View Full Version : Honey in the beer

04-28-2010, 01:27 PM
Looking to make a brown ale and add some honey for flavor. Have a great local organic source. Every time I made a beer with honey I feel like I'm waisting money. Great for gravity but never seem get the aroma or sweetness. So post ferment is the key. My question is how much? This is pub beer not bottled so stability is a lesser issue. Thanks

04-28-2010, 02:30 PM
I've had luck adding honey aroma, simply by using honey as my priming sugar. It does take longer to carbonate due to the heavier sugars though.

04-28-2010, 03:57 PM
I use honey in several beers. The trick is to add it post-boil, I use at a rate of 3-5 lbs per BBL but i have used more than double that in the past in a Honey Wheat that was nicknamed by our customers the "Panty Dropper" Honey Wheat aka DWI-Wheat.

I like to put the buckets in the mash after runoff to warm it up so it pours and mixes better. I usually wait and add it just before the end of whirlpool and pour it slowly into the WP, this helps mix it. If it is cold and thick and you just dump it in it will sink to the bottom of the kettle and burn on.

Do not boil it unless you just want the sugar, the flavor and aroma will boil off. If you use local unpasteurized honey (which i prefer) make sure you add it above 180F or you risk contamination, and the possibility of botulism.

I know of some people who will add some post-fermentation for sweetness and aroma, again if it's unpasteurized mix it down in some water and make sure it stands over 180F for several minutes, cool and mix it into finished beer- either in the BBT and transfer on top or blend in via a corney.

Lately i have been using Wildflower Honey, but hear really good things about Fireweed Honey which is apparently produced after wildfires when the bees pollinate all of the "weeds" that pop up when regrowth starts.

04-28-2010, 04:24 PM
I have made dozens of different honey versions of our house beers with some success.

I find that just after the peak of fermentation, I'm adding 5-8 lbs per bbl of mild honeys like sage or orange blossom and 3-5 lbs per bbl of stronger varieties like dark wildflower or buckwheat.
When I add it to the boil or whirlpool, I find that I lose alot of aroma and flavor.
I always mix with about 1 qt water for 2 or 3 lbs honey and bring to 180F for 10 mins. for sanitation and to ensure it mixes properly.

I think it ultimately depends on the honey variety and the beer you're adding it to.

Hope this helps!


04-28-2010, 09:25 PM
"If you use local unpasteurized honey (which i prefer) make sure you add it above 180F or you risk contamination, and the possibility of botulism."

Botulism from raw honey? Really? I eat it every day, straight from a jar!

Shaun e.

04-29-2010, 05:07 AM
Honey can be a source of infant botulism as botulinum spores from honey can grow in a baby's gut. Raw honey is never going to be a botulism risk in beer, period.

04-29-2010, 06:24 AM
Gambrinus Honey Malt.

04-29-2010, 09:31 AM
"Botulism from raw honey? Really? I eat it every day, straight from a jar!

Shaun e.
I suddenly have this image of Winnie the Pooh in my head :)

That’s what the farmer that sold it to us said and I never had any reason to doubt him. I'm sure there are many variables, in this case the farmer kept bees primarily to pollinate his crops. The honey was a byproduct and he sold it to us raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized on the side for extra money. For someone whose focus is on producing honey, I would think extra precautions are taken to ensure that it is safe for consumption.

Raw honey is never going to be a botulism risk in beer, period.

Well ok then, at any rate if using unpasteurized honey i would still recommend getting it over 180F unless your doing a wild or sour beer and are ok with the possibility of introducing some "bugs".

04-29-2010, 12:40 PM
I agree with the pasteurizing. I have had some funky stuff grow in honey beers that I just added the raw honey to. Takes a while, but stuff will grow.


04-29-2010, 01:51 PM
I don't think the "bugs" are from the honey from the honey. Nothing can live in honey due to its' high sugar content. I have never heated honey. I just dump it in.

04-29-2010, 02:29 PM
Nothing can grow in honey as the available water is less than a saturated salt solution. However, many things can survive in unpasteurized honey; spores, clusters of bugs and things trapped in bee parts. Also, filtered honey is usually filtered just to where you can't see the teny tiny ground up bee parts, dust and whatever.

04-29-2010, 06:45 PM
Well ok then, at any rate if using unpasteurized honey i would still recommend getting it over 180F unless your doing a wild or sour beer and are ok with the possibility of introducing some "bugs".

Yeah, pasteurising it is still a good idea. We go a lot gentler than that though, 15 minutes over 60C. I'd think at 180F you're going to be losing most of the volatile flavour & aroma compounds.

04-30-2010, 06:34 AM
I have a 9% honey ale on now. 200lbs in the whirlpool and yielded about 7 Bbls. Also used a bag of Gambrinus Honey malt which is a nice combo. Warmup the honey as mentioned for easier pouring.
I have done a "Honey Bock" same type of procedure but also adding some at the end of fermentation and some post fermentation. I would say that the less honey you plan to use the later in the process you should add it. Obviously you dont want to add much post ferment in any case.

04-30-2010, 09:58 AM
I don't think the "bugs" are from the honey from the honey. Nothing can live in honey due to its' high sugar content.

