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When is the best time to add honey to a 5 gallon wort of Brown Ale, and what is the best amount? I don't know weather it would be best at the beginning or closer to bottling time!

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I like to add honey to ales, but it is a bit tricky to use. If you add it to the boil, it typically dries out completely and is just an expensive way of increasing the alcohol content without adding much in the way of flavor. If you add 50% of your malt bill in honey, you have a braggot. If you add it after primary fermentation is complete, it tends to retain more honey flavor. Honey can carry some nasty bugs, so it's generally recommended you cook it first. If you boil it for long, it will have a burnt taste (like a brochet). If you don't actually boil it, but slowly bring the temp to 170F (77'C) or so and keep it there for 30 minutes, you can carmelize it a bit, which will not only help kill some bugs, but also it will make some of the honey less fermentable and leave more honey flavor. If you use 1 lb or less, it will be fairly subtle. If you use more, you may need to age it much longer than a normal ale, so it won't taste like soap (what I think a young mead tastes like). I've also just used honey to prime with, and it works pretty good and retains a honey flavor. This is probably the least expensive and most reliable way of adding a subtle honey flavor, especially if you boil a pint or so of water and add the honey to it and keep it at 170F (77'C) for 20-30 minutes. If you just boil the honey, it won't have much flavor (might as well use corn sugar). Good luck!

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I don't have a strong opinion on this matter (don't really care) but "Honey can carry some nasty bugs" Some people argue due to the high sugar content and low water content honey is relatively clean as it is not a suitable environment for things to grow on. – Another Compiler Error Feb 2 '14 at 12:35
My opinion on heating or not heating honey is... It's your beer, you drink what your happy with. :) – Another Compiler Error Feb 2 '14 at 12:36
I've made four batches of mead from unpasteurized honey without any heating -- just dilution and fermentation -- and have never had an infection. YMMV. – Tobias Patton Feb 2 '14 at 17:26
Yeah, that's sort of "conventional wisdom", at least on forums, but like other common thinking, may not have a lot of basis in fact. I think the heating for carmelizing or burning for flavor is probably more useful and I can personally speak to it. – Wyrmwood Feb 3 '14 at 15:24

I tried honey once in a 5 gallon batch of blonde ale. it was recommended that I put it in 3 mins before flame out and used 1 pound.

My results were less than amazing, so much less that I couldnt taste the honey, which was a Hawaiian variety purchased at the LHBS.

I was told at the time that the sugars in honey are not highly fermentable so ABV will not substancially increase. I ended up with the usual 5.1% or so if memory serves.

This summer I am going to try the method Wyrmwood suggested above, adding honey to 170F water and then adding that to primary, maybe after a week or so, and increase from 1 pound to 2.

Good Question and nice complete Answer Wyrmwood!

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