Making the perfect persimmon beer
Bloomington Brewing Company's Nick Banks shares his persimmon beer recipe for beginning brewers.
Nick Banks’ two-car garage is a veritable brewhouse with seven homemade beers on tap at a time. Banks, now a brewer at Bloomington Brewing Company, was making beer at home for five years before turning pro. “Every time I tried a great beer,” he says, “I wanted to see what was making that flavor.”
When he was hired at Bloomington Brewing Company, Banks says owner Jeff Mease came to him with the idea of a beer that uses the uniquely Southern Indiana persimmon fruit. Banks had made apricot and cherry beers before but had never tried persimmon. He researched the fruit online and made a test batch in his garage before taking the final recipe to the brewery.
He says the beer has “a great balance between the delicate taste of the persimmon, spices and the actual beer itself.” He was surprised at how sour the persimmon was when he first tried it, so he designed a blonde ale to complement the flavor. “I don’t want it to be a liquid persimmon drink,” Banks says.
Banks adapted his persimmon ale recipe for beginning brewers. He says novice homebrewers should take notes on their batches so they can improve their brewing skills. “It’s a whole other world you can go off into,” Banks says. “It’s art meets science.”
Tasting the perfect beer
Tasting beer can be intimidating for the casual drinker but these three easy steps will help you find the perfect beer for your palate.
LOOK — Before doing anything else, take a look at your beer. Hold it up to the light. Is it thick or clear? Light or dark? Red? Golden? Dark brown? What kind of head (carbonation) does the beer have? These can all be clues to what kind of beer you’re going to taste.
SMELL — The nose is arguably one of the most important parts of a good beer. The smell of a beer has a lot to do with what flavors we ultimately taste. Give it a swirl in the glass to open up the beer, then take a good whiff. What kind of floral notes are there? Is there a malty smell from roasted grains? Is the smell especially fruity?
TASTE — Taste can come in many ways. Is the beer malty or hoppy (bitter)? Are there floral notes? Some beers, like the persimmon beer Banks makes, will have a fruity taste. Others will take notes of additives like vanilla, chocolate or even bourbon. These specialty flavors often come from the later stages of beer-making.
Nick’s Persimmon Ale
5 gallon batch size
Original gravity: 1.055
1 large brew kettle (at least 8 gallons)
1 muslin bag
1 five-gallon carboy for fermenting
Glass bottles or kegging equipment
1 pound Briess caramel malt grains (crushed)
6 pounds gold malt syrup
1 pound Briess golden light dry malt extract
1 ounce Cascade hops
1 ounce cinnamon
1 ounce nutmeg
1 pound persimmon pulp
1 packet Wyeast 1056 American Ale liquid yeast or Safale US-05 dry ale yeast.
Start with six gallons of water, which you’ll ultimately boil down to five gallons. Bring water to 170 degrees. Add crushed grains in muslin bag for 20 minutes at 170 degrees, then remove. Heat water to a rolling boil. Remove from burner and add six pounds of malt syrup and the one-pound of DME. Stir until the extract is well dissolved into the liquid. Return pot to burner and bring to boil. Add one ounce of Cascade hops and boil for 60 minutes. Turn off the burner and add persimmon pulp, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Cool to 68 degrees and transfer to fermenter along with activated yeast. Make sure to add an airlock and keep the fermenter as close to 68 degrees as possible. The persimmon is another sugar source for the yeast to eat so it may be a very active fermentation. A blow off tube into a bucket of water can help with active yeast. After two weeks in the fermenter, transfer the beer to another vessel and allow it to clear for two more weeks. Finally, transfer to bottles or keg for carbonation before chilling and serving.