Peach/Apricot and Pineapple Wheat Beers

>> Friday, July 13, 2012

With the 100+F degree temperatures in Utah this summer, I've been really enjoying Wasatch Brewery's Apricot Hefe.  It's a light summertime brew and you can enjoy a few without getting trashed.  Another favorite of mine is Mana Wheat from Maui Brewing.  It's a little harder to get a hold of in Utah, but it's pretty awesome as well.  It has a decent amount of pineapple aroma and a nice pineapple flavor on the back of the palate that really compliments the wheat beer flavor.  Recently we made a trip up to High West Distillery in Park City and enjoyed some of their peach vodka; first straight, then in a Peach Mule (their take on a Moscow Mule).  These drinks gave me the idea to do some experimenting with fruit.

I've made my Watermelon Wheat beer a few times now and it's turned out to be a crowd favorite.  The recipe is based on 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat.  Admittedly, you have to be a fan both of watermelon and fruit beers to really enjoy it because there is no hiding the watermelon.  I've had a few people accuse me of using watermelon flavoring/extract in this beer, but I swear all the flavor comes from the watermelon I use in secondary.

Today I'm going to try experimenting with some different fruits.  The plan is to brew up a five gallon batch of the base beer from my Watermelon Wheat.  After primary fermentation, I'll split it between two 3 gallon fermenters; one will get peaches and apricots and the other will get pineapple.  In Radical Brewing, Randy Mosher indicates you can often get better peach flavor using apricots instead of peaches.  I still want to try using peaches, but that's the reason I'm blending the two fruits.  If the flavor turns out too delicate, I'll supplement it with a measured dose of peach flavoring.  Pineapple can also present challenges.  Because of the high acidity, it could cause some problems for the yeast.  I've read some forum posts where people have claimed to not have any issues with pineapple in the secondary, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.  Here's the recipe as I'm making it.

6.0 # Briess Pale Malt
4.0 # Rahr White Wheat Malt
1.0 oz Hallertauer (60 min)
1.0 oz Hallertauer (5 min)
White Labs California Ale Yeast (#WLP001)
1 Whirfloc
Yeast Nutrient
1.0 # Peaches (in secondary for Batch A)
2.0 # Apricots (in secondary for Batch A)
2.5 # Pineapple (in secondary for Batch B)

Mash at 152F for 1 hour
Boil for 90 Minutes
Primary Fermentation - Start off at 66F.  Ramp up to 72F over a few days.
Secondary Fermentation - Rack onto fruit puree in secondary and hold at 72F until finished.

Preparing the fruit
With the watermelon I've found that it's best to use a slightly overripe melon.  It may not be the best for eating (tends to be mushy) but it seems to have better flavor and aroma than a less ripe melon.  For the purposes of brewing, we don't care much about texture so go with  overripe fruit.  Obviously, make sure it isn't rotting...that'd be a little too ripe.

To prepare the fruit for secondary, all fruits were washed.  I then removed the pits from the peaches and apricots, mashed them up a bit, then froze them to break down the cell walls.  For the pineapple, the skin and core were removed, then I mashed it and froze it same as the peaches and apricots.  Some brewers choose to cook the fruit to cut down on the chances of an infection.  That can change the flavor and aroma so I choose not to cook mine.  So far I haven’t had any issues with infections (knock on wood).

Brewing Notes
The brew day was fairly uneventful, usually a good thing.  I noticed after a few minutes of recirculating the mash that the flow had slowed, so I checked the grain bed and found that it was compacted and possibly heading towards a stuck mash.  This is a fairly common issue when using a lot of wheat in your mash.  Since wheat doesn't have a husk it's more prone to stuck mashes especially if the flow rate is too high.  I stopped recirculating, added a few handfuls of rice hulls to the mash and stirred them into the grain bed.  I then started recirculating the mash again at a slightly lower flow rate and didn't experience any further issues.  I forget to take a pre-boil reading on my refractometer, so I don't know that my efficiency was.  The post-boil reading as 15.2°P which translates to a SG of about 1.059.

Update 7/28/2012
The wheat beer base has fermented down to 1.006 so it's about time to add the fruit.  Just an update on the amounts used, they're slightly different than in the recipe above.  I used two pineapples which yielded 2.625 lbs of fruit and juice. For the peaches and apricots, it's pretty close to 1/3 peaches and 2/3 apricots with a total weight of 3.44 lbs. The frozen blocks of fruit and juice are currently thawing on my counter.  I'm hoping to get them in secondary today, but we have company coming over for dinner tonight, so it might not happen until tomorrow morning.

Update 8/2/2012
The fruit went in on 7/28/2012 as mentioned above.  One thing that surprised me a little was that a lot of the fruit was floating the next day.  This hasn't been an issue when I used watermelon.  I sanitized the end of my mash paddle and used it to carefully knock the fruit down and gently swirl about once a day.  The peaches/apricots have now mostly settled to the bottom, but a good potion of the pineapple continues to float.  Mental note for next time, it might be a good idea to put the fruit in a fine mesh bag to better contain it and so that it can be weighted down.

Update 11/20/2012
I meant to post this update a while ago. Neither of the beers turned out as well as the watermelon version.  The pineapple one is the better of the two and it's a good beer, but it needs more pineapple character. I think I'd recommend increasing the amount of pineapple by at least 50%. Knowing it's made with pineapple, I can detect it.  However, I did some blind tastings and it seems to have a generic fruitiness that you might get from certain strains of yeast, but not an identifiable pineapple character.

The peach/apricot version is so-so and seems to vary from bottle to bottle.  If I were to do it again I would definitely remove the skins...and keep them in chunks rather than partially blend them. The skins seemed to give it an odd bitterness and the partially blended fruit was a total pain...lots of sludge at the bottom, some of which made it into the bottling bucket and into the bottles. Like the pineapple, it needs more fruit character as well. I'd probably try doubling the amount of fruit next time. For both beers, I think I'd add some pectic enzyme.