Adding fruit to beer can enhance a beer or completely change its taste. A balanced fruit beer should not change the basic taste of the original beer – after all if you wanted a powerful and overwhelming fruit taste you might as well brew a cider. Even when done properly, the beer can vary widely in taste and potency.
There are no fast rules about adding fruit to beer. Fruit flavors can be added fresh, frozen, cooked, dried, smoked, pureed, juiced, zested, and even added as an extract. Also adding fruits in different stages of the brewing process can greatly affect the flavor.
- Fresh Fruit - While fresh fruit sounds good in theory, fresh fruit is VERY dirty and can carry unwanted microbes into your brew. Fruit should be washed thoroughly and then sanitized by boiling, microwaving, or freezing.
- Add to Mash - Some rare recipes will call for adding fruit to the top of the MLT when sparging. The drawback is that the acids from the fruit could pull unwanted flavors out of your grains.
- Boil - Only a few fruits are good for boiling. Most fruit should never be boiled and should not be added to primary fermentation. Boiling fruit can destroy it's enzymes and can cause it to release pectin. Citris and citris rinds can sometimes be boiled while berries should never be boiled. Berries particularly can cause beer to get a pickle flavor, which can taste like rotten fruit or bitter olives. Boiling and adding to secondary fermentation can cloud up a brew. An alternative is adding the fruit to the boil is to add after the wort has been removed from heat, scalding the fruit at 190f for at least 45sec (88c)
- Microwave - While this method will destroy a good number of microbes, the brewer runs the risk of releasing pectin from the fruit and destroying enzymes that give the fruit flavor and aroma.
- Freeze The most popular way to add fruit for a homebrew is to freeze the fruit and add it to secondary fermentation. Freezing does two things, it puts the microbes to sleep, making it hard for them to wake up and compete with the yeast for food. Second, it can burst the cell walls of the fruit releasing more flavor from the skins. While there is a minute rate of infection for this method, it keeps the fruits' natural enzymes and bacterium alive long enough to contribute significant flavor.
- High Tech Some newer brewers have been known to use gamma (xray) or UV or other high-tech methods to treat fruit. This method can keep the fruit flavors in tact but can let some more aggressive microbes to slip through.
- Cook and Smoke - cooking can change the taste of your fruit in similar ways that boiling does. However a Brewer cooks fruit in an attempt to infuse the fruit with a baked or smokey flavoring.
- Puree - Puree is one of the most efficient ways to get flavor into a brew. While it is the preferred method for fresh and frozen fruit, it can cloud up a beer if it is not filtered before bottling.
- Dried - Dried fruit can be pasteurized, but it should never be assumed. Only add dried fruit that has been pasteurized or that you intend to treat yourself. while it's not as potent as fresh or frozen alternatives, it can be safer if you know what you're doing.
- Zest - Zest is including the rind of a fruit into a beer. Zest can be added at any stage. Since many sources of this have had long exposure to the elements, make sure the source is washed and treated for microbes.
- Juice - Fruit juices do not contain too much flavor, most of the flavor reside in the skins of the fruit. should a brew decide to juice a fruit themselves, caution should be taken to account for microbes. Commercially bought juices can be assumed to be microbe free, but can also contain additives not intended for beer. If a brewer does decide to use fruit juice commercial juice should be used, it contains pulp and it's safe.
- Extract and Artificial Flavors - Extracts are the most potent option to a brewer. It contains the essence of the fruit in a safe applicable manner. While extracts can be used at any stage of brewing it should be used before bottling and sometimes in secondary fermentation. Since the extract has no fermentable sugars, there is no point in adding it to the fermentation process. The use of extracts should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Please, for the love of all that has been brewed, mix thoroughly before bottling!
This can be added to a beer at any stage in the brewing process. A lot of only recipes call for apple juice to be added into the wort cools. However since the flavor is so mild adding to secondary fermentation will produce stronger outcome.
Has a nice peachy flavor. Add 3 pounds per gallon.
Very strong smell with a subtle taste. Wells Banana Bread Beer uses this.
Blueberries can spoil a beer if not handled correctly. Freeze and puree and add to secondary for results. Enourmous amounts of this berry is needed to get noticed in a beer.
Sour cherries are possibly the best fruit to add to a beer. Three pounds per gallon of frozen and pureed cherries should be added into secondary. 1-3 years aging can finish the beer's flavor.
Many recipes call for toasted coconut to be added to secondary.
This berry adds tartness and color without too much flavor. Freeze and puree, then add to secondary fermentation.
This is the one fruit a brewer should peel before applying into a brew. This adds a nutty flavoring to beer.
Best when pureed and added to or after boil.
A strong flavor with any amount at any stage of fermentation.
This is an ultra strong addition to any beer. It will dominate the beers taste if the brewer is not careful.
This can be peeled and frozen before adding to secondary.
A magical flavor, can be added at and point in the fermentation process.
Adds a vanilla flavoring to beer. Should be peeled and frozen before adding to secondary.
A poor choice for beer flavoring due to the very subtle flavor. The peach may not even be noticed in a brew. A brewer should use extract or additives when possible. See apricot.
There are all different types of pears used for ciders and beer. A subtle taste but refreshing.
Subtle but acidic, 2 pounds per gallon should give significant flavor.
Great in all kinds of beer, use 1+ pounds per gallon.
Very subtle tasting, best to used Pomegranate juice sold in stores.
Using pumpkin is the latest trend in commercial brewing. Add canned pumpkin to the mash or boil, filter carefully.
Very pronounced presence in any beer. Even small amounts of this can be noticed (1 lbs per gallon). Extract is available and powerful.
Best used for smell rather than flavor, add 2 pounds of frozen strawberry per gallon to secondary.
Ripe and overripe watermelon can add a subtle creamy flavor to a beer. 5-6 pounds of melon per gallon. Extract will give more of a watermelon flavor. Adding a rind will sour up the beer.