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I was curious how different types of honey affect brewing. Some aspects I'm interested in are:

  • The floral-blend of honey -- blended vs unblended (e.g. 100% clover honey)
  • processing -- raw (honey + honeycomb) vs unpasturized (granular and opaque) vs pasturized/clarified (golden-clear)
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The answers below seem to be about beer - you didn't specify, but for mead, the blend will directly effect the taste of the finished product. If you're adding large quantities of fruits or other flavors, it's less of a difference, but for a more delicate mead, whatever flavors are in the honey will be in the mead. There's a great range of single-source varietals available at home brew shops. – user934 Jan 24 '11 at 0:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the quantities that honey is typically used, changing the variety of honey will have a slight effect on flavor and aroma, but little else. Strained honey or raw honey might add a slight haze from pollen, but honeycomb, wax, and anything else should settle out during primary or secondary. Ultrafiltered honey should have no effect on clarity. Ultrasonicated honey will be more fermentable and have no wild yeast - so it will dry the beer and reduce the body more than non-ultrasonicated honey.

The extent to which the flavor and aroma will also vary depending on when the honey is added. Honey added during the boil will vary less than post-boil additions, as aromatics will be lost in the boil, and the honey will caramelize. Additionally, hydroxymethylfurfural will form in boiled honey.

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There are certain varietal honeys that can add a significant amount of flavor and aroma to a beer. Buckwheat honey in particular has a very strong flavor and aroma even after fermentation. There are certain wildflower and clover honeys that will also stand out. If you would like more honey character to come through you need to choose a varietal that is strong to begin with.

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In my experience orange blossom honey adds a great citrus note and is much less "grassy" than clover honey. It goes great in Amber Ales.

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