Bowl of Honey, adding honey to beerWho doesn’t love honey? The wondrous thing about this golden substance is that it carries with it so many of the natural flavors that comes from the plants and flowers used to make it. When added to beer it can create a floral note that makes your home brew something special. What do you need to know about adding honey to beer? The process is not as simple as pouring honey into your boil and hoping for the best. Here are some things you need to know about using honey in your next beer making project.

Adding Honey To Beer

For the most part, adding honey to beer works like any other sugar. It raises the alcoholic content while lightening the body of the beer. Honey ferments out almost completely, so don’t expect a great deal of additional sweetness but it does have the tendency to knock some of the bitter edges from the hops allowing some of the more subtle flavors to come through. Combined with the flavors of the botanicals in the nectar, honey can add nuance to everything from porters to lagers and Belgian ales to witbiers. It must be added carefully, however. Too soon and the boil will ruin the flavor of the honey and too late, the natural enzymes and bacteria in the honey can destroy the wort.

There are basically three options for adding honey to beer:

1. You can add honey to the boil, which will sanitize the honey and prevent the bacteria from ruining the finished product. The downside to this method is that boiling the honey will also remove any of the flavor and aroma characteristics of the honey.

2. According to BeerSmith, there is a method for pasteurizing the honey with a mix of water and honey in a covered pot, brought to 176 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes, but this too could change the nature of the honey.

3. Finally, your third option is to add it to the secondary fermentation, because the higher amounts of alcohol may be enough to overpower the natural bacteria in the honey.

It is important to note that the honey purchased at the local grocery store is already pasteurized and clarified,  so these steps are not needed to remove any bacteria. This honey lacks some of the flavor found in local, pure honey but if you want a simple way to add honey to your beer this may be the easiest option while you dabble. Of course, we prefer local Missouri honey when we add honey to our beer.

How to use the honey in your recipe is up to you, but the type of beer you are making can influence the ratio of honey to use. A good rule of thumb is for a subtle, floral flavor and aroma 3 to 10 percent honey (as a percentage of total fermentables) is recommended. More honey (11 to 30 percent) will result in strong honey flavor that should be balanced by spices, hops or darker malts. Anything over 30 percent produces a beer that is dominated by honey flavor.

Keep in mind that honey will take longer to ferment than other sugars, so give yourself enough time to allow the yeast to work. Honey beers need at least three to four weeks to ferment. Compared to the 12 months that mead needs, this is a nice way to test your recipes with honey without the wait. As always, if you have more questions about honey, feel free to contact us!