risky but can work quite well. Fruit is sometimes added at this stage as well for the same reason.

Honey, like jam and syrups, is high in sugar. Bacteria find it hard to grow in these conditions. Some moulds can, but that's about it.

Finally, if you don't like honey you won't like honey beers. Honey is really just sugar syrup with some natural aromas, but as Pooh says, I like honey beer.

Tandleman said...

Dave: " if you don't like honey you won't like honey beers".

That's my view and I really can't see why you should add expensive honey if you didn't want the beer to have honey taste and/or aroma.

Erlangernick said...

Sounds like you lot need ein Reinheitsgebot!

Rednev said...

"I really can't see why you should add expensive honey if you didn't want the beer to have honey taste and/or aroma."

Isn't that a bit like saying, "I really can't see why you should add eggs to a cake mixture if you don't want the cake to taste of eggs?"

Tandleman said...

No. You are comparing apples with oranges here as you very well know.

Ben said...

I like honey, but have never enjoyed honey beers. The worst I've ever tasted is St Peter's Honey Porter (which sounds like the name of a young actress). It tasted like bubble bath.

toni said...

Surely adding honey is just a way to try and make Lees drinkable...?

Tandleman said...

toni - You don't get this do you?

Rednev said...

No, I'm not. My point is valid, as you would very well know if you thought about it. An ingredient can affect the taste without smothering it with its own characteristics because of the interaction and blending of all the ingredients. Otherwise everything we eat and drink would taste like a jumble of separate flavours from the individual components, which is clearly not the case. This can apply to brewing as well as cooking or baking. If the sugar element of the honey (which is most of it) is fermented, then the flavour of what remains of the honey in the beer will obviously be different from that of the original honey in the jar.

Tandleman said...

Rednev - I get that point, but I wasn't saying the honey came out of brewing tasting the same as before it want in, but still tasting of honey in whatever modified form and I don't care for it.

Rednev said...

Not quite what you were saying before, but never mind. I understand the point that you don't like honey.

Paul said...

I'm not a fan of honey, or honey in beer. That said, I don't much like ginger either. Just not my style.

yan said...

The problem with honey in beer is that honey often has a lot of off flavours until it's been aged for a considerable amount of time (as in mead). Most typical beers have a rather low abv. making them not suited for aging. Honey really shines after it's been allowed to mellow, so it would be at it's best in a very strong, biere de garde style and opened in two years, in my opinion. As far as I know, nobody has done this commercially (but I might give it a try at home).

There have been a lot of hopped meads and braggots though, braggot being a mead where 50 per cent or more of the character has to come from honey (with or without hops, traditionally without). If most of the character comes from malt, it's a honey beer according to BJCP guidelines.

Vaters said...

Canada makes an amazing honey beer. Most of the brands I've tride in Canada are dlicious. They aren't too sweet but do taste of honey. You don't have to like honey to like it because the honey taste isn't like store bought honey which has so much sugar and shit added to it but there is a similar taste. On the same note almost, if you like honey it doesn't mean you are going to like it. You have to be careful when you do drink it. If you've eaten something that doesn't go well with it in the past hour or so then it will taste bitter. Salty foods I find go great with it and opposite sweet and foods do not. I love honey beer, but I'll drink almost any kind of beer so you never know haha.

On a side note, honey beers do give you one of the biggest hangovers known to man haha it shouldn't be a party beer unless you just have a couple to start your night out with. It's more of a beer to drink with or after a meal. Goes great with chicken, crackers with cheese and any type of pepperoni or meat to go with that, and it goes great with ham. Again, anything saltier, nothing sweet.