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Honey Porter Pointers

I’m trying to work up a recipe for a honey porter, but I’ve never brewed with honey and I’ve never brewed a porter. So I’m probably working with rather a large handicap. I’ve done some reading and some poking about online, and this is what I have so far:

Honey Porter (2.5 gallons)

3 lbs. Northern Brewer Gold liquid malt extract
8 oz. brown malt
4 oz. chocolate malt
1 oz. black patent malt

8 oz. honey

0.50 oz. Perle hop pellets, 60 min.
0.25 oz. Fuggles pellets, 20 min.
0.25 oz. Fuggles pellets, 5 min.

Danstar Nottingham dry ale yeast

It’s the honey that’s causing my confusion. Beersmith is telling me this will have an OG of 1.052, which is high for a brown porter. It’s also going to be too bitter for a brown porter (39.4 IBU), but – and please correct me if I’m wrong! – I think that will be needed to offset the honey’s added sweetness.

Regarding the honey, I’ve seen much conflicting advice on when to add it. Some say at the very end of the boil (I guess with the last of the hops?), some say pasteurize it and add it to the secondary. I’m also not sure which variety to use. I don’t want a cloyingly sweet beer, but sweet will be better than bitter, and I’d also like it to take on some flavor for the honey.

Suggestions gratefully accepted. :slight_smile:

Looks like a decent recipe. Add your honey at the very end of the boil. I would add mine at flameout. This will preserve the most honey flavor in the final beer.

Honey will not add sweetness! It is 100% fermentable, just like corn sugar or table sugar. This is a case where you might actually want to add some crystal malt or Carapils to bring up the body a little bit… but not too much. Maybe just 4 ounces or something like that.

Darker honeys are better. Wildflower honey is usually great, so is buckwheat honey. A lot of people love orange blossom honey but I find it too mild, same with clover honey. I like basswood honey though, which is still light but more distinctive. Anything will work, but darker honeys will be more obvious in the final beer.

I would kick up your chocolate malt to at least 6-8 oz for proper porter color and flavor. 4 oz might not be enough. Better safe than sorry.

Looks good. Enjoy it!

Thank you very much for the advice! It brings to mind a few more questions, though.

First, do I need to pasteurize the honey, or is the heat of just-off-the-boil wort sufficient?

Second, adding all this extra malt would send the OG even higher. Will the beer suffer if I swap the three pounds of LME for two pounds of light DME? This would bring the OG down from 1.054 to 1.045, right in the middle of the range for a brown porter.

Third, the added chocolate malt pushed the color well past the upper limit for the style (according to the computer). Was the amount you suggested for a five-gallon batch?

And finally, I’m still a bit worried about the bitterness, having one batch of much-too-bitter beer in my recent past. Should I tone down the hops a bit? Dropping the Perle hops down to a quarter of an ounce leaves me with 24.7 IBU, or 0.35 oz. for 31.5 IBU, both seemingly better than the current 41.7. Since the honey won’t make the beer sweet, am I right in thinking that it will be better off slightly less bitter?

Thanks again, I really appreciate the help!

The heat at the end of the boil should be sufficient to pasteurize, but if you’re concerned then add it to the boil with perhaps 5 minutes left in the boil. You don’t want it to boil for long though because you’ll lose most of the aroma that way. Also take care not to scorch it since it will sink to the bottom of the kettle. Turn your flame off until it is dissolved.

You should be able to substitute a little less DME for the LME – that sounds fine. With DME the beer will be even lighter in color. According to my StrangeBrew calculator it was already a little too light, so now it would be even lighter, which also answers your question about the color. Not sure why your calculator and mine differ on the color, but I do find mine to be pretty accurate, maybe not 100% of the time but about 98%. And no, I was not using 5 gallons to calculate, I used 2.5 gallons as you specified.

Yes, a slight reduction in bittering hops is a good idea – I’d forgotten about that. Sure, that’s good.

Apologies for my continuing confusion, and for suggesting that you might have missed the batch size. I’m still a newbie at this, and relying perhaps too much on the software, so when things go out of the suggested range I wind up scratching my head, and in this case wondering whether I had made an error in communication.

I’m slightly concerned about the color issue, in case it means my software is wrong. The BJCP style guidelines for brown porter say it should be 20-30 SRM; as it stands now (having put back the LME), Beersmith says my porter will be 35.2 SRM. Switching from LME to DME hardly seems to make a difference; removing the ounce of black malt would drop it to 32.8 SRM. Are these figures off? If so, do you think I would be better served by switching to StrangeBrew, even though it is no longer in development?

Thank you once again. I really appreciate your advice, and your patience. :slight_smile:

No problem, I’m always happy to help.

As much as I love the StrangeBrew software, I don’t necessarily recommend that anyone else get it because it’s grown antiquated. BeerSmith is really good software. It’s possible that you have more specific data on Lovibond and such that I do not have here. If you are concerned about darkness, then by all means stick with your 4 oz chocolate malt. Either way, color calculations are a bit of a swag for ANY software, and you’ll still make a delicious beer regardless of what color it is, so my suggestion is, don’t worry too much about it!


Right you are! Commencing not worrying. :slight_smile:

You said the chocolate malt was low for flavor, and that’s more important than color, so I’ll keep it at 8 oz. I’ll just drop the ounce of black malt (no sense buying a pound of something when I only want an ounce, anyway) and see what happens.

Thanks again! I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, I was about to place the order for ingredients and such when I learned that one of the people for whom I am making this brew has health issues where honey is concerned. If I just don’t add the honey, will this still make a good porter, or do I need to tweak the recipe a bit?

Darker honeys are better. Wildflower honey is usually great, so is buckwheat honey. [/quote]

What what what!?

I’ve heard that Buckwheat honey is the one you should unequivocally NOT brew with. Have you used it successfully? I’ve heard/read from some (including IIRC Mad Fermentationist) that its just vile in beer (?)

I am huge fan of Meadowfoam honey in beer, but Dave is right, for a porter, you do need to add some crystal malt to balance out the dryness that the honey will add. You may want to consider carabrown. We just did a brown porter with that that came out great.

I would guess if the honey were to be boiled in the last 15 minutes, the person who can’t handle honey would probably be okay, but that’s only a guess.

I haven’t brewed with buckwheat honey myself, but I believe I have enjoyed something brewed by another. What’s wrong with buckwheat honey? I never heard that before, but I guess I’m no expert. Seemed worth a try to me, but I could be wrong.

EDIT: Oh wait, you’re absolutely right. I looked at some old notes, and I hated the stuff. Buckwheat honey is the kind that smells and tastes exactly like manure. Sorry about that. Don’t use buckwheat!!

I tasted buckwheat honey once. I am in no danger of using it for any purpose, ever. :lol:

Regarding honey in this beer, the person in question has severe allergies, the sort you don’t mess around with. So, better safe than sorry. But I appreciate the problem-solving.

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