Brewing with Strawberries and Apples


Remember Mustache Cat? If you go digging through the blog archives you’ll see it first show up in April 2011, when I brewed up a combination of Canadian Blonde ale and a lot of strawberries. Six pounds of strawberries, to be precise. It was my first try at full-sized brewing, and it tasted like someone’s first time brewing. Not a bad beer, per say, but what my wife and I kept calling a very “sharp” beer. A little more bitter than either of us liked. A little more alcoholic sting. No real strawberry flavor.

Funny thing happened the other day. I found a few bottles of Mustache Cat hanging out in the basement, and as we were looking to create some empty bottles for the batch I’m about to talk about, we stuck them in the fridge to give them a try. The resulting beer was smooth with a very pronounced strawberry flavor, both on the front end and in the aftertaste. Like some slow working magic trick, it took only two years for a beer we weren’t all that fond of to turn into a fantastic strawberry ale. This is the kind of funny patience that’s necessary for home brewing. I’ve heard people say no stout should be touched for six months, and even then it should still be thought of as immature. Meads, which I hope to get into one day, take years to even approach complete. Part of the fun of home brewing is finding that old bottle from the less than stellar batch and discovering a decent beer inside.

So, yeah, Mustache Cat rocks.

We were emptying bottles, however, ahead of another batch I brewed based on an Austin Homebrew recipe called “Apple Peeler.” Most of the beer I make is through a process called a “partial boil.” This means I don’t boil all the water that goes into the fermenter, instead only boiling about two gallons. This is then topped off with water until there’s about 5.25 gallons (20 liters, actually). Apple Peeler was different. Oh, there were the normal steps of steeping the grains, adding the sugars, bittering with the hops, but when the partial boil went from the pot to the fermenter, it wasn’t topped off with water.

It was topped off with apple juice.

There’s a subtle brilliance to this change. More so if you, like me, are a fan of a pub cocktail called a Snakebite. In its simplest form, a Snakebite is a shandy that mixes equal parts beer with non-alcoholic cider. Or, even better, alcoholic cider. It’s refreshing, and in the shandy form makes a fantastic drink with a pub brunch. This recipe struck me as a pre-made Snakebite, so I couldn’t resist. It’s fermenting in the basement now, and will bottle sometime in July. Hopefully it’ll be ready for a taste before the summer is over, as this strikes me as a late summer, early fall type of beer. If not, it can always wait until next summer and get all the tastier in the process.

Tasting some of the wort, an odd habit of mine, it was more bitter than I expected, and I’m already prepared to dial back the hops if I try the recipe again. It’s fun to have a few go to recipes to double back on, tweak a little, and turn into better and better beer.

I’ll also need a name. Apple Peeler isn’t a bad name, but what fun is it to use the pre-assigned name? I’m thinking just Fall Ale as an allusion not just to the season but the Fall of Man, which feels like a required reference with the combination of apples and snakes. What’s up with all my Biblical beers?

I look forward on reporting the flavor.

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