When my wife and I found out she was pregnant, one of the first things we talked about was whether we’d find out if our baby were a boy or a girl from the doctor, or when he or she was born.
I wanted to wait, she wanted to know as soon as it was medically possible.
So we came to a compromise. We like throwing parties, and I love serving homebrew, so we came up with the idea for me to brew a boy beer and a girl beer and we would use the beer to do a “gender reveal” at a party with our friends and family. Read on to find out what I made and how it turned out.
Since this would be a beer served at a party with everything from Bud Lite drinkers to craft connoisseurs and homebrewers alike, I figured something relatively crowd pleasing was in order. This beer was also supposed to carry a colorant of some sort, so it would need to be fairly pale colored. Finally, the color is supposed to be relatively light, so I figured something hazy might help with that.
I’ve been pretty successful brewing wheat beers, so I built a fairly standard American Wheat recipe. I usually use a 50/50 blend of Maris Otter and wheat malt, but I have a bag of Golden Promise I’ve been working through, so I used that instead of the maris otter. I’ve experienced Golden Promise as being a little too clean and not as malty as I’d like so I used 30% Vienna malt to up the malt backbone a touch.
I decided on Magnum for bittering at about 12 IBU’s to keep it pleasant and unassuming.
I had US-05 on hand, and it’s worked well in wheats for me before, so I used that for yeast.
Coloring the Beer
My wife suggested that the boy beer should be blue and the girl beer pink or red, of course. Food coloring was the first thing that came to mind. But as a brewer I generally don’t like using artificial ingredients in my beer, so while I wasn’t opposed to the idea, I wanted to do something else.
Fruit is the next most obvious choice, red could be achieved with raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and more. Raspberries are more pink than cherries and more strongly flavored than strawberries, so raspberries were chosen for the girl beer.
Blue is tougher to find. Blue doesn’t show up much in fruit because blue plant colors are usually the result of a basic pH. Since fruit is acidic, fruits are rarely blue. Blueberries are close to blue, but once fermented they are more of a red-ish purple. I found a Japanese beer that was allegedly naturally colored with a blue algae, but their process and source of the algae is a secret, so that was out.
Acai berries are blue, but hard to source and very expensive. Blackberries are blue-ish, but basically will turn out the same color as blueberries, so might as well stick with the fruit with “blue” in the name if the color’s the same.
I briefly investigated using blue corn, but I couldn’t source any easily, and I doubted much of the color, if any, would make it into the beer from the mash.
Blueberries were chosen, figuring that the resultant beer would at least look different from the raspberry beer, and have “blue”berries in it, even if the beer itself wasn’t blue.
It would be a standard 11 gallon batch for me, split into 2 carboys, and the fruit would be added separately to the 2 fermenters in primary to keep things simple.
I like to use frozen fruit in my fruit beers. Fresh fruit at the grocery store is generally picked under ripe and allowed to ripen on the way to the store. This is great for the fruit to look appetizing and have a good storage time, but it doesn’t allow for the fruit to develop all the flavor and sugars that it would on the plant. Frozen fruit on the other hand is typically picked ripe or even overripe because it freezes better and tastes better in smoothies. This is perfect for adding to beer since we need all the flavor and sugar we can get for the fruit to have a big impact.
I decided on 6 pounds of each fruit because I wanted to use at least 1 pound of fruit per gallon which is a pretty standard rate for homebrewers, and the blueberries came in 2 pound packages.
When I add fruit to the beer, I put it in a pot on the stove and heat it to about 170F and mash it with a potato masher to make it more of a puree. I had never used blueberries before, and they didn’t mash up as well as the raspberries. They produced at least a half gallon of juice, and the beer is plenty purple, but even when finished fermenting the blueberries were still whole and floating at the top of the carboy. The raspberries practically puree themselves once heated.
I added the fruit directly to primary after the majority of fermentation was finished and then the fruit kicked off a second fermentation within about two hours. After the second ferment finished I cold crashed to 35F for about 48 hours and then racked to kegs and force carbonated.
Racking Around Fruit
I use a little trick for racking beers with additives in primary to try to keep debris out of my corny keg disconnects and posts. I cut a piece of paint strainer bag about 2 inches square and use a dip tube o-ring to secure it around the end of the racking cane. In this case, I wrapped the mesh around the racking cane tip then put the mesh through the dip tube o-ring and then slid the o-ring and the mesh over the racking can end and secured the tip on the racking cane. This worked really well. There was no noticeable debris in the beer after racking carefully above the fruit trub. I’ve also used this method to keep dry hop debris out with much success.
The biggest downside to this method is that I lost about 1.5-2 gallons of beer to the raspberry sludge after fermentation. I’m not sure how to cut that down. Maybe I should have left it to ferment longer and then cold crash longer. Or maybe I should’ve used gelatin or some other sort of fining, but I’m really not sure. I would be interested to hear other methods for adding raspberries without losing so much beer.
