I’ve never brewed with honey before, yet I decided it was a good idea to brew a honey-rosemary saison for my wedding in November. I’m sure the final product will be amazing tasting, but I have to get there first. I have time for at least one or two practice runs, which is good because I’m not exactly sure how to add honey to a beer.
The only thing that I know for sure is that I’m going to use a light, local honey. That’s about the only piece of information that my favorite homebrew books, forums and blogs could agree on. From their on, things start to get confusing and often contradictory.
The real problem is trying to figure out the best way to add honey to the wort.
Do I add the honey to the boil. That’s what Charlie Papazian suggests in the Joy Of Homebrewing. It would sanitize it, but I’m afraid that it would also take away many of the flavors and aromas from the honey that I want in the final product.
Online I read about home brewers that add the honey to the last fifteen minutes of the boil so that it doesn’t damage the characteristics of the honey in the final product. Or I could add it right before I turn the burner off or right after it’s turned off.
That sounded better to me, until I read about adding the honey directly to the primary after the initial burst of fermentation slowed down. It promised to yield even more scents and tastes, but then their was the risk of infection because the honey wasn’t boiled.
Via BeerSmith, I read about pasteurizing the honey with a mix of water in a covered pot at 176 degrees Fahrenheit. It sounded like my answer until I read that bacteria doesn’t survive in honey, so their wasn’t much risk of infection. Plus, I read that heating the honey over 90 degrees would damage the aromas and flavors that I wanted to preserve.
And finally, just because it wasn’t confusing enough, I read about adding it to the secondary, where the higher amounts of alcohol could overpower any bacteria.
Right now, I’m leaning towards adding the honey to the primary after the initial fermentation and without any boiling or pasteurizing because I like to live on the edge. However, I have the right to change my mind since I probably won’t be brewing this beer until later in the month.
What ways have you added honey? What would you suggest?