Thursday 20 May 2010

New Seasonal - Honey Spice Gold

In 2007 I brewed a beer for fun. I half filled a small tank with some wheat and barley wort along with spices, two sacks of Bobek hops which I had drenched in honey. I expected it to come to nothing but it was probably the best beer I have ever made. It was citrus, quenching and generally wonderful. The FD’s wife’s father had produced the honey in Ireland. I’m not sure what the bees fed on but the citrus notes from the honey were key to the beer which came out. The beer went on to win its category of the International Beer Competition and get in the final of the Sainsbury’s Beer Competition.

With such success came an increase in demand and I had to get some more honey. I was disappointed to hear that the bees had died. I still fancied my chances of recreating the beer using some Cornish honey. Even though there was nothing on the Heriot-Watt brewing and distilling degree syllabus on using honey and it’s not mentioned in any of my brewing text books I thought, I’m a good brewer and I can tweak up the hops and change the fermentation temperature and all will be good. The second brew was nice, a good beer but it wasn’t as brilliant as the first. Since then I have tried to recreate the beer with several different honeys but all to no avail.

As well as a lesson in modesty a good thing to come out of this experience was an understanding of what the combination of honey and spices can bring to a beer. Since this first brew I have brewed a couple of commercial variants of Honey Spice. Last year the summer seasonal was Honey Spice Wheat which sold by the bucket load and Honey Spice Triple is a permanent fixture in our Connoisseur’s Choice range. The latest incarnation is Honey Spice Gold, this summer’s seasonal brew.

Honey is great in a golden ale because it adds sweetness. Pale beers do not have the fullness and sweetness contributed by the dark malts so can lack balance when assertively hopped. Honey helps to redress this balance and allows you to pack in more hop flavour and bitterness without making a harsh beer. For Honey Spice Gold the honey is of course locally sourced and from bees feeding on flowers in pasture.

Spice-wise the Eden Project have provided us with alecost which is a minty leaf used to flavour beers before hops along with yarrow flowers. These herbs lay a foundation of earthy depth to support the spices. Two spices are used in Honey Spice Gold. Indian red chilli powder and sun-dried Indian ginger. The ginger works well to boost the hop notes and the chilli helps break up the sweetness of the honey and adds a sparkle on the palate. The combination of the herbs and spices give terrific depth along with serious refreshment.

Now to the hops; My blog 50 hop IPA has given me experience of using hops I have never used before and the opportunity to choose some favourites for this beer. In Honey Spice I have used Sharp’s exclusive Tryal hop from Slovenia along with US superstars, Centennial, Sorachi Ace and Chinook. Honey Spice is a very hoppy beer!

The malt in Honey Spice is pale ale malt along with some exclusive Simpsons low colour caramalt. The low colour caramalt is used to give body and some sweetness without adding colour or toffee/caramel flavours. Mr Simpson was kind enough to send me some low colour caramalt straight for the lab to use in a trial and I was so impressed that I bought the whole batch!

I have only tried the beer from conditioning tank at this stage but I am pleased and impressed in equal measure with what is coming out of the sample tap.

Taste Summary
Appearance: Light, golden and crystal clear
Aroma: Ginger, grapefruit, lime with gentle honey
Taste: Burst of bittersweet fruit, sumptuous malt lifted by sparkle of chilli and ginger
Finish: Incredibly long and dry with warming spice and bitter grapefruit


Mark said...

Sounds fantastic. The combination of warm prickly ginger with smooth sweet honey sounds like an absolute winner.

Beard Beer Blogger said...

I find it very interesting that honey is not a common ingredient across the pond. Here in the states honey is one of the most commonly used sugar additions in all sorts of beer styles.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

mmmmm i like the idea of the chilli and ginger with the honey(surprise surprise)

Stuart Howe said...

Honey is not that uncommon over here BBB, but it tends to be limited to marginal brews and scientific knowledge of beer doesn't extend to its use in beer.

In the UK the brewing industry and its market has a rich heritage and this has resulted in a much more conservative approach to experimentation. This is chaging faster than ever done before but we are still a long way behind you guys.

ChrisM said...

Sounds great, Stuart. I dislike quite a lot of honey beers due to their inherent sweetness, but the hops and spices sound like it could be fantastic. Bet it won't find its way this far north though (Newcastle)!

Stuart Howe said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I hope that the beer lives up to its billing. It's going out nationally Chris but I suspect there wont be many pubs round your way on our delviery route!

Beard Beer Blogger said...

I have to agree Stuart. Brewers here in the states are still trying to find their niche, and are only starting to recover from the death of our industry after prohibition in the 30s. This killed the heritage of American beer, but allows stateside brewers to take a very liberal approach to styles, and ingredients. Anyways, I love your blog, and I wish I could try some of your beer.

ZakAvery said...

That sounds great Stuart - I must try and hunt some down next time in London - any reccos for pubs near Kings Cross or in the City qwhere I'll find it?

Stuart Howe said...

Thanks BBB, Hopefully it wont be too long. I should be brewing in the US at some point in the next couple of months. More details later.

I'll have to talk to our man in the capital and get back you Zak. I'm hoping to be bringing some up to Tasting Beers if you are able to make the judging.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with honey beers in the UK was that for a couple of centuries honey was a banned ingredient in commercial beers, to maximise tax revenue from malt usage. So the first commercial honey beer in the UK wasn't until the 1950s. That said, honey was a defining component in Welsh bragawd/braggot, or honey ale, which is certainly 1200 or 1500 years old as a tradition at least, and there must have been a Cornish equivalent.

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