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The Smoked Bee - Gladfield's Manuka Smoked malt and honey

When Gladfield Malt launched their Manuka Smoked MaltI was intrigued. Maybe you could say I was a little sceptical as well as my previous experiences with smoked beers haven’t been the best. Although my overall impression of smoked beers may have been coloured by Yeasty Boys Rex Attitude, which just isn't my sort of beer. It could also have something to do with my preference for hoppy beers.

The description of the malt said that the Manuka smoke contributes a sweet floral aroma, which is what persuaded me to give it a go. 

Once I had decided to use Gladfield's Manuka smoked malt I needed to design a recipe that would compliment and showcase the malts sweet, floral, and smokey aromas.

These aroma descriptors evoked images of summer barbecues and their smokey aroma, flowering gardens and their sweet floral aroma alive with the buzz of bees, and the sweet, almost smokey and slightly bitter flavour and aroma of toffee. Somehow I wanted to get these flavours and aromas into the beer and this is when I decided to include raw NZ Bush honey in the recipe.

Honey is about 80% sugar (mostly glucose and fructose) and as such is highly fermentable. It also contains enzymes and most likely wild yeast, which can potentially be a problem when brewing.

The easiest way to add honey to beer is to add it during the boil, which will denature the enzymes and kill any wild yeast that may be present. The problem with this approach is you risk losing the subtle sweet flavours and aromas of the honey and in effect will have simply added fermentable sugar.

Alternatively the honey can be pasteurised by holding it at 80℃ for approximately 2 - 3 hours, preferably in a sealed container. This should also denature the enzymes and kill any wild yeast, however it still likely to reduce the amount of flavour and aroma the honey will contribute.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and add the raw honey to the fermenter as the initial fermentation began to slow. When adding honey directly to the fermenter (whether or not it has been pasteurised) it should be diluted with cooled boiled water to ensure it blends into the fermenting beer easily.

I hoped that by adding the honey to the beer once fermentation was beginning too slow would reduce the risk of any wild yeast being able to get a foot hold as it would not be able to compete with the dominant yeast population that was already well established.

There was still the risk of the enzymes continuing to slowly convert residual unfermentable sugars into fermentable sugars, but as I planned to keg the beer I wasn’t too concerned about this risk as the cold temperatures would stop any enzyme activity. If I was going to bottle the beer I may have considered pasteurising the honey to avoid the risk of ending up with bottle bombs.

To get the toffee like flavours and aromas I included Gladfield Medium Crystal and Special B malt. I also included a small amount of Gladfield Aurora malt to provide some depth to the malt character of the beer. As I wanted these flavours to be in the background to allow the Manuka Smoked malt to be prominent, these malts comprised only 11% of the fermentables in the recipe.

I employed a multi-step mash regime for no other reason than it is my normal process and has been since I began brewing. A single temperature mash rest would work just as well.

The aroma of the mash was quite amazing; a heady malty sweet aroma with a strong sweet, floral, and dare I say it, bacon like, smokey aroma.

This aroma intensified during the boil and attracted quite a few bees and a number of wasps too. The downside of brewing outside in summer.

As this was going to be a malt forward beer I decided to forgo any hop additions other than a small bittering addition to provide some balance.

Below is the recipe I created.

Boil Time: 60 min 
Batch Size: 24 litres (ending kettle volume)
Boil Size: 28 litres 
Boil Gravity: 1.041 (recipe based estimate) 
Efficiency: 85% (ending kettle)
Original Gravity Final Gravity ABV IBU SRM
1.055 1.012 5.77% 25 10.05
Amount Fermentable PPG °L Bill %
2.45 kg Gladfield Ale 36.3 3.04 49%
1.5 kg Gladfield Manuka Smoked 35.3 1.73 30%
0.5 kg Honey - (late addition) 42 2 10%
0.25 kg Gladfield Medium Crystal 34.4 55 5%
0.15 kg Belgian - Special B 34 115 3%
0.15 kg Gladfield Aurora 36.2 29 3%
5 kg Total
Amount Variety Type AA Use Time IBU
20 g Green Bullet Pellet 12 Boil 60 min 28.71
Mash Guidelines
Amount Description Type Temp Time
13.5 Infusion 63 C 30 min
Temperature 70 C 30 min
Temperature 76 C 15 min
14.5 Sparge 76 C 40 min
Starting Mash Thickness: 3 L/kg
Other Ingredients
Amount Name Type Use Time
4.5 g Calcium sulphate Water Agt Mash --
2.5 g Calcium cholride Water Agt Mash --
1 g Sodium chloride Water Agt Mash --
3.36 ml Phosphoric acid Water Agt Mash --
0.25 tsp Supermoss Fining Boil 10 min.
2.4 g Yeast nutrient Other Boil 10 min.
Wyeast - American Ale II
Amount: 1
Attenuation (custom): 78% Flocculation: High
Optimum Temp: 15.6 - 22.2 °C Starter: Yes
Fermentation Temp: 20 °C Pitch Rate: 0.75 (M cells / ml / ° P) 244 B cells required
Target Water Profile: Balanced Profile
Ca+2 Mg+2 Na+ Cl- SO4-2 HCO3-
80 5 25 75 80 100

Target mash pH 5.2. Acidify sparge water (20L) with 0.48ml phosphoric acid.

The beer fermented well, with fermentation slowing noticeably on day 5. With the addition of the honey fermentation activity picked up for a day or two before slowing once again. Once fermentation appeared to have ceased I took a gravity reading, which showed the final gravity to be 1.012, right on target. I transferred the beer to a keg and hooked it up to the co2 to carbonate.

The following weekend I had my first taste of the beer, and was very pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted. The sweet floral smokey flavour and aroma of the Manuka Smoked Malt was definitely prominent, but not overpowering, and blended well with the caramel sweetness of the crystal and Special B malts, which itself was mild and not cloying. The honey flavour and aroma was subtle, but noticeable, and complimented the other flavours and aromas well.

I have brewed this beer many times since, although I am not sure I have brewed it the same way twice. The last version I brewed I replaced the crystal and Special B malts with Gladfield Supernova. I think it was the best version I have brewed yet, possibly because it still had the toasted caramel flavours I want without the residual sweetness allowing the sweet floral smokiness of the Manuka Smoked malt to be more prominent.

If you are open to smoked beers and haven’t used Gladfield’s Manuka Smoked malt yet, I recommend you give it a try.

If you would like to brew The Smoked Bee you can purchase a kit with everything you need (apart from the honey). Click hereto view the kit designed to be brewed on the Grainfather, or click here to view the kit designed to be brewed on any set up.

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