From traditional Belgian Krieks to chocolate cherry porters, cherries are a great addition to a wide range of beers.
Cherries are an essential ingredient in Kriek, a classic Belgian fruit lambic. Modern breweries have started to experiment with cherries in many other styles of beer too, from blonde ales to stouts and chocolate porters.
In addition to this classic choice, a number of craft breweries have begun experimenting with a wide range of cherry-flavored beers, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where the majority of American cherries are grown.
For the best results, you should select a sour cherry from the Prunus cerasus species. The preparation you choose will depend on the style of beer and the amount of sugar you want to introduce into your brew.
A good rule of thumb for a full-flavored cherry flavor is to add 1 to 2 lbs. of fruit for every gallon of beer. This ratio works well for most cherry-flavored beers.
Furthermore, if you choose to use an extract, be sure to use it sparingly: 1 oz. of cherry extract per gallon of beer is sufficient. More than that will leave your beer with a strong, medicinal taste.
When using fresh cherries, you have the option to add the fruit to the mash or add it in a brew bag during the secondary fermentation step. Finally, you could opt to use the cherries to referment aged beer, which is how kriek is traditionally flavored.
Add to the mash Adding cherries to the mash is a great way to get a full, fermented cherry flavor in your beer. Since you add the cherries early, you’ll be sure that all the sugar is completely fermented by the time your beer is ready. In addition, your fruit will be sterilized in the hot mash, saving you a step in the process.