Adventures of a Home Brewer

Don’t Fruit the Beer? Forget That!

Remember those Man Law commercials for Miller Lite? One was “Don’t fruit the beer!” I broke that law yesterday. Send the beer police if you need to, but if anyone should be arrested it’s the brewers of Miller Lite for trying to make us think carbonated water is beer.
Yesterday I started making my annual Merry Cherry Christmas Stout. I make this every year in order to facilitate the Christmas Beer Miracle… I will explain that a bit closer to Christmas.
Merry Cherry Christmas Stout was the first beer that I brewed with other types of additives. When I brewed my first one it was just a recipe kit from the beer supply store. It was a cherry stout that used cherry extract during bottling. It was good, but I knew I could do better.
Year two I decided to step things up. I wanted that cherry to really sing! So, I decided to, “fruit the beer,” and add some actual cherries in addition to the extract. I did a bunch of searching for info on beer forums and Yahoo! as I had no clue where to start. Here is what I learned.
The biggest thing in brewing is that anything that goes in the bucket needs to be sanitary. This applies to fruit as well. You can’t just grab a bunch of cherries from the produce section of your local grocery store and chuck them in there. You will more than likely infect your beer… I did that once with a nut brown and it is a headache.
Some home brewers on forums indicated that you should put the berries in with your beer at the secondary fermentation stage. This seems illogical to me on two fronts. One, you have to boil the berries separately to basically sterilize them. Some people are fine with throwing frozen berries straight into the secondary, but I am not willing to gamble on 5 gallons of beer getting infected. And two, you will lose some of the clarity of your beer, which is kind of the whole point of secondary fermentation.
So what do I do? I throw them in the boil. I am not saying its the end all correct way, but its how I do it. And it works! I mash up the berries to release more of the juices and then just chuck ‘em in during the last 15 minutes or so of the boil. This makes them sterile, saves me a whole separate boil later on, and helps my beer keep its clarity as I don’t bring the cherries along for the party when I rack the beer into the secondary fermenter.
 (Cherries in the Boil)
With most fruits you will want to use approximately one pound of fruit for each gallon of beer you are making. I have played with that a bit for my Merry Cherry Christmas Stout though because I still like to throw that extract in during bottling for a final kick. I try to make this beer palatable to my friends and family who are not into thick dark beers. The extra cherry taste and sweetness helps to accomplish this. No complaints yet!
Here is another tip; use frozen fruit. Using frozen fruit works the best because the freezing process breaks down the fruit. This helps release the juices into your beer to give you more of the fruit flavor. I found this tip online when I first decided to use cherries in my stout. Admittedly I have never used fresh fruit, so I can’t swear by this. But, it makes sense to me and I am happy with the end result. Why fix what ain’t broke, right?
Anybody else out there ever break this unjust man law and, “fruit the beer?” If so, leave a comment below with any tips you might have for the rest of us!