Open the Door to Blackberry Wine

-Ben Holm 3.9.24

A basket of blackberries, a couple of empty wine bottles, and a glass of red wine, set against the warm ambiance of a kitchen and a serene pastoral view through the open window. This image captures the essence and joy of home wine making, centered on the raw ingredients and the delightful anticipation of the finished wine.

Free for the picking, blackberry wine is the perfect way to start your own winemaking journey. Every year, a free bounty is begging to be made into wine. When the topic of home winemaking bubbles up in conversation, grapes usually steal the spotlight. After all, saunter into any wine shop, and you’re greeted by shelves sagging under the weight of bottles filled with Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet. But what if I told you that the winemaking world extends far beyond the grapevine into the lush realms of the everyday garden variety fruits? Yes, including the humble Blackberry.

The Unexplored Avenues of Fruit Wines

The art of home winemaking has evolved significantly, making it a breeze for enthusiasts to craft exquisite wines from affordable, garden-variety fruits. These aren’t your granddad’s back-shed brews; we’re talking about apple wines that dance on the palate with the complexity of a $20 Sauvignon Blanc and berry wines that stand up to a flat iron steak as boldly as any grocery store Syrah.

Making wine from fruits like blackberries follows the same foundational process as using grapes, with a few tweaks here and there to ensure the final product sings with flavor.

The Blackberry Wine Ballet

Imagine taking plump, juicy blackberries and transforming them into a wine so rich and flavorful that it surprises even the maker. The process begins with determining the right amount of fruit per gallon, adjusting sugar levels, and fine-tuning the juice’s acidity. Though it sounds like a high-wire act, it’s quite straightforward and requires minimal time. The real magic lies in the creativity and personal touch you bring to the process.

How Much Fruit Do You Need?

You’d typically start with about 15-20 pounds of fruit for 5 gallons of blackberry wine. 2 to 4 pounds per gallon if you’re starting small. This is, of course, just a guideline. The beauty of home winemaking lies in the ability to customize. Want your blackberry wine to have the robustness of a dessert wine? Feel free to add more fruit. Prefer something lighter? Reduce the fruit amount accordingly.

The process of fermenting blackberry wine is akin to conjuring a potion. It involves letting the fruit pulp mingle with the juice during the initial stages of fermentation, unlocking the deep colors, complex flavors, and stabilizing elements that give the wine its character and longevity.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

Adjusting the sugar level is more than a mere step; it’s an opportunity to infuse your wine with a unique touch. Whether you choose cane sugar, corn sugar, or even honey for a hint of floral notes, each choice adds a new dimension to your wine. 2 ¼ lb per gallon should get you into the 1.090-1.095 range on your hydrometer. 

The Acid Test

Balancing acidity is crucial in winemaking, affecting taste and fermentation. There is a reason we squeeze a lime on our tacos. The acid makes it taste better. Simple tools like pH strips or a titration kit ensure your blackberry wine has just the right amount of zing, making it taste naturally fruity and utterly delicious. Start with ½ tsp per gallon of an acid blend if that is outside your range. 

Artful Additives

A century of study has given us, as home winemakers, a slate of products our grandparents would have loved to play with. Most of what we do is about mitigating what we know happens in our wines. Pectic Enzyme will help increase the juice yield by breaking down cell walls. This will also reduce haze in the finished product. Hazy wines are not yet a thing. Nutrient blends provide more availability to our yeast than the handful of raisins or banana peels ever could. Biologically, yeast needs nutrition, just like us. When we are malnourished, our performance lags. So, too, can yeast. A long fermentation is often screaming for nutrition. Off-flavor development is another concern. Malnutrition can cause stress for our yeast, and when yeasts are upset, you will taste it. 

Blackberry Wine: The Final Pour

After the fermentation magic concludes, you’re not just left with wine; you’re left with a canvas. This is where you get to play, adjusting the sweetness, experimenting with blends, or even adding spices to elevate your blackberry wine from great to unforgettable. If you want to read more on backsweeting, check out this article I wrote for a previous issue. Back Sweeting Wine

Sweetening the wine to taste can significantly enhance its fruity character. A dash of sugar can bring out the berry’s natural flavors, while a sprinkle of creativity in spices or oak chips can add complexity. Be sure to stabilize your wine before adding sugar. Self-emptying bottles only sounds like a good idea.

Tie a Ribbon on it. 

Embarking on the journey of blackberry winemaking opens the door to a world where creativity and science meet. It’s a delightful adventure that rewards you with a bottle of wine and a story to share. So, why not dive into the vibrant world of fruit wines, where blackberries await to be transformed into your next homemade masterpiece? Cheers to the joy of winemaking, where every sip tells the tale of a journey from berry to bottle.

Ready to get started? A 1-gallon fruit wine starter kit is available. You pick the fruit and we have the rest for $59.99.

Want the recipe? https://www.nwbrewers.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/Blackberry-Wine-Recipe.pdf)

Brewing Up a Zesty Twist: A Lemon Forward Cream Ale

Get the Recipe

The first beer of the season packs a lot of flavor with a lemony taste that lingers on your tongue. Like a burst of sunshine, lemon-forward flavors are made using the Lemondrop and Hallertau Blanc hops. Perfect for the lawn mowing season, this beer may inspire you to get out and trim your lawn so that you can reward yourself with a refreshing afternoon drink.

Zesting Things Up: Enter Lemondrop and Hallertau Blanc

Now, let’s zest things up a bit! Our mission is to infuse this traditional brew with a strong lemon presence, and having used both in recent brews, we went with Lemondrop and Hallertau Blanc. With its bright citrus notes reminiscent of the candy that shares its name, Lemondrop brings a sunny, lemony zing to the mix. On the other hand, Hallertau Blanc adds layers of fruit and lemongrass aromas with a hint of white wine grapes. 

Brewing the Sunshine: The Lemon-Infused Cream Ale Recipe

Crafting this lemony Cream Ale is like painting with flavors; each ingredient adds a stroke of genius. We start with a simple selection of American pale malts and a touch of Vienna malt to add to the structure, flaked corn to introduce that signature sweet undertone, and flaked rice to keep this beer crisp and dry.  Then, come our star hops—Lemondrop for that punchy lemon flavor appropriate to its name,  and Hallertau Blanc for a touch of elegance.

A Look Through Time

Historically, Cream Ales were fermented with top-fermenting ale yeast and cold-loving bottom-fermenting lager yeasts brewed at warmer temperatures. For this beer, we ferment at the sweet spot of 65° F with Wyeast 2112 yeast,  ensuring a clean and crisp base that lets our lemony hops shine without tight temperature controls.  The result? It’s a refreshing and complex beer with layers of flavors that unfold with each sip.

We pitched half of the 10-gallon batch for a variation with the Philly Sour Strain from Llalemand. This strain creates lactic acid without contaminating your gear like many lactic-producing bacteria. The first taste at racking tasted like a Lemon Shandy. 

The Final Pour

Imagine cracking open a bottle of this lemon-inspired cream ale after the chore of spring mowing season.  The aroma of lemon zest greets you with a refreshing and intriguing taste. This beer is light yet flavorful, with a crisp finish that begs for another sip. This is not just a beer; it’s a celebration of the return of the Sun.
So there you have it, folks—a Cream Ale with a lemony twist that’s as fun to brew as it is to drink. Whether you’re a seasoned brewer or a curious newbie, “This recipe is a tribute to the pleasure of creating something different.” So why wait? Gather your hops, fire up the kettle, and let’s brew a batch of sunshine! Cheers to creativity and spring and to a Cream Ale that’s anything but ordinary.

Get the recipe at https://www.nwbrewers.com/seasonal-beer-kits/.

Available as a kit for a limited time. All-Grain $36.99 and Extract $49.99

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