Do you love the sweet and sour taste of apples but you’re not sure how to include them in your beer, or even what kind of apples to start with? Adding apples to your beer is easier than you think, and they can be used in many different beer styles.
Brewing beer with apples is best done by avoiding the whole apple altogether, and by adding its juices at different times during the process. For a standard 5-gallon batch of homebrewed beer, add apple flavor by adding ½ gallon of apple juice or cider to your wort when there are about 20 minutes left in the boil.
Continue reading to find out exactly how to brew with apples, including the form you should choose for your apple flavor, when you should add it, and what styles of beers go great with a subtle apple taste.
What kind of beer uses apples in the recipe?
Apples are not typically included in any traditional beers or beer styles, but they can certainly be added. What styles of beers lend themselves best to the apple flavor?
Types of beers that are good with apple added to the recipe:
- American Lager / Pilsner
- American Pale Ale
- American Amber Ale
- American Brown Ale
- Fruited Sour Ale
- Belgian-style or American Tripel
While these styles of beers vary widely in overall flavor, they do tend to have relatively mild, crisp flavors and a low ABV.
American Lager / Pilsner
American lagers and pilsners are inherently light and easy to drink.
These beers are not malty and have a low ABV of around 3.2-4%. They have a light body and a crisp taste with no hoppiness or bitterness that pairs well with the crisp, slightly sweet, slightly tart flavor of apples.
American Pale Ale
The American Pale Ale is a medium-bodied beer that’s less hoppy and bitter than India Pale Ales. Their taste can vary based on which hops and malt were used.
They’re a well-balanced style of beer, making them very approachable and welcoming of flavor additions. They maintain an ABV range of 4.2-5.5%.
American Brown Ale
Darker than ambers and more bitter than English brown ales, American brown ales feature caramel and chocolate notes with low hop flavor. You probably already know how well green apples and caramel go together!
They have a similar bitterness level to ambers, and range in ABV from around 4-6.5%
While there isn’t a widely available apple-flavored American Brown Ale available, you may want to check out the offerings at your local craft brewing during the fall and early winter. If you’re more interested in brewing your own, try this recipe!
Fruited Sour Ale
Beers in this style can vary in pretty much every detail, but that’s what’s great about them.
Fruited sours often taste like and change color to whatever fruits were used in making them. They’re acidic and can be sweet and sour or just one or the other. They can appear hazy from the cultures and yeast used. There is no typical ABV range for this style of beer.
Redd’s Wicked Sour Apple is probably the most easily available version of the apple sour ale, and claims it’s the “perfect storm of sweet and sour.” If you can find it, definitely give the Duclaw Brewing Co. Sour Me Black Apple Ale a try.
Belgian-style or American Tripel
Belgian-style beers are light but powerful.
Tripels have complex and malt-driven flavor profiles and often have a subtle spicy taste. They’re approachable because of their lightness and aren’t as bitter as some might think, with an average ABV ranging from 7.2-10.4%.
While it can be difficult to find due to its limited regional and seasonal availability, the Caramel Apple Tripel from Sun King Brewery is more than worth a try if you can get it. If you’re looking for a challenge, give this Apple Strudel Tripel recipe a go.
What kind of apples should you use when brewing?
Your first reaction when adding apples to your homebrew might be to cut up a bushel of your favorite variety and toss it into your wort, but that’s not the best way to get the signature crisp, tart flavor into your brew.
Overall, using whole apples in your recipe is tricky, and even most commercial brewers will use an apple-flavored extract.
The most popular and accessible method of including apples in your beer recipe is to use frozen apple juice. Apple juice won’t leave the same sediment in your beer as a whole apple would, and it tastes just the same.
The sugars from the apple juice are almost 100% fermentable, though, which will leave your beer a little dry. To prevent it from being too dry, add some crystal malt for sweetness.
If you’re trying to introduce the apple taste and aroma during fermentation, the whole fruit would soak up a lot of the beer and would not impart an apple taste. It’s best to use frozen apple juice if you’re going to add apples during fermentation.
How much apple should you add to a homebrew recipe?
The right amount of apple to use in your recipe can vary depending on the amount of apple flavor you want to impart, the style of beer you’re brewing, and the type of apple (juice, extract, or concentrate) you are using.
Instead of whole apples, your best bet is to use frozen apple juice. You’ll want at least half a gallon of juice per 5-gallon batch. The more juice you use, the stronger your apple flavor will be.
Using whole apples will cause the apples to soak up any liquid and won’t leave a lot of mush and sediment in your beer. Even dried apples are not an ideal addition. Stick to frozen apple juice or even apple cider – half a gallon of either.
Use crystal malt with these additions to account for the resulting dryness from the inevitable 100% fermentation of the sugars.
How to brew with apples
We’ve already established that whole apples are not the way to go when brewing with apples. But, how exactly should you use them?
You have a couple of different choices for when you should add your apple flavoring into the beer:
- Add frozen juice/cider to wort – Using apple juice instead of the whole fruit in your wort is the best alternative to fresh picked apples. The juice will ferment without any problems. Using apples in your wort would cause the fruit to soak up a lot of it, so you wouldn’t get very far.
- Add apple extract before racking – This option forgoes any complications with finding the right form of apple or fear of including any preservatives and worrying about sanitization. The extract provides a great, very similar flavor and will be mixed in well for bottling.
- Add juice/cider to fermentation – This will cause a secondary fermentation that you will have to wait to finish, but it’s much better than using whole apples. Add the juice or cider to your beer during primary fermentation.
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