Mar 022013

crankyBrew Date: 02/09/13

Cranky Blonde - Cranberry Blonde Ale
Difficulty to Brew: Easy -> Intermediate (optional decoction)

TIME/TEMP: 90@154°
GRAIN: Pilsner 2-Row, Vienna, Crystal 10, Carafoam
HOPS: Magnum, Hallertau, Amarillo
Yeast: WLP001 California Ale

 They say blondes have more fun.  We say this blonde is cranky.

We wanted to experiment with cranberries for a while now, and had planned to add cranberries to our oatmeal stout a while back…we didn’t end up doing it because it was so good as is.  So our plan was to brew a blonde ale specifically designed for the addition of cranberries.  This is why we did a single decoction–to add a little more depth and maillard reaction to the pilsner-laden grist bill (we also boiled for 90 minutes to reduce DMS from the pilsner malt).   This proved to be a good decision, as it really brought forth extra emphasis on the grain which should prove to help balance the tartness of the cranberries.  As for hops, we didn’t want to just have the very identifiable fruity aroma of Amarillo, so we tossed in some floral Hallertau.  The beer without the cranberry addition is fantastic as is, and so we will only be adding fruit to a portion of the batch.

Adding fruit is, like most things with brewing, a hot topic for debate.  Let’s examine a few methods:

TOSSING FRUIT INTO THE BOIL: Pro: Kills wild yeast/bacteria on the fruit.  Easy.  Con: Like anything tossed into the boil, aromatics in the final beer suffer both from the boil and from off-gassing during primary fermentation.

TOSSING FRUIT INTO THE WHIRLPOOL: Pro: More aroma is preserved.  Easy.  Con: Can’t be sure wild yeast has been killed.  Volatile aromatics will still suffer via off-gassing during primary fermentation.

TOSSING FRUIT INTO THE PRIMARY: Don’t do it.  No point.  Leave your yeast to munch away on your wort.

RACKING YOUR FINISHED PRIMARY ONTO FRUIT IN THE SECONDARY: Pro: Primary fermentation is complete and so you’ll retain more aromatics.  Alcohol and lower PH of fermented beer act as a barrier against wild yeast/bacteria.  Con: None, other than it’s arguable marginally more difficult as you have might have to use a tertiary fermentation vessel if you plan on bulk ageing your beer for longer than you want it to sit on fruit.

We rack the beer onto fruit in the secondary fermenter, and suggest you do the same.  In regards to preparing the fruit, it’s recommended that you freeze the fruit first to rupture the cell walls to expose more fruity goodness (sorry for all the technical terms), and we agree.  Some then let the fruit sit in a bowl with crushed up campden tablets to kill wild yeast.  Our experience twins what a lot of well-respected home-brewers state — that, as mentioned earlier, the alcohol and the lower PH of the fermented beer will kill off any threats of infection (I’ve heard Denny Cohn talk about picking mushrooms, brushing off the dirt, and tossing them into the secondary).  It’s really up to you.

*Page will be updated once beer is complete.  Currently in primary, about to be put onto the cranberries.  Stay cranky my friends.