I didn’t lose nearly as much to the blueberries since they were still whole. Just stuck the racking cane in between them and kept racking.
It’s a Boy!
Medium blueberry fruit with a tiny hint of malt and maybe some generic yeast character and a touch of tartness.
Opaque burgundy purple. Small dense burgundy off white head dissipates quickly. Leaves heavy lacing on the glass.
Medium Blueberry fruit flavor, backed by a low clean malt and low graininess from wheat. Low sweetness in the mid palate, but finish is very dry and crisp and leaves a touch of fruit tannin and hop bitterness in the aftertaste.
Creamy rich mouthfeel. Almost like a blueberry cake. Carbonation is medium with very fine bubbles which accentuates the rich mouthfeel.
Good beer. Straight ahead fruited American Wheat. Enough bitterness that it tastes like beer, but not too much to clash with the fruit. Enough fruit that you taste it and it’s rich, but it’s not cloying or overly sweet. Dry finish makes it very drinkable. I don’t know the exact ABV due to the fruit addition, but I know it’s at least 5.5% and I suspect it’s more like 6% and it drinks like a session beer. For improvements, I think a British yeast would lend complementary esters and possibly finish a touch less dry letting the blueberries stand out more. Overall, I’m very satisfied with this beer.
It’s a Girl!
High raspberry fruit with a tiny hint of malt and maybe some generic yeast character and low tartness.
Opaque bright pinkish red. Medium dense bright pink head dissipates quickly. Leaves heavy lacing on the glass.
High raspberry fruit flavor, backed by extremely low clean malt and extremely low graininess from wheat. Medium sweetness in the mid palate, but finish is dry and crisp with low tartness and the impression of fruit. Bitterness is very low.
Creamy rich cake like mouthfeel. Carbonation is medium with very fine bubbles which accentuates the rich mouthfeel.
Good beer. Straight ahead fruited American Wheat. Enough bitterness that it tastes like beer, but not too much to clash with the fruit. Enough fruit that you taste it and it’s rich, but it’s not cloying or overly sweet. Dry finish makes it very drinkable. I don’t know the exact ABV due to the fruit addition, but I know it’s at least 5.5% and I suspect it’s more like 6% and it drinks like a session beer. I don’t really know what I’d do to improve this one. Possibly reduce the fruit addition just a bit as the raspberries are leaping out of the glass. If you love raspberries, this is an awesome beer. It’s just raspberries all the way down.
Comparing the beers
Both beers are tasty. The raspberry beer is for raspberry fans, it just has huge raspberry aroma and flavor. The blueberry beer tastes more like beer, so might be the preference for some who aren’t big fruit beer fans. But honestly, I’m not a big fruit beer fan, and I’ll drink both of these any day. I prefer the raspberry beer mainly because the fruit is so intense. I also like the tartness from the raspberries that the blueberries didn’t have. The mouthfeel on both beers is super creamy and rich, but the raspberry is a little more creamy than the blueberry.
Beer drinkers at the party seemed to really enjoy the beers. I think most people prefer the raspberry version because of the huge fruit character, but both were well received.
The Big Reveal
At the party, I poured some of each beer into two different growlers and gave the envelope with our baby’s gender to a friend who selected the appropriate growler out of sight and brought it to me. We had a typical gender reveal cake too, so my wife cut the cake, and I poured the beer. The beer made it to the glass first, and I knew immediately, but many of our friends and family were unsure until the cake was cut. That could be because my mother-in-law was pulling for a girl so hard she was in shock at the result. Because…
IT’S A BOY!
|Batch Size||Boil Time||IBU||SRM||Est. OG||Est. FG||ABV|
|11 gal||60 min||12.42||4.67||1.048||1.007||5.4|
|Name||Cat.||OG Range||FG Range||IBU||SRM||Carb||ABV|
|American Wheat Beer||1 D||1.04 - 1.055||1.008 - 1.013||15 - 30||3 - 6||0 - 0||4 - 5.5 %|
|Golden Promise||7 lbs||35|
|Red Wheat||10 lbs||50|
|Magnum||0.6 oz||60 min||Boil||Pellet||11|
|Raspberries||96 oz||0 min||Primary||Other|
|Blueberries||96 oz||0 min||Primary||Other|
|Safale - American Ale Yeast US-05 (US-05)||Fermentis / Safale||85%||54°F - 77°F|
|Download this recipe's BeerXML file|
P.S. Apologies to Brouwerij Chugach for another week of not doing a lambic post. It’s cold this week, so I should get to brew my lambic this week and post about it next week. Hope you enjoyed this post anyway.