This month’s session was set by Beer, Beats & Bites, and the challenge is to write about fruit beer.
As this coincides neatly with the start of the blackberry season in the UK – or at least in our part of East London – we thought we’d focus on blackberries and beer for this post. (By the way – is it me or is the blackberry season getting earlier and earlier?)
We’ve often wondered why blackberries don’t feature more in beer. They’re fairly similar in structure / texture to raspberries, and are easier to grow. It seemed natural to us to try and use last year’s haul in one of our brews. But how? We looked around for inspiration.
One idea was to add the juice to some stout. We found out the Burton Bridge Brewery had beaten us to it. Their “Bramble Stout” is an excellent stout – but if you didn’t know that there were blackberries in it, you probably wouldn’t guess. It has a sourness that could be attributable to the blackberries, and the chocolatey aroma is perhaps also a bit fruity. We’ve just had another bottle in honour of The Session, and enjoyed it just as much as last year, and we would definitely recommend it, even to”serious” beer drinkers who don’t like fruit beers.
When it came to our own brew, we wanted something where the blackberry flavour came out more, and so we decided to try and brew it with a wheatbeer. The inspiration for this came partly from the Meantime Raspberry beer, which we think manages to achieve a full fruity flavour without being an alcopop.
Our recipe was easy enough — pretty much a standard German wheat beer recipe, except that, when we transferred into secondary fermentation, we threw in a slightly over-the-top 7lbs of blackberries. (We had pasteurised them by cooking them for 20 minutes and then we strained them through a sterilised sieve when they were cool) This kicked off a fairly vigorous secondary fermentation — there’s a lot of sugar in 7lbs of blackberries.
The finished product is very popular with our friends. We’re quite hard on ourselves, though, and will probably work on the recipe some more. For one thing, our fancy-pants German wheat beer yeast didn’t really get going, so we ended up using dried lager yeast, which didn’t exactly impart a lot of character. We might also try to keep a bit more malt sweetness — it’s quite sour. But the colour is great… like Calpol. Altogether, it’s very refreshing, and looks spectacular, but needs to be more complex if it’s going to knock anyone’s socks off.
And, as a “bonus track”, in honour of this Session’s topic, we also tried a bottle of the Williams Bros Brewing Company’s “Roisin” tayberry beer. Tayberries are a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, but this beer is probably accented more towards the raspberry flavours. Like other British fruit beers — notably Cain’s excellent raisin beer — it’s an ale first, and a fruit beer second. You can taste the malt, and particularly the hops, and is only slightly redder than a standard bitter (unlike our blackberry effort). The hop bitterness is perhaps rather overpowering, although it seemed to mellow as we got down the glass. It has a very pleasing fruity aftertaste. It’s worth a look – again, even for those who aren’t particularly into fruit beers. It’s available in Oddbins in the UK, and is plastered all over with US import information, so must be available there, too.
Note: more fancy beer photos, although a bit rough and ready this time. The “Roisin” pic has a grey background because trying to white out around the base of a stem glass was beyond me… for now.
#UPDATE# Session round up posted here.