Honey in a beer? -- Newbie trying to learn! (Grain Bill incl.)

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jonathanh96

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So I've been making beer for approx 6 months now and I started with Extract brewing on a Brewzilla 65L setup making 10 gallon batches and kegging them in my dad's old Pinlock Corny Kegs!
My dad keeps telling me about this Red Eyed Honey ale that he made way back in the day (80s to early 90s) and how it was 13%.

I've recently come into a metric <insert word here> ton of honey... I'm talking ~10 gallons.

I made my first mead and it's fermenting now, and I used 36 lbs of honey (~3 gallons) for a 10 gallon batch.

Now I have roughly 6-7 gallons left and I'm wanting to do a honey beer.

-- I know you can use Honey Malt, and it's cheaper but I also want to try to use the Honey to jack up the ABV aswell. (What do y'all think?) --

Here's my "Plan"
Mash @ 154:
1 lb Honey Malt
1 lb Crystal 15L
16 lbs 2-Row Pale
Sparge at 170, start boil ->
1 oz Cascade Hops (60 min boil)
5 lb Honey (15 min boil)
Whirfloc Tablet (5 min boil)
2 oz Cascade (1 minute boil)
12 lb Honey (flameout/once cooled down to ~170 deg F)

Yeast nutrient @ fermentation (to help ferment the honey)
US-05 yeast

My thought process is the alcohol created from the honey may overpower the yeast once it reaches it's alcohol tolerance of 8-11% and should just have residual honey sweetness without the risk of further fermentation in the keg?

This will literally be my first grain bill I've created on my own and honestly I stole the base of it from MoreBeer's "Light Ale" recipe, since it was on sale last week :) and seemed like a good base for this ex-beer-iment!

Let me know, I'm still learning! ~Thanks~
 
Someone with more experience with honey should chime in, but I believe honey ferments out completely. Not leaving much honey flavor behind.

If you want honey flavor, I think you need to use honey malt.

You can also look into making something like a braggot... like a cross between mead and beer...
 
The real alcohol tolerance of yeast is at above 14%, so be prepared for something dry and strong that needs probably some aging. Can be a good beer though! But don't expect too much flavour from the honey. When fermented out, it doesn't leave much flavour behind unless back sweetened.
 
I wouldn't add that much honey to a beer recipe. If you want to add more potential ABV I would add additional grain. As noted you won't be gaining honey flavor but the yeast will certainly be happy with all that food.

It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.
 
honestly I stole the base of it from MoreBeer's "Light Ale" recipe
I was wondering if MoreBeer put out a recipe that called for 1 lb of Honey Malt. It looks like their recipe is just 8 lb 2-Row, and 0.5 lbs Crystal 15L (which sounds like a nice Blonde Ale). I have found that about 0.5 lb of Honey Malt in a 5 gallon batch is about the upper limit of what I would want. It does add some notes of honey character, but it can also add a bit of a sour twang.

I agree that starting with a Braggot recipe would be a better path than just loading a bunch of honey into a beer recipe.
 
My thought process is the alcohol created from the honey may overpower the yeast once it reaches it's alcohol tolerance of 8-11% and should just have residual honey sweetness without the risk of further fermentation in the keg?
Seems like this would be almost impossible to predict or control. You'd have an OG of 1.1+. If you underpitch, the yeast is liable to crap out well before reaching the alcohol tolerance leaving you a sickly sweet mess; especially with <10 IBU. If you pitch enough yeast, you'll end up with a fairly dry 11%+ ABV beer, like he said:
The real alcohol tolerance of yeast is at above 14%, so be prepared for something dry and strong that needs probably some aging.
 
Greetings, @jonathanh96.

My Beersmith3 kit is coming up with an Original Gravity of 1.223 from your plan. That's hugely problematic wrt fermentation because there's no yeast strain that's going to bring the FG down to something palatable because it'll be stunned by the alcohol content long before most of those gravity points are consumed.
 
I think the types of malts and hops you use are more important to let the taste of honey be suggested. Then the other flavor and aroma notes that are left behind from the type of honey you might use in the recipe are what rounds it out and makes that definite honey connection in our brains.

If you use the wrong malts and hops, or the wrong proportion of them, then even with those note left behind by the honey, our brains may not connect it to honey.

Beer making includes a lot of deception for tastes and aromas. The best tasting grapefruit flavor in beer doesn't even use grapefruit. Just hops and the malts to let that hop shine.
 