There are a number of osmophilic yeasts which can survive but only grow very slowly in honey. When you dilute the honey, these yeasts can take off. Not necessarily dangerous from a flavour perspective, but reality nonetheless.



05-04-2010, 07:56 AM
Someone already mentioned the Gambrinus Honey malt and I agree totally. Great in a wheat for flavor and aroma with no use of actual honey. I have some in my brown now. the flavor is a little less than I wanted so I am looking to dump honey post fermentation.

As far as the "bugs" I believe its just that babies do not have the ability to process the honey yet. It comes later. That being said, if you are adding honey post ferment I would pasturize at 180 for 10-15 minutes. I am looking at honey crystals. Its a sugar replacement for tea so I should be able to dump it through the top of the fermenter since the beer is completed its fermentation. If the yeast kicks in from any extra sugar it should only carbonate slightly.

So long story short, gambrinus and pasturize.

Just my 3 cents.

05-04-2010, 08:57 AM
How do you add the honey post ferment? Does'nt it just drop to the bottom? This is a brown beer so I don't want a lot of honey flavor. Just enough to know it's there. Thanks

05-04-2010, 09:36 AM
pasteurize at 180 for 20 minutes diluted in some water. Chill or not. Add to server prior to transfer for good mixing. If you need to add it to a full tank simply push it into the tank with CO2 from a keg and use a carb stone to mix.

05-05-2010, 01:08 PM
update to how I added honey post-ferment. Used the Crystalized Honey from our food vendor. when trasfering the beer into another fermenter I pulled beer and mixed it into a sanitiezed bucket then tossed it in. After mixing teaspoon with I pint pulled from the sample port, I decided it would be a litle stron so went with 1/2 tsp. per pint. doing the math was roughly 28 oz for 6.5 bbls. I went with 24 (size of container) So far so good.

06-17-2010, 04:23 PM
I use that much on 10 gallons of a light cream ale. It'll ferment out leaving behind a nice flavor/aroma. Can't imagine it had any effect on 6+ bbls. Also, your math doesn't add up. At 1/2 tsp per pint, and 6.5 bbls ( I rounded a bit as well) you'd need about 18 cups. The problem you had I believe is that you did the math using weights and used the same weight as water. Basically you needed a bit over a gallon of honey to do what you wanted to do.

06-17-2010, 04:40 PM
Having made meads for many years from raw honeys and no boiling, I've never had any infection problems as long as your sani procedures are up to snuff.
If you have the chance to make a small homebrew batch of mead with your local honey, you can gauge better the resulting flavors that would carry over to a beer recipe.
There are many sources of honey out there and some make dreadful fermented beverages, so just because the honey is sweet and good tasting raw, doesn't always mean it will work well through a ferment.
I add my honey right after boil during whirlpool, it helps mix well and not settle on the bottom of the kettle.
Honey Beers Are Great!

06-17-2010, 04:49 PM
1lb per bbl post ferment. Best way to do it is to slowly add in line, warmed up helps, to make sure the most can get dissolved into the beer. If you don't have this as an option, you can open up your bright tank and add it in as you transfer in. Not quite as effective but it will work. The honey won't completely dissolve though so your first few pints, pitchers, kegs will be pretty strong in the honey department.

As for the Botulism concern, I'm pretty certain it won't grow in beer especially if you keep it cold and someone drinks it within a month. The spores can survive in the honey, which is where the risk comes from but it doesn't form a risk for anyone except infants.

06-17-2010, 04:52 PM
Hey meadman are there a few general rules of thumb for a honey type that ferments well? Is "wildflower" or "multi flower" honey a good choice?

06-18-2010, 06:13 AM
I, too have been brewing meads for many years. Wildflower honey should be fine. In fact, that or good quality clover honey is probably best for your use. Cost effective, and you are unlikely to pick up any difference if you were to use a monofloral variety.
Main thing is to avoid strong flavored honeys. Buckwheat, eucalyptus and the like are generally not good in most beverages (although a good meadmaker can come up with a spice or fruit blend that will balance the stronger flavors of such meads and use them).

06-18-2010, 09:20 AM
Thx Beerking1. I have 24# of "wildflower" honey heading our way. I almost went clover but it is from clover fields in the Dakotas and the wildflower is harvested just south of us in the farm fields. Trying to minimize our carbon footprint and all. It was not as easy as I thought it would be to find bulk honey in Idaho.

06-18-2010, 02:24 PM
Beerking1 is correct. The strong, more pungent honeys typically don't make very good straight meads. The more info you can get from you beekeeper as to what wildflowers his hives have been on the most will help you decide.
Here in Montana we have been invaded by Spotted Knapweed. It makes a nice strong honey for your toast, but in a mead it leaves metallic, harsh flavors.
Your wildflower honey you have coming should be fine, but if you can spare about 2# I would suggest making a gallon of mead using your house yeast and see what kind of flavors you get from the ferment.

06-21-2010, 06:43 AM
Also worth noting: Stay away from Chinese honey!! They often add adjuncts like corn syrup to lower cost.

Your best bet is to know your beekeeper. Some commercial bees are moved near a landfill during months when there are not many flowers in bloom. The result is the bees gather sweet "nectar" from things like mostly empty soda cans, giving you "trash honey." I doubt you really want your beer to have a "trashy" flavor! :eek: