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Chokecherry Wheat Beer
 Moderated by: WildBill, TasunkaWitko
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 Posted: Wed Oct 14th, 2015 08:18 PM
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TasunkaWitko



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Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Cherry Hill Wheat with Chokecherry Substitute

Monday evening (October 12th), I commenced with the most recent project in my attempts at homebrewing.

It started out as “Cherry Hill Wheat,” from Brooklyn Brew Shop: http://brooklynbrewshop.com/beer-making-mixes/cherry-hill-wheat-mix

For reference, here are the brewing instructions for this 1-gallon, all-grain mix: http://brooklynbrewshop.com/directions/Brooklyn_Brew_Shop_Cherry_Hill_Wheat_Instructions.pdf

My original plan had been to make this with Flathead Cherries grown here in Montana, but unfortunately the crop that we got this year wasn't the best, so none of those cherries ever made it to me.

I was just about to go to the store and simply pick up a bag of cherries to use; however, while picking chokecherries with my son for syrup and wine, it occurred to me that these might work quite well with a wheat beer. Beyond that, the marriage of chokecherry and wheat in a beer would very nicely reflect my North Dakotan and Montanan heritage.



Those of you know have experience with chokecherries know that the extracted juice makes wonderful syrup with a unique flavor, quite different from the astringent quality that chokecherries have when eaten "straight off the tree." Taking that into account, I decided that this would be an experiment worth trying.

The brew went largely without incident, following the instructions above. As far as the chokecherries are concerned, there were some unknowns, as this is a bit of a departure from the instructions, with unique challenges that required thinking outside the box a little. The instructions advise adding 1 cup of pitted "regular" cherries with 2 minutes left in the boil; however, those with experience know that pitting chokecherries is kind of like herding cats - it just can't really be done in any practical way. With that in mind, I devised a plan that I hoped would be successful.

I took the chokecherries out of the freezer (a generous cup of whole chokecherries in a small ZipLock-type bag), put them in a small saucepan with half a cup of the same water I was using for brewing, and set them on the stove at low heat. Once the chokecherries were thawed and the water had heated a bit, they started to swell almost to the point of bursting. At this point, I shut off the heat and gently worked them over with a hand-held potato masher for a few minutes, then set them aside. Periodically throughout the brew, as I was able to, I took a few minutes to continue to mash the chokecherries further - always as gently as possible, so as not to crust the pits. I then added this mixture to my wort at the final 2 minutes of the boil. I caught a tiny sample of my "chokecherry mash" liquid as I was working them with the potato masher; the taste was wonderful: sweet, just a bit tart, with that beautiful chokecherry richness that has people collecting them by the bucketful at the end of summer.

This particular beer employs Fuggle hops, which are probably my favourite. This is an old, English hop that is primarily known for its aroma characteristics, which are earthy, woody and - for me - reminiscent of the grey, foggy morning when I picked these chokecherries with my youngest son during a drive in the mountains south of town. It was late summer, but the weather spoke of a cool, wet autumn day, and the leaves on the chokecherry bushes had already turned red and gold. If that image had a smell, it would - in my mind - be Fuggle hops.

The rest of the brew was uneventful; after the boil, I cooled the wort to below 70 degrees, then strained out the hops and macerated chokecherries and pitched the yeast. The beer is currently fermenting in our bedroom closet, where the temperatures are the most stable and "controllable." I checked on it Tuesday morning and this morning, and things seem to be going very well. Fermentation activity is a bit slow, but it is definitely happening. Tonight or possibly tomorrow, I will replace the blow-off tube with an airlock, and then leave it alone for about three weeks.

I am really looking forward to trying this creation, which incorporates an ingredient that is truly near and dear to me. In combination with the wheat beer, I think that the chokecherries are going to produce a great Montana-themed ale that will really be something special.

More as it happens, etc. &c….

Ron



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 Posted: Fri Oct 16th, 2015 07:59 PM
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Rapier
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Ron,
That ale sounds real good. One day I will have to return to my beer making.
Ed



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 Posted: Wed Oct 21st, 2015 04:19 AM
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TasunkaWitko



Joined: Fri Feb 4th, 2005
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Get on it, Ed - we're not getting any younger! One thing about the 1-gallon brewing is that it's easy, doesn't take much time to do, and doesn't require a big investment.

I forgot to mention, when I switched from blow-off tube to airlock, the beer looked really good. Plenty of evidence of very good fermentation, and the beer was starting to clear very nicely. There was quite a bit of very fine trub building up, but my experience is telling me that this is the norm for wheat beers. I think we are well on track for some wonderful stuff here.

I will, of course, keep updating as events unfold.



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 Posted: Tue Dec 1st, 2015 07:22 PM
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TasunkaWitko



Joined: Fri Feb 4th, 2005
Location: Chinook, Montana USA
Posts: 1926
Photo: [Download]
Are you a handloader?: Yes
Favorite type of cartridge to load?: rifle
My favorite chambering is:: .308, .280 rem, 7x57, .30, 30, .30/06, 6.5/06 and a ...
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I bottled this beer on Saturday, 28 November; about 3 weeks after I had planned to bottle it, but life gets that way - especially during hunting season! No big deal - in fact, my better beers have been the ones that were bottled "late."

The process really went off without a hitch, and I ended up with nearly 10 bottles, which is a "perfect yield" for a 1-gallon batch that doesn't happen very often. One HUGE help was that, for the first time, I used a spring-loaded tip on the end of the bottling rig, which kept me from flinging beer all over the place, as is often the case with the thumb-driven clamps. I am 100% convinced that the spring-loaded tip and the mini auto-siphon are the two absolute best investments I have made in my brewing experience. I managed to suck up a little bit of trub, but I am not concerned about this. My experience is that it settles with the bottle-conditioning sediment and poses no trouble at all, especially when the beer starts out as amazingly clear as this one did before I began bottling.

With the un-carbonated, un-finished beer that I had leftover from bottling, I was able to sample what promises to be an excellent and outstanding brew. So far, it is shaping up to be a nice, dark-ish ale with good wheat character and a wonderful, subtle hint of the chokecherries that I added in place of "regular" cherries. The Fuggle Hops impart a nice, outdoorsy, very seasonal ambience that truly make them my favourite hops, especially this time of year. The local honey that I used as a priming sugar also comes into play, giving the beer a rich, mellow, addicting undertone that I simply can't imagine with corn or table sugar. All-in-all, very good, I think, and I am really thinking of this as a quintessential "Montana" beer.

My bottles are hanging out now in the closet, and will continue to do so until at least three weeks have passed. I'll then refrigerate the finished beer for a week before sampling it, and my patience will hopefully be rewarded.



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