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This summer I bought some fresh tart cherry extract from the area I grew up in Northern Michigan, and I've been excited to use it in a recipe. Any recommendations on what style would be good with some subtle cherry notes? I'm leaning toward something like a Cherry Vanilla Porter. Would an IPA work, or would the hops and cherry work against each other?

Thanks in advance.

EDIT: I want something quaffable and delicious. What could I use for the grain bill to get somewhere in the amber range, but not go overboard with the nut or chocolate flavors?

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3 Answers 3

I feel tart cherries will work with a variety of styles, but to speak to my own personal experience, I have made a Lambic (Kreik) and IPA with fresh mountmorency (tart) cherries.

The Lambic turned out great, and would highly recommend that.

The IPA, not so much. As you stated, the citrus/pine flavors from high levels of late addition hops completely conflicted with the tartness from the cherries. I would highly recommend staying away from this option, and staying close to options with low hop flavoring/aroma.

And another thing to remember, when using the tart cherries, you lose most of the cherry sweetness to fermentation. IMO, the tartness works best when you also have enough sweet. So i would recommend using higher levels of non-fermentable sugars (possibly lactose in your porter/stout) or specialty grains which have greater residual sweetness post fermentation.

EDIT & DISCLAIMER My cherries were from Wisconsin, so I can not vouch for the effectiveness of brewing with an in-superior tart cherry extract...from Michigan.

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Ahem. Traverse City, Michigan is the CHERRY CAPITOL :) –  TheRyBerg Sep 7 '12 at 19:52
    
Touche good sir! :) –  hartski Sep 7 '12 at 20:01

I made a dark brown ale with tart cherry concentrate added in secondary. It works better with malt-forward recipes, rather than an IPA. There will be quite a bit of tartness, especially when young so I think it balances better with sweetness rather than hop bitterness.

The tartness smooths out with age and after 2 months or so more of the cherry flavor comes out. My recommendation is to age it at least a month after bottling.

EDIT: Here's the grain bill (5 gal):

  • 8 lb Maris Otter
  • 1 lb Crystal 120L
  • 1 lb Crystal 60L
  • 1 lb CaraPils

Hops:

  • 1.5 oz Williamette @ 60 min
  • 0.5 oz Williamette @ flameout
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I agree with hartski on avoiding the IPA combo. If you want to fruit up an IPA, try apricots, otherwise keep heavy hopping away from a fruit beer.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. For mass appeal, try a sweet kriek in the style of Lindeman's. Take a kriek recipe, swap out the funky yeast / bacteria for a normal ale yeast and add lactose to sweeten.

  2. Like bk0 said, cherries would complement a brown ale well. I've done it with raspberries using this recipe: Requiem Raspberry. Described as a "panty dropper" in that forum.

  3. While you said not to go nuts with the chocolate flavours, I can't help but post this recipe. I've not made it myself but it makes me drool and I'll be brewing it when cherry season hits the southern hemisphere again. Stolen straight out of this book, page 318.

Valentine Imperial Porter

Grains

  • 1 lb / 450g UK crystal malt (60 L)
  • 8 oz / 224g UK brown malt
  • 8 oz / 224g UK chocolate malt

Malt extract

  • 8 lbs / 3.6kg any UK brand dark

Bittering Hops

  • 4 to 6 AAUs medium-alpha acid (e.g. Northern Brewer) - 60 minute boil

Later additions

  • 1 lb / 450g Lactose
  • 1 lb / 450g Demerara sugar
  • 8 oz / 224g high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Cherries

  • 5-10 lbs / 2.25-4.5kg Fresh cherries or
  • 3-6 lbs / 1.4 - 2.7kb Frozen cherries or
  • 2.5-5 lbs / 1.13 - 2.25kg Dried cherries or
  • 16 fl. oz / 475mL black cherry concentrate
  • +/- 4 fl. oz / 118mL cherry flavouring or extract, to taste at bottling

Yeast

Wyeast 1187 / White Labs WLP011 / Fermentis S-04

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