I made a honey ale recently which resulted in a beer with a rather bitter/sour(?) taste instead of the honey finish I was hoping for.

Since I added the honey just before the yeast I was wondering if it could be that all the sugar in the honey actually got processed by the yeast leaving only the other parts in the beer thus resulting in the described flavour or at least for the "sour" part. Since I never made this recipe without honey before, I do not know exactly how it tastes without honey.

Could this be the reason? To avoid this, I guess I'd have to add the honey later?

1 Answer 1


I have made pure honey meads that have fermented out completely and they were initially quite bitter. I think you are right - it's the other components of the honey - waxes etc.. - that create a bitter taste.

Adding the honey later will not really help. Any yeast still left in the beer will continue to ferment out the honey, with the risk of bottle bombs or over-carbonated beer if this is after packaging.

With a mead, you have the option of using more honey, pushing the yeast past their level of alcohol tolerance, so a certain amount of honey remains unfermented.

You can't easily do this with a beer unless you plan to make a 13+% beer. Another option is to use a light crystal malt such as Carapils or a C20. This will lend some sweetness to the final beer that is not fermentable. Even when there is unfermented honey in the beverage, the taste isn't really of honey - the taste is mainly sweet - you recognise "honey" from the aroma. By using a crystal you maintain some sweetness, plus you still have the aroma from the fermented honey.

  • Thanks. Think I could try "overloading" a low-tolerance yeast to keep some honey in the beer, but the crystal malts option sounds more like the desired effect. I will have a look at the original recipe to check what malt I used and what the author says the final taste should be.
    – Tate83
    Jun 3, 2014 at 11:29
  • Look for "Honey Malt", its a type of crystal malt who's sweetness is more light & sugary, rather than caramely, and has a flavor associated with honey. A little goes a long way though, so start small.
    – GHP
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:32
  • Good point Graham, I had planned to mention that. It's a lovely malt, but like you say, can be excessively sweet.
    – mdma
    Jun 3, 2014 at 16:06

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