Just got off work and reading through all of this and I'm going to try responding to all of you but first I must say WOW! I did not expect to get this much response and in such a supportive environment. Usually I see on forums "Did you search" (which, yes, I did)

Someone with more experience with honey should chime in, but I believe honey ferments out completely. Not leaving much honey flavor behind.

If you want honey flavor, I think you need to use honey malt.

You can also look into making something like a braggot... like a cross between mead and beer...
I've heard about braggots, and this may be closer to what I'm looking at -- but I was hoping for a lighter malt like a blonde with a crisp finish but hefty ABV (so I guess an Imperial Blonde Honey?) and the smooth/sweet taste of Honey.
The real alcohol tolerance of yeast is at above 14%, so be prepared for something dry and strong that needs probably some aging. Can be a good beer though! But don't expect too much flavour from the honey. When fermented out, it doesn't leave much flavour behind unless back sweetened.
US-05 is 9-11%? That's why I picked it, it's a decent ABV but would stop fermenting once it hits the ABV target? Am I wrong on this?
I wouldn't add that much honey to a beer recipe. If you want to add more potential ABV I would add additional grain. As noted you won't be gaining honey flavor but the yeast will certainly be happy with all that food.

It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.
I'm already adding quite a bit of grain. This is a 10 Gallon batch BTW
I was wondering if MoreBeer put out a recipe that called for 1 lb of Honey Malt. It looks like their recipe is just 8 lb 2-Row, and 0.5 lbs Crystal 15L (which sounds like a nice Blonde Ale). I have found that about 0.5 lb of Honey Malt in a 5 gallon batch is about the upper limit of what I would want. It does add some notes of honey character, but it can also add a bit of a sour twang.

I agree that starting with a Braggot recipe would be a better path than just loading a bunch of honey into a beer recipe.
So this is their "Light Ale" 5 Gallon recipe (x2) since I run 10 gallon batches. -- I added the Honey Malt & Honey additions based off my reading of honey malts and recent experimentation with Mead.

Seems like this would be almost impossible to predict or control. You'd have an OG of 1.1+. If you underpitch, the yeast is liable to crap out well before reaching the alcohol tolerance leaving you a sickly sweet mess; especially with <10 IBU. If you pitch enough yeast, you'll end up with a fairly dry 11%+ ABV beer, like he said:
Would the OG really be that high? When I did 36 lbs of Honey into my 10 gallon batch for Mead my OG was 1.1440 using a K1V-1116 strain of yeast I'm expecting my Sack Mead to be around 18-20% ABV.
Greetings, @jonathanh96.

My Beersmith3 kit is coming up with an Original Gravity of 1.223 from your plan. That's hugely problematic wrt fermentation because there's no yeast strain that's going to bring the FG down to something palatable because it'll be stunned by the alcohol content long before most of those gravity points are consumed.
I'm doing a 10 gallon batch, not a 5. I'm sorry I should have specified that.
What kind of honey?
Local Raw Honey from my beekeeper. It's Wildflower, but I am getting mild citrus notes off it.
I'm getting "only" 1.109; maybe I missed something or maybe Brewer's Friend is underestimating the PPG of all that honey.
I'm doing a 10 gallon batch.

The sugars will ferment out, but the flavors and colors (e.g. orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey) are left behind.
I've read that, but the thought process is coming from a sack mead. if I put more sugars than possible for the yeast to ferment shouldn't it leave it sweet? -- I guess it's kind of the same thought process as backsweetening, but it's already in the fermenter and I'm concerned if I backsweeten it, the yeast may decide to wake up again and start chomping!
You may have it right, I was assuming a 5 gallon batch while a re-reading of the OP's post it appears the intent may be for 10 gallons...

Cheers!
(Yes! Sorry, I should've clarified this.)
You won't use up nearly as much of your stash but I've found if you want the honey flavor to show in a beer, add some late in the boil but more importantly use it as your priming sugar. I do a Belgian strong ale with orange blossom honey this way and it comes through wonderfully.
About how much honey should I use? I keg in 5 gallon corny's
I agree with this. I can absolutely taste the difference between using wildflower honey and orange blossom honey.
It's unfortunately only Wildflower with a mild citrus blend in it. My local beekeeper is going to be harvesting some BlackBerry honey soon. If this experiment turns out good, I'm thinking I may make a BlackBerry Honey Imperial Blonde? Or maybe a Blackberry Belgian?
I think the types of malts and hops you use are more important to let the taste of honey be suggested. Then the other flavor and aroma notes that are left behind from the type of honey you might use in the recipe are what rounds it out and makes that definite honey connection in our brains.

