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Honey Wheat Ale Comparison

So I brewed up a honey wheat ale about a month ago and somehow made two different beers from it.  I bottled up half of the batch as one normally would and the other half was introduced to a gallon of a honey solution for a secondary fermentation.

Both beers are ready to be imbibed and analyzed.  Here are my notes from a side by side tasting:

Honey Wheat Ale

Appearance: Light amber, cloudy like a wheat beer should be.  Foamy off white head.

Aroma: Sweet caramel, like the center of a Rollo.  Some floral honey, I guess.

Taste: Spicy wheat.  Medium bitterness from the hop.  Some hotness from some fusel alcohols, but I wonder about  that.  The flavors have mellowed a bit, so I am not sure where this spiciness is coming from.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, some pleasant graininess.

Overall:  High fermentation temps have left its mark on this beer.  It may mellow out further, but I am not betting on it.  There are some good sweet and wheat flavors here.  Good head lacing.

If I brew this one in the winter, it’s a different beer.

Honey Wheat Ale with honey addition

Appearance:  Lighter in color than the original brew.  Head is not as strong.  I suppose we should expect these differences.

Aroma:  Some of that honey malt aroma is still coming through, especially as it warms up.

Taste:  Smooth – mild.  A little bit of the wheat flavor at the end.    The craziness??  It appears that all crappy flavors from the primary fermentation have been scrubbed out.  Any graininess and hotness is gone.  Just gone.  Hop flavors are muted.  I am not sure this is beer, but it’s going down very easy.  Very clean aftertaste.  It seems to have picked up a tangy fruity characteristic that I can’t put my finger on…

Mouthfeel:  Much thinner and lighter than the original brew.

Overall:  Not sure what I created here.  It is certainly drinkable.  Very drinkable as I am on my third sample as I type this sentence, but not sure what a beer judge would say about it.  I am feeling good about the second half of the brew.  I am thinking of presenting this beer at the pseudo-Oktoberfest we are putting on.


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Fermentation Activity


  1. DB

    how long did you leave the beer in secondary ??? b/c all that extra honey could have been fermented or is could have been left unfermented depending on time and temperature.

  2. I left the second batch in the secondary fermenter for two weeks. The temp was 70 degrees for one week and then I cold stored it (40-50 degrees) for the last week.

    I am thinking the honey has fermented out.

  3. Graham

    I had VERY similar flavors to your ‘honey addition’ batch last spring.

    It was one of my better brews, and was a half-wheat half-honey “braggot.” That one had a slight lemony taste (no citrus was in the recipe at all) from the honey, which is probably similar to the fruity character you describe. Also like yours, mine was much lighter in body and ‘drier’ than regular wheat beer, and the head was very weak.

    However, those characteristics, which sound bad for beer, are actually good things for this type of drink. I’m not a wine guy at all, but when I sip that one, it reminds me of what I like about dry white wine.

    Congrats on discovering braggot (half-mead half-beer). Its a wonderful beverage that probably won’t win you too many awards UNLESS the competition has a braggot category. But its delicious none the less.

    And the honey DEFINITELY fermented out, DB. When you add honey, especially pre-diluted honey, to wort or fermenting beer, the yeast hit the honey sugars like a champ. Probably ripped down through that honey in a day or so.

    Did you get a gravity reading on the finished honey addition version? If its the same gravity as the first batch, then you know the yeasties ripped right through that honey sugar.

    Also, mead ferments best at much higher temps that beer, so I think its fantastic that the second batch had the hot flavors scrubbed out. I would love to repeat this with an experiement again. Adding a small bit of honey to a batch in the summer could be a good way of “proofing” it against ruin from high temps. Of course, the more honey you add, the less “beer” it is and the closer it gets to be a “braggot” but maybe there’s an optimal amount of honey to add that doesn’t take over the beer, but helps it fight off hot alcohol.

  4. Thanks for the comment Graham…and for reminding me of an important aspect of this experiment. I believe the final gravity of the honey wheat ale (part 1) was 1.012…which was about what I had expected.

    The final gravity of part 2 was lower…1.008!

    It is like a dry white wine without the fruitiness or the tartness….deceptively powerful in terms of alcohol content too. Not sure on the ABV, but I got up from my desk after typing this post and felt pretty tipsy.

  5. Graham

    Cool, I am not entirely surprised that the 2nd batch was lower either, the more I think about it. When you added the water/honey, 99% of the sugar in the honey fermented out, leaving water, which has the effect of lowering your final gravity. My own experiment ended at 1.008 as well!

    “It is like a dry white wine without the fruitiness or the tartness” — exactly like the one I did. Unfortunately for me, I split that batch into 2 and added hibiscus extract to one half, which made that half taste like a wine cooler 🙁

  6. Just a comment on the final gravity:
    The fermentation of the additional honey/water certainly leaves more water in the brew post an almost complete ferment of the honey. While this would dilute the first FG down some, don’t forget the contribution of more ethanol. The specigic gravity of ethanol will actually lower the gravity readings of straight water to below 1.000. Thus, the water AND the added ethanol are helping to “dry” this beer out.
    Excellent work, I can’t wait to try a sample.

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