Help me put together a cherry ale recipe?

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cegan09

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So last year founders put out Frootwood, which both my girlfriend and I really enjoyed. I don't see it on their calendar again, so I have no idea if it will return. Recently we found a similar-ish beer from a local VT brewery that as a cherry graham cracker ale that we really liked. I'd love to make something similar on my own, but i've never done anything with fruit additions, and i'm sort of at a loss on where I'd start with this one.

I sent an email to founders asking if they'd give any tips on a base beer to start with, but they came back with "we don't comment on any of our recipes." So i'm at square 1.

So, what i'm looking for. Something that is similar to the two beers above. To me Frootwood always tasted a bit like generic cherry pie filling, the canned kind. To my girlfriend it was mostly teddy grahams. Which is why the cherry graham cracker ale was a good follow up for us. I'm just not sure where to start. What to use as a base beer, when to add cherries, how much, etc. If I wanted to mimic the graham cracker aspect, where to go about figuring that out.

I'd like to brew this in 1-2 months, so I figure that gives me time to figure this out. Anyone have any good pointers to get me started?
 
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cegan09

cegan09

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I emailed the VT brewery (Bent Hill, they are awesome, you should visit if you're in the area). They gave me a starting point. Said to start with something similar to a strong ale. they used just shy of a 1/4lb of graham cracker per gallon, in the mash, and use a higher mash temp.

research shows varying reports on cherry additions. seems that whole cherries require a lot more to get the flavor into the beer. Puree seems easier. I'm toying with the idea of a small percentage being actual canned cherry pie filling based on the taste I was getting from frootwood, but that might be stupid.

Because Frootwood was barrel aged, I'll probably add some oak to secondary when it's sitting on the cherries. I won't go crazy with it, maybe 2-2.5oz total.

Going to start piecing a recipe together, more that willing to take suggestions.
 

mirthfuldragon

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Cherry makes me think brett lambicus. I've been on a Belgian and sour kick lately, so forgive me for running down that road just a little bit. Off the top of my head, grain bill would be something similar to a quad, but avoiding anything chocolate/coffee/roasty. I would probably split the batch, with half getting a fruity belgian yeast and the other 100% brett labmicus. Primary the sacch version then rack on to fruit puree with some oak, then depending on how the brett version goes, do the same with it. And maybe innoculate the sacch batch with brett, depending on how it goes.

My club does a graham cracker porter that is pretty nice, and I have had several s'mores beers that were suprisingly good, so a cherry pie beer is well within the realm of possibility.
 
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cegan09

cegan09

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Not looking to make it sour this time around. Maybe in the future I'll repeat with a brett strain. But for this one I'm looking to mimic the beers I've had.
 

Bokito

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I don't know the beers you mention, but have made some fruit beers now and have some generic tips/comments.
First of all, almost all sugars in cherries (or cherry juice) ferment, so you will end up with quite a sour taste and few body. Keep this in consideration when creating your grain bill: use Münchener/cara/chrystal (or similar things with different names in the States) and a fitting mash scheme (relatively warm) to make sure you have a good body. I also almost always have some ~30% wheat in the grain bill. Adds body, and the flavor just fits.
I have been experimenting with oats and rye, but don't have any recommendation on those, it's also a different story if you don't BIAB.
If you use complete cherries, it's easiest to use them frozen and rack the beer on it for some 4 months. An easier option is using real cherry juice. Don't use cherry use from concentrate, since it has lost taste. And I would be very careful using anything but pure juice, because the taste might be very different once the sweetness is gone (fermented).
Also, cherry works well with oak wood, but be aware, if you use complete cherries with pits (adds almond taste/wood taste), you can get a bit of a tannin taste, which can quickly be too much with oak chips.

Have fun, my cherry beers are amongst the best I ever made.
 

estricklin

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I made a cherry beer a few years back. I used a boat load of cherry pie filling and Munich malt for the base if memory serves me correct. I can double check my recipe when I get home if your interested. It tasted somewhat sour and the cherry flavor did not come through as much as I hoped. Was still a nice beer though. If I had to do it over, I would use some cherry extract, a good dose of C40 and carbonate it very strong.

I love fruit beers of all types personally, but that one was not one of my best!
 

dreaded_rust

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Following.
We have a big cherry festival here in Idaho every year, maybe I'll snag some and give this a try.

I'm also really curious about how to get that graham cracker flavor. Would just putting it in the mash be sufficient?
 

bronzdragon

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I guess it depends on what flavor profile you want. If you want it clean and dry, I would add pure cherry juice to the secondary. If you want it a little sweet, then I would add it at kegging/bottling time (and reduce the bottling sugar.) If you're set on using whole fruit, I would wash and pit the cherries, freeze them. Then pull them out and mash them up with a blender or smoothie processor and add the fruit to the secondary and pump the brown ale onto it. Remember to add a blow-off hose because the fermentation will kick back off again, and I've had it be ferocious with various fresh fruits. (That's why I tend to use juices now.) I would follow all the standard recipe formulation for a brown ale with a medium body and low hoppiness. Good luck, sounds like it will be a good beer.
/cheers
 
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cegan09

cegan09

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Lots of good info in here. Thank you everyone who's commented so far. I'll work through the suggestions and see what I can put together.
 

John Eberly

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I used to make a cherry stout using black sweet cherries. It was good and aged well, but the “sweet” all fermented out and the cherry flavor was muted and overshadowed by the influence of the pits. This beer was probably 6% and held up with some oxidation, taste was comparable to some expensive stock ales after 5 years in the bottle.

If you want it to taste like cherry pie, I suggest using sour/tart cherries unsweetened, with the grain bill and adjuncts providing the sweetness. You can use milk sugar, mash at higher temps, and use limited, fruity hops to complement the fruit.
 

EkieEgan

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I just posted about this exact same thing..I too enjoyed Frootwood and am dismayed by Founder's lack of this years release (thus far). Bummer..I have 2 bottles left from last year and that's it :( I wouldn't use pie filling..it's cherries that are basically swimming in pure sugar syrup, which will all ferment out, drying the beer significantly. My plan is to use either whole cherries in the secondary, which I have done with a Saison and had good success OR I will use the puree and see how that goes. The thing is, Frootwood was aged in bourbon barrels that were used to condition maple syrup, so the barrel is being repurposed for a third time. I've made maple beers before and it pretty much ferments out leaving no maple character. What I was thinking of doing is to make the cherry ale and cold crash as long as possible to floc as much yeast as possible then add maple syrup (a small amount) to the keg then carbonate? Or perhaps filter the beer first and then keg adding syrup? I am just afraid that filtering will remove any cherry character. Perhaps someone has some suggestions on this procedure as well? I would also like some yeast suggestions. Glad to see someone else thinking along the same lines! :)
 
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