If you use the wrong malts and hops, or the wrong proportion of them, then even with those note left behind by the honey, our brains may not connect it to honey.

Beer making includes a lot of deception for tastes and aromas. The best tasting grapefruit flavor in beer doesn't even use grapefruit. Just hops and the malts to let that hop shine.
Yes! That's why I was thinking of using this light ale as a base to build something very honey-forward.
That's wild, I'd think there is at-least some sort of Grapefruit in it.



So what I'm gathering is, to be the most successful in this would be to keep the Honey Malt, and maybe reduce the amount of Honey in the beer. (I still want to bring the alcohol content up since the kit states it's about 4% (My dad will drink a whole keg in 5 minutes), but don't want to use corn sugar which can leave a funky taste if you use too much) -- Is honey the same way?

Would the addition of other malts be too much to manage, or are there additional malts that may be a good idea to add to this batch?

And depending on the outcome of this beer, potentially adding a little bit of Honey at the kegging process right before carbonation?



EDIT: I've subscribed to Brewer's Friend (and here) since I got some fanatastic responses.
This is what I'm getting when I put my recipe in the system

https://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/1484908/jonathan-s-heavy-honey-blond
 
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Someone with more experience with honey should chime in, but I believe honey ferments out completely. Not leaving much honey flavor behind
The sugars will ferment out, but the flavors and colors (e.g. orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey) are left behind.
I've read that, but the thought process is coming from a sack mead. if I put more sugars than possible for the yeast to ferment shouldn't it leave it sweet? -- I guess it's kind of the same thought process as backsweetening, but it's already in the fermenter and I'm concerned if I backsweeten it, the yeast may decide to wake up again and start chomping!
That would be my concern also.
 
I've used honey to boost ABV.

In a 5 gal batch, I used about 500g of honey to the wort before the yeast and it boosted by ABV by 1% IIRC. Worked as I'd hoped getting a beer that came out low back up to the OG I was expecting. Didn't leave any notable honey character that I could tell either. It was my first all grain mash so efficiency was not something I was monitoring. Subsequent batches have been bang on the money and never needed to augment.

Although if I do want to boost abv now, I use DME instead
 
Once you get your recipe where you want it, make sure to read up on fermentation of high ABV beers. They can be very tricky. When treated well, yeast will easily surpass their “ABV tolerance”. When treated poorly, you can get a range of undesirables, from nasty boozy burn to under fermented sweet mess.

Something this strong can take a long time to never really be a pleasant drink.
 
Somethings to consider:

Don't add in all of your honey in the beginning.

Only add honey at flame out or after you have brought the temperature down to 170 or so.
If you boil it you will loose most of the volatiles that you want that provide flavor.

Another option would be to step feed it.
While it is at high krausen, add in a couple of pounds of honey, this will extend the high krausen, do it again in a a day, and repeat, this way when the yeast stops, you will only have a little left, that will likely get consumed in the keg over a couple of week if left at room temperatures.

Also consider brewing a "starter beer", being one of the same style and recipe, minus the honey.
This will give you a large yeast cake to start from , pouring the new wort on the entire cake.

It will also provide a beer that you can blend in with the final beer if things don't turn out for the best.

Also, the final beer will likely need to age for several months for it to "come into it's prime".
 
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Somethings to consider:

Don't add in all of your honey in the beginning.

Only add honey at flame out or after you have brought the temperature down to 170 or so.
If you boil it you will loose most of the volatiles that you want that provide flavor.

Another option would be to step feed it.
While it is at high krausen, add in a couple of pounds of honey, this will extend the high krausen, do it again in a a day, and repeat, this way when the yeast stops, you will only have a little left, that will likely get consumed in the keg over a couple of week if left at room temperatures.
Unless the honey is pasteurised, it will contain wild yeasts that might create bottle bombs on the long run. So adding it at flame out is probably the better idea.
 
When adding it as a priming sugar it's best to use one of the many priming calculators out there so you can get the exact amount needed for your volume and desired co2 volume, probably between 4 and 5 oz in a 5 gallon batch.
 
EDIT: I've subscribed to Brewer's Friend (and here) since I got some fanatastic responses.
This is what I'm getting when I put my recipe in the system

https://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/1484908/jonathan-s-heavy-honey-blond
Good that you're using a recipe builder/calculator. When I put the ingredients in the first post into Brewer's Friend I got 1.109 for an OG. It looks maybe like the fermenter addition is not being added to the OG, even though it says that it is.

edit - just entered your recipe again; if I toggle the second late honey addition between boil kettle and fermenter the OG drops from 1.113 to 1.090; this seems to be a glitch of some kind - the fermenter addition should be included in the OG but excluded from the post-boil gravity.
 
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When adding it as a priming sugar it's best to use one of the many priming calculators out there so you can get the exact amount needed for your volume and desired co2 volume, probably between 4 and 5 oz in a 5 gallon batch.
Since OP is hoping to get residual sweetness from unfermented sugars/honey due to the ABV exceeding the yeast's alcohol tolerance, priming and natural carbonation are not an option. Priming for natural carbonation is also not an option when back-sweetening (unless you bulk carbonate, kill the yeast, and then back-sweeten.)

Brew on :mug:
 
I've used honey to boost ABV.

In a 5 gal batch, I used about 500g of honey to the wort before the yeast and it boosted by ABV by 1% IIRC. Worked as I'd hoped getting a beer that came out low back up to the OG I was expecting. Didn't leave any notable honey character that I could tell either. It was my first all grain mash so efficiency was not something I was monitoring. Subsequent batches have been bang on the money and never needed to augment.

Although if I do want to boost abv now, I use DME instead
I may add some more DME to the mix as it contains a lot of nutrient to help the yeast feed as-well.
Approx how much DME per % ABV?
Once you get your recipe where you want it, make sure to read up on fermentation of high ABV beers. They can be very tricky. When treated well, yeast will easily surpass their “ABV tolerance”. When treated poorly, you can get a range of undesirables, from nasty boozy burn to under fermented sweet mess.

Something this strong can take a long time to never really be a pleasant drink.
I know!
I'm looking for something on the sweeter side, but understand if I don't get it.
Somethings to consider:

Don't add in all of your honey in the beginning.

Only add honey at flame out or after you have brought the temperature down to 170 or so.
If you boil it you will loose most of the volatiles that you want that provide flavor.

Another option would be to step feed it.
While it is at high krausen, add in a couple of pounds of honey, this will extend the high krausen, do it again in a a day, and repeat, this way when the yeast stops, you will only have a little left, that will likely get consumed in the keg over a couple of week if left at room temperatures.

Also consider brewing a "starter beer", being one of the same style and recipe, minus the honey.
This will give you a large yeast cake to start from , pouring the new wort on the entire cake.

It will also provide a beer that you can blend in with the final beer if things don't turn out for the best.

Also, the final beer will likely need to age for several months for it to "come into it's prime".
Question, If I step feed it won't that be more likely to allow the yeast to exceed the ABV tolerance?
I'm trying to kill the yeast specifically for the purpose of having a Honey-Sweet beer.
(I could also use a Campden tablet to kill the yeast/sterilize?)
Unless the honey is pasteurised, it will contain wild yeasts that might create bottle bombs on the long run. So adding it at flame out is probably the better idea.
Rather than in the fermenter?
When adding it as a priming sugar it's best to use one of the many priming calculators out there so you can get the exact amount needed for your volume and desired co2 volume, probably between 4 and 5 oz in a 5 gallon batch.
Going to be kegging, not priming.
Good that you're using a recipe builder/calculator. When I put the ingredients in the first post into Brewer's Friend I got 1.109 for an OG. It looks maybe like the fermenter addition is not being added to the OG, even though it says that it is.

edit - just entered your recipe again; if I toggle the second late honey addition between boil kettle and fermenter the OG drops from 1.113 to 1.090; this seems to be a glitch of some kind - the fermenter addition should be included in the OG but excluded from the post-boil gravity.
WOW! You're right.
I just updated the recipe, and now it's showing 1.113 OG.
Realistically it wouldn't matter if it was flame-out or fermenter. Sugar content is sugar content.

Since OP is hoping to get residual sweetness from unfermented sugars/honey due to the ABV exceeding the yeast's alcohol tolerance, priming and natural carbonation are not an option. Priming for natural carbonation is also not an option when back-sweetening (unless you bulk carbonate, kill the yeast, and then back-sweeten.)

Brew on :mug:
^^ This is wht I'm going for.
I *could* kill the yeast using a Campden tablet, similar to Mead/Wine. However I would prefer to do this naturally.
If I start going past my desired FG I will likely drop a crushed campden tablet into the fermenter to stop fermentation.

I will be taking samples regularly of this brew as to ensure the sweetness is where I want it. (Hell, the 10 gallons may be gone before I'm ready to keg it!!! Just kidding)
 
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