raspberrries and currants floating at the top of the beer in a glass carboy

Brewing with red raspberries: two approaches

Red raspberries are one of the best fruits for homebrewing, and I’m lucky enough to have a dependable source of them in a peculiarly brew-worthy form. My friend L. grows a fall crop in her garden and every year makes a raspberry liqueur with sugar and vodka. Several months later, after she drains it off, she passes the vodka-preserved berries on to me. Here are two things I’ve done with them, each very successful. (I preferred the second, but the first was also popular with everyone who tried it.)

1. Red Raspberry Imperial Mugwort Stout

Brewed on 21 November 2014. A five-gallon batch.

Grains

  • Briess Organic 2-row pale malt, 10 lbs.
  • Briess chocolate malt, 3/4 lb.
  • Briess roasted barley, 1/2 lb.
  • Briess caramel 60L, 1/2 lb.
  • Dingemans Debittered Black Malt, 1/2 lb.
  • Dingemans Special B, 1/2 lb.
  • oat flakes, 1 lb.

Other sugars and fruit

  • wildflower honey, 2 lbs.
  • light dried malt extract for starter, 1/2 c.
  • light dried malt extract for bottling, 1 1/2 c.
  • vodka-preserved red raspberries*, 2 qts.

Herbs

  • dried mugwort tops, 1 qt.
  • dried dandelion root, roasted, 2 oz.
  • dried calamus (sweet flag) root, 1/2 oz.
  • dried Indian sarsaparilla root, 1/2 tsp.

Yeast

  • Safale S-04, 23 g. (2 pkg.)

Procedure

The day before brewing, make two gallons of tea with the dried mugwort (bring to boil, simmer for half and hour, lid and cool, refrigerate in sanitized jars).

Make a yeast starter with 1/2 c. DME boiled in 1 qt. water and cooled.

Use a two-step infusion: Bring three gallons of water to 140F and dough in for initial temperature of 125F, hold for 15 minutes, bring additional 1 1/2 gals. to 200F and add to mash for final temperature of 154F. Sparge, etc.

Add the honey and half the dandelion root at the beginning of the boil. Put the remaining dandelion, the calamus and the sarsaparilla root into a muslin bag and add it a few minutes before the end of the boil — and transfer it into the fermenter. Add the cold mugwort tea as part of the rapid-cooling process.

After two weeks, rack into secondary fermenter on top of raspberries. Age one month then bottle, and condition at least another month.

Results

This was… different, but in a good way, I think. There was just enough sourness in it to evoke framboise, with an additional chocolateyness.

2. Raspberry-Black Currrant Wheat Beer

Brewed on 6 September 2015. A five-gallon batch.

Grains

  • pale 2-row pale malt, 4 lbs.
  • white wheat malt, 6 lbs.
  • red wheat malt, 1 lb.
  • Munich malt, 1 lb.

Fruit and sugar

  • vodka-preserved red raspberries*, 3 qts.
  • black currants (frozen and thawed), 3 c.
  • corn sugar for priming, 3/4 c.

Hops

  • Fuggles pellets, 1 oz.
  • Hallertau pellets, 1/2 oz.

Yeast

  • Safale S-04, 11.5 g.

Procedure

I have a copper coil for rapid wort chilling now, so no more cold tea! The yeast starter for this one is just a quart of boiled (or distilled) water.

A simple one-step infusion at 150F with mash-out at 170F. The Fuggles go in at the beginning of the one-hour boil and the Hallertau at 20 minutes before the end.

After six days, rack into the secondary on top of raspberries and currants. Age three weeks then bottle. Ready to drink in two weeks, but gets better with age.

Results

Yes, I used only hops, no herbs: my most standard brew in many years! But fruit-wheat beers are great; why mess with success? The idea here was to put the fruit front and center, and it worked. This is a delicious beer, nicely balanced with just the right amount of fruity acidity. The currants contributed perhaps most of all to the color, which was such a pretty shade of orangish red I took pictures. I wrote in my notes: “Make this again and don’t change anything.” Except that next time I’ll make it in the spring so it will be ready to drink in hot weather.
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*As noted in the intro, the red raspberries I get are left over from making raspberry liqueur. They still have plenty of taste, however. If I were using fresh raspberries, I’d freeze and thaw them before adding them to the beer, but would probably keep the quantity about the same.