If any of our beers deserves its own entire blog post, it is the Pineapple Pale Ale. No other beer has brought us as much hype, joy, and frustration.
Let’s start at the beginning: back in 2015 when Chad and I were just homebrewers, we were trying to come up with something new and interesting. What would pair well with all the fruity, citrusy hop flavors that were becoming so popular? In particular, we had just received a sample of Azacca hops from the American Homebrew Association. It was a new, “experimental” hop variety that they sent out to homebrewers across the country to try out. A quick google search told us that these hops would yield us refreshing aromas of tropical fruits like mango, papaya, and pineapple, along with citrus/grapefruit. What flavor would mesh well with Azacca? The noble pineapple, one of my very favorite fruits, sounded perfect.
We brewed the beer with Chinook, Galaxy, and Citra hops in the boil and whirlpool, and dry-hopped with a ton of Azacca. After fermentation, we cooled the beer and added cut-up and frozen pineapple. The pineapple addition increased the amount of sugar in the beer significantly, and seemed to kick off fermentation again, even when refrigerated. This was the first hint that it would be a tricky beer. However, when we brought the finished beer to our homebrewing club, we were met with rave reviews. It was the best-received beer we had ever brewed! We knew we were on to something at that point.
We brewed the beer again and decided to enter it into the National Homebrew Competition, where we got 3rd place at the regional level in the fruited beer category. The judges all loved the flavor, but our scores were marked down because the bottles we sent gushed when opened. The sugar added by the pineapple was enough to keep the yeast going, and the carbonation continued to increase in the bottles. We were pretty happy with any kind of ribbon, but this was the second indication that the pineapple would give us some issues.
When we started brewing the pineapple pale ale at Dimes, we ordered a pallet-full of pineapple puree from Oregon Fruits. We had to adjust the recipe a bit, since Galaxy hops are pretty hard to find these days. We still used Chinook and Citra in the boil and whirlpool, and all Azacca for dry hopping. After fermentation, we added the pineapple puree, and then we transferred to a brite tank in our cooler to carbonate. Of course, this beer likes to keep self-carbonating even when cold, due to the sugar from the chunky pineapple puree. The puree was making the beer so pulpy that it was plugging the tap lines, so we added a filter between the tank and the tap, which led to a lot of seriously annoying foaming issues.
This picture just makes us think of foam… grr.
And that’s the way we made this beer for a few batches. Chad talked to some other brewers about using fruit in beer, and most of them told him that they either just serve the beer pulpy, or they use a concentrate instead of a puree. People were gaga over this beer. It became our most popular offering for a few months.
Over the next few batches we went from 100% Azacca dry hop to 50/50 Azacca + Citra dry hop. This brought out more fruity flavors, and reduced the sharp grapefruit rind flavor (which was not unpleasant, it just wasn’t what we were going for). Perhaps the most significant change we made was in the process, not the recipe: we started to strain out the pulp after fermentation, ahead of transferring it to the cooler and carbonating it.
This process is SUPER LABOR INTENSIVE. Chad hates doing it. It takes AT LEAST 4 hours of continuously monitoring the pump and repeatedly emptying the strainer of hop gunk and pineapple pulp. The filter must be purged with CO2 and pasteurized with 170 degree water in between each cycle to keep the beer sanitary and avoid oxidation.
The straining process removes a significant amount of solids (hop and pineapple gunk), but the holes are pretty big so it’s not quite a filter.
Strainer is in the middle, CO2 line on the left, hot water inlet on the bottom left (white hose), return line to the tank on lower right, and air purge opening on the right.
Baby taking a li’l nap to the soothing sounds of a running pump.
We tried to skip this exhausting straining step with the last batch we did in the fall of 2018. Instead we just let the beer sit for longer in the fermenter, and slowly dumped sediment out of bottom of tank. It was WAY easier. But… the finished beer just wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as hazy, and it seemed to lose a lot of the fruity character. Our best guess is that the straining not only removes pulp and hop material, but also breaks it up and mixes some of it into suspension, giving the beer that nice pineapply tropical haze. Our last batch was missing that, because we apparently dumped a lot of the pulp out the bottom of the tank.
All of this brings us to NOW. We went back to the exact same method as our batch back in July ’18, which we had noted in our brewlog as “the best batch yet.” So we are back to doing the straining method. Chad still hates doing it, but for now it is the best way to get the flavor we want. The pineapple pale ale will be back on tap this Saturday, hazy and hoppy like it used to be. The pineapple flavor isn’t really in-your-face, but then again, this beer has always been a pale ale first and foremost, with just that nice hint of pineapple. In light of this beer’s high cost of ingredients, and all the headaches and the time and labor that our brewers put into this beer, we have decided that we need to raise the price on this beer just a bit – from $5.00 for a standard pour up to $5.50. Hopefully that 50 cent increase won’t mean much to you, but we know it will mean a lot to us. So