Homebrew Batch #17 – TBD Fruit Beer (Blueberry? Raspberry?)

Today, after brewing The Cuke base, I brewed the base for a fruit beer which I will decide the details of next week.  It will turn into either blueberry or raspberry, depending on what’s fresh at the store.

I found a “fruit base” online somewhere, and plugged it into Hopville after scaling it down.  It looks like this for a 2 gallon batch:

60 minute mash (1 1/2 gallons water) at 154 degrees:

2lbs Pilsner Malt

2lbs Light wheat malt

Boil:

3/8 oz crystal hops for 60 minutes

3/8 oz crystal hops for last 15 minutes

ferment with Safeale US-05.

I will add the fruit to the primary fermentation vessel (3 gallon glass carboy) next week after primary is complete.

So anyway, I had a major issue with the mash on this one today.  Hopville says my OG should be 1.053.   It came out at 1.029 (post boil).  Oy vey.   Part of the issue was that I made more wort than I wanted: 2.5 gallons – but even that corresponds to only 50% efficiency.

Either 1) I screwed up my sparge BIG TIME, or 2) there was a problem with the conversion.   50/50 pilsner/wheat malt shouldn’t have an issue with conversion, right?  Although I did read somewhere that people said that they found their wheat malt needed to be milled really fine to get it to convert right.  Perhaps that was an issue?   I left this post on HomebrewTalk.com about my brewing experience with this beer today.

Thoughts?  Did I just sparge this poorly?   As usual, I poured my mash into a paint-strainer-bag in my brew kettle.   Then I poured the sparge water over it.   I didn’t recirculate the sparge water (2 1/2 gallons of 170 degree water) over the spent grain bag like I normally do, but I did take care to “swish” the bag around my kettle for a while.  I’d be shocked if my efficiency went from the 69% I have been getting all the way down to 50% just as a result of the slightly different sparging method.   Is it more likely that I had a wheat malt conversion issue?  Is wheat malt finicky in that sense?

As usual, your expert advice is much appreciated…

I remedied the situation in the only way I know how:  with maple syrup.  I took a 12oz bottle and dissolved it in a few cups of water, then added it in.  My new OG was 1.04 – still light, but within the realm of drinkability.

Anyone have thoughts (based on experience) on which fruit to use in this?  I’m gonna throw in either blueberry or raspberry next week after primary fermentation is complete.   This (along with the cucumber beer) will be my first attempt at adding fruit after primary.  I plan to mash the fruit with a fork and then heat it in a saucepan to sanitize it.   I know that may give me pectic haze, but I’m not concerned with that.   I wanted to use fresh fruit – and would prefer raspberry, but I’m not sure what the fresh inventory will look like next week.   Perhaps canned raspberry would be better than fresh blueberry?  It will be a game-time decision.

-KD

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