Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What are the guidelines when substituting honey for sugar in a recipe?

Dear Mr. Wizard,

I am basically a beginner and still use sugar in my wort. The batch usually has a slight "wine" taste. An experienced friend suggested that I try honey in place of sugar. I use four cups of sugar. What is the equivalent when I use honey?
Henry Wix, via e-mail

Mr. Wizard replies:

Cane sugar is well known to give beer a cidery or winey flavor. If you want to get rid of this flavor, using honey in place of sugar is one of several solutions. When substituting brewing ingredients in recipes it is much easier to base your conversion on weight, not on volumetric measurements such as cups, because ingredient densities, especially those of malt, vary quite a bit. To substitute honey for sugar, you should use about 1.25 pounds of honey for every pound of sugar in the original recipe. This conversion is approximate because the solids content of honey has a large range, but most honeys are around 80 percent solids.
According to the label on a commercial brand of honey, three-quarters cup of sugar is equivalent to one cup of honey. This honey has a solids content of 81 percent. Consider substituting malt for sugar if you want to make beer that tastes like beer. Although honey will take care of the odd flavors associated with cane sugar, honey beers have their own distinct flavor notes that make them taste different than all-malt beers. You can substitute dry malt extract for cane sugar on a pound-for-pound basis and can substitute malt extract for cane sugar at the rate of 1.25 pounds malt extract per pound of sugar. If you want to brew a beer with a lighter flavor but don’t want a honey beer, try using rice syrup. Rice is used in many commercial beers, including Budweiser and Coors, and has its own special flavor contribution.
The thing to remember when brewing beer is that you can use different techniques and buy all types of fancy gizmos to improve the brewing process, but at the end of the day, beer flavor is a product of the starting ingredients. Be an explorer and try out as many different brewing ingredients as you can. Cane sugar, brown sugar, candi sugar, pineapple sugar, corn syrup, rice, wheat, barley, oats, rye, potatoes — the list goes on for the variety of carbohydrate sources used in brewing. Add to the list the variety of flavors found in different hop varieties, yeast strains, brewing spices, and water. You will discover through exploration that ingredients hold the keys to flavor!
Mr. Wizard, BYO's resident expert, is a leading authority in homebrewing whose identity, like the identity of all superheroes, must be kept confidential.


How beer is made: the brewing process

Comparing and Selecting Hops

So how do I choose the right hops for my beer? With such a wide range of flavor and aroma characteristics, this chart can serve as a helpful guide to more than one hundred varieties. Whether you are trying to duplicate a style or are looking to experiment, the following list can help to get you started. Just select a beer style below and a chart will pull up with appropriate hops to consider for your recipe.
Name Alpha Acid % Possible Substitutions Flavor Description
Ahtanum 4-6.3% Amarillo, Cascade Floral, citrus, sharp, and piney.
Amarillo 8-9% Cascade, Centennial Citrusy, flowery.
Apollo 15-19% Zeus A high alpha acid varietal known for its disease resistance.
Boadicea (U.K.) 8-9%
Bravo 14-17% Apollo, Zeus
Cascade (U.S.) 4.5-7% Amarillo, Centennial, possibly Columbus Pleasant, flowery, spicy, and citrusy. Can have a grapefruit flavor.
Cascade (New Zealand) 6-8% Ahtanum, Cascade, Centennial Similar to US Cascade, has floral, citrus grapefruit character.
Centennial 8-11.5% Cascade, possibly Columbus Medium with floral and citrus tones.
Chinook 10-14% Columbus, Northern Brewer, Nugget, U.K. Target Mild to medium-heavy, spicy, piney, and grapefruity.
Citra (U.S.) 11-13%
intense flavor
Cluster 5.5-8.5% Galena Medium and quite spicy.
Columbus 11-16% Chinook, Northern Brewer, Nugget, U.K. Target Pleasant, with pungent aroma.
El Dorado (U.S.) 14-16%
Galaxy (Australia) 13.5-14.8%

Galena 10-14% Chinook, Nugget, Pride of Ringwood Medium but pleasant hoppiness, citrusy.
Glacier (U.S.) 5-9% Styrian Golding, U.S. Fuggle, U.S. Tettnanger, Willamette Dual purpose hop with a citrus earthy aroma.
Horizon 11-14% Magnum Pleasantly hoppy.
Legacy (U.S.) NA
Clean grapefruit, floral, black currant notes and a spicy aroma.
Magnum (German) 12-16% Northdown, Northern Brewer Known for bittering value and quality.
Magnum (U.S.) 10-14% Northdown, Northern Brewer High alpha variety
Nelson Sauvin (New Zealand) 12-14%
Unique hop with grape-like flavor
Newport 13-17% Galena, Nugget Fairly pungent.
Northern Brewer (German) 7-10% Chinook, U.S. Northern Brewer Medium-strong with some wild tones.
Northern Brewer (U.S.) 6-10% Chinook, Nugget Medium-strong with some wild tones.
Northwest Golding 4-5%
Known for aromatic properties.
Nugget 11-14.5% Chinook, Columbus, Galena, U.K. Target Quite heavy and herbal.
Olympic 11-13% Chinook Mild to medium, citrusy aroma, spicy.
Opal (German) 5-8% Styrian Golding German dual-purpose hop
Pacific Gem (New Zealand) 13-15%
Bittering hop with a woody character.
Pacific Jade (New Zealand) 12-14%
A "soft" bittering hop with spicy and citrus aroma qualities.
Palisade 5.5-9.5% Perhaps Cascade Some "American" characteristics.
Perle (German) 6-8.5% Northern Brewer, U.S. Perle Moderately intense, good and hoppy, fruity and a little spicy.
Perle (U.S.) 6-9.5% Chinook, Cluster, Galena, Northern Brewer Known for its aromatic and bittering properties, pleasant and slightly spicy.
Pilgrim (U.K.) 9-13% U.K. Challenger, U.K. Target
Pride of Ringwood (Australia) 7-10% Cluster, Galena Quite pronounced, woody, earthy, herbal.
Riwaka (New Zealand) 4.5-6.5% Czech Saaz, possible American "C" hops Citrusy, grapefruit aroma hop
Santiam 5-7.9% German Spalt, German Spalt Select, German Tettnanger Noble characteristics.
Satus 12.5-14% Galena Known for its bittering and aromatic properties.
Simcoe 12-14%
A bittering and aromatic hop.
Sorachi Ace (Japan) 13-16%
Bittering hop with lemony aroma
Sovereign (U.K.) 5-6% U.K. Fuggle mild flavor
Summit 16-18% Simcoe Ultra high-alpha bittering hop
Sun 12-16% Magnum High-alpha hop with intense character
Super Alpha (New Zealand) 10-12%
Earthy, piney bittering hop.
Super Pride (Australia) 14% Pride of Ringwood A high alpha variety bred from Pride of Ringwood.
Target (U.K.) 9.5-12.5% Fuggle, Willamette Pleasant English hop aroma, quite intense.
Tomahawk 15-17% Columbus Primarily a bittering hop.
Warrior 15-17% Nugget A bittering and aromatic hop.
Willamette 3.5-6% Styrian Golding, U.S. Fuggle, U.S. Tettnanger Mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, fruity, floral, a little earthy.
Yakima Cluster 6-8.5%
Used as a kettle hop for bittering.
Zeus 13-17% Columbus Aromatic and pleasant.