One spring, I started thinking about how to incorporate a favorite fruit of mine into a beer.
Growing up in the South, I would often come across wild blackberries, and to this day it remains one of my favorite fruits.
When ripe, the sweet and tart balance out so well you can just pick and eat blackberries until the day fades into night.
At first thought, something that would ferment in time for early summer would lead me to something a little on the lighter side of the scale.
I thought a light-hearted wheat or a wild fermented ale to highlight the tartness would be nice.
But I kept coming back to the idea of it being such a dark berry. I decided to try to pair it with another love of mine: porters.
The Perfect Companion
A porter can be dark as night but sit thinner than a stout. A cold porter on a hot day can be just as refreshing as a hoppy wheat beer. Also, most porter recipes lean toward its English heritage with earthy, European hops. That brought my idea into full focus.
I wanted to create an experience that highlighted the blackberry, but also paid respect to its humble beginnings in the earth. The black of the porter provided the hat tip to the earth and the berry alike. The slightly purple hue in the head gave the reminder. The fuggles and kent goldings gave it those earthy tones for the earth. The aroma and the finish left no doubt: this was all about the blackberries.
Black Mamba Recipe
- O.G: 1.066
- F.G: 1.018
- Abv: 6% (Base Beer)
- Efficiency: 75%
- IBU: 19.8
- 7.5 lbs English Pale Malt
- 3.75 lbs Caramel 60L
- 1lb Chocolate Malt
- 1oz East Kent Goldings @ 60min
- 1oz Fuggles @ 5min
- London Ale III (Wyeast #1318)
- Blackberry Puree (I used 3lbs fresh blackberries and pureed them)
- 8oz Light Candi Sugar (This gives a little extra body as fruit can ferment dry)
- Blackberry Essence (You can find this in the wine section)
- Crush grain and Mash at 152F for 60 minutes, then sparge.
- Boil 60 minutes, adding hops as above.
- Chill to 68F and pitch yeast. Ferment at 68F.
- Ferment to FG, or until yeast is dormant.
- Heat blackberry puree to sanitize and melt candi sugar into the puree.
- Transfer porter to secondary and add blackberry puree.
- The fruit/sugar combination will get that yeast back to going full fury.
- Allow to sit in secondary until fermentation stops again.
When you transfer to your bottling bucket or keg, you will find it missing that full blackberry aroma. Use a very small amount (we didn't measure, but start with just a cap full) of the blackberry essence and stir in. Sample and add more to your liking. A cap full was pretty dead on for us.
A word of warning…
The first time I brewed this, I didn't let the blackberries ferment all the way out. The keg was amazing! The bottles, however, are a different story. I've never actually seen a beer gush out of a bottle before this first batch. At room temp, one bottle shot three feet in the air! I can't emphasize enough, let that secondary ferment finish.