Let’s get this question out of the way. Honey beers can be sweet, but not always. Honey’s carbohydrates are more than 95% fermentable and adding honey early in the brewing process will yield a product with no residual sweetness.
The strength of the honey flavor in honey beer depends upon four major factors: the stage of the brewing process at which the honey is added, the type of beer, the quantity of honey used and the type of honey used.
Since honey is 95% fermentable, most of the sweetness in honey will be lost unless added at later stages in the boil. If you want a subtle honey flavor, add honey between 10 to 30 minutes left in the boil. To best preserve the aromatics of honey and obtain a stronger honey flavor, pre-process honey at low temperatures and add it at the end of the kettle boil so it is exposed to high temperatures for a minimal amount of time.
The benefits of adding honey during these brewing stages include a stronger honey flavor and a boost in gravity. Honey also will help lighten the body of the brew and raise the ABV.
Honey added at this stage will provide a strong honey flavor and help soften any bitter notes in the beer.
Honey will provide carbonation after bottling and also impart a strong honey flavor. If using honey in this manner, it’s recommended to boil honey in a water solution, pour the solution into the bottom of the bottling bucket and rack beer on top.
The National Honey Board has conducted extensive research on brewing with honey. Download our complete research whitepaper here!