Homebrew Adventures: A retrospective

Note: This is part one of two.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, discussing two of my (somewhat) recent homebrews to point out how a couple experiments have turned out. This month marks my one-year anniversary (brewiversary?) since I started homebrewing and through the first year I created a dozen batches. I’m currently on hiatus as I try to clear out space from all the bottles I’ve saved up, but there are lots of great recipes I have in mind on the horizon.

In the coming days, I want to share details on two of my brews, one perfect for summer and one ideal for the fall:

  • Watermelon wheat
  • Beer-cider hybrid

Do these pique your interest? Hit the jump to find out some general details that should interest homebrewers and non-homebrewers alike.

We start with the watermelon wheat, for which I used a standard wheat recipe with ingredients from Austin Homebrew Supply. Since I brew with extract, I steeped with eight ounces of 2-row, eight ounces of white wheat and four ounces of Crystal 20L. I used six pounds of wheat dry extract.

My watermelon wheat recently came up in conversation with Nick over at Drink. Blog. Repeat. after his review of 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon. That beer was actually the catalyst for my decision to make my homebrew because I didn’t think there was nearly enough watermelon flavor – something I know sets me apart since my palate enjoys big, bold beers.

All my watermelon wheat bottles have been highly carbonated, a combination of Safebrew’s wheat yeast and lots of residual sugars from triple-watermelon brewing my beer. (More details on the beer below)

Here’s how I used the fruit:

  1. I squeezed 1.25 gallons of watermelon juice from fresh watermelons the morning of brew day. I added it with 10 minutes left in the boil.
  2. In secondary, I added about a pound of watermelon pulp in an attempt to give the beer some fleshy fruit characteristics.
  3. With a few days left before bottling, I added somewhere between .5 and .75 gallons of more watermelon juice, also which I squeezed myself.

For my hops, I used one ounce of Hallertauer – .5 ounces for bittering at the start of my 60-minute boil and .25 at 15 and 5 minutes, respectively, for aroma and flavor. I’ve used this hop in all my wheat beers because I don’t want too much hop flavor to be too present and I find the general floral aroma of Hallertauer to pair ideally with fruit.

Now that the beer has bottle conditioned for a few months, it’s reached a pretty perfect medium. Whereas in Hell or High Watermelon you’ll get traces of fruit and lots of smooth wheat flavor, my brew is all watermelon-forward, but not so much it’s sweet like candy. Granted, I’ve been told by different people that the beer either doesn’t have enough watermelon, too much or just the right amount. Different strokes for different folks.

The high carbonation does do the beer a great service, allowing for the fruit flavor to literally tingle your tongue. It cleanses your taste buds slightly while letting some of the fruit linger on each sip.

If you’ve got any questions about the beer, feel free to ask below. I hope to post about my beer-cider hybrid this week.

Watermelon wheat stats:

  • Malt: 2-row, white wheat, crystal 20L
  • Hops: Hallertau
  • Adjuncts: watermelon, honey
  • ABV: 7 percent

Bonus stats for fellow homebrewers:
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.010
Watermelon juice OG: 1.034 (This was fun – I wanted to see what it might be like if I ever brewed a beer solely using watermelon juice)

8 thoughts on “Homebrew Adventures: A retrospective

  1. That sounds like a very refreshing summer beer. Can you drink a few of them or is the watermelon too much for that?

    I was surprised by how much watermelon juice you used. Out of interest, how many melons did you need?

  2. I had no problem drinking a couple in a row. My goal was to make something ideal for the warm months and I think this hit it on the head. Perfect for barbecues and sitting on the beach or at a park, if you ask me.

    In all, I ended up using 3.5 watermelons. While I was doing research there didn’t seem to be a strong consensus as to what a “correct” amount would be. Lots of people used artificial flavoring or even melted watermelon candy in the boil. If you add juice after primary fermentation, you don’t even have to worry about boiling it because the alcohol would knock out and nasties anyway.

    If I had the means, I’d split a batch and do two or three fermentations with different amounts of watermelon juice to get a better idea.

  3. I might try your watermelon recipe. When you added the watermelon pulp to the secondary, did you boil it or anything like that, or just throw it in like you would hops when dry-hopping?

    1. It’s certainly a fun recipe to make – the only warning I offer is to add watermelon to taste (or what you think will be sufficient). What constitutes a “good” amount of watermelon is so subjective!

      After I squeezed the juice from the watermelon, I set aside the pulp in a good, sanitized freezer bag and popped it in my freezer. I just sprayed some Star San in the bag and swished if around before putting the pulp in. That process broke down the cell walls of the fruit, making it easier for the beer to soak up some of its flavor. I defrosted the pulp by letting it sit in my fridge for 24 hours before putting it in the carboy.

      If/when I do this recipe again, I’d probably use less pulp than I did before. I don’t know the exact amount, but I’d say maybe anywhere from .25 to .5 pounds would be fine. It’s all experimentation, after all.

      Feel free to drop me an email if you’d like to discuss further. It’s on the “About” page.

      Cheers and happy Thanksgiving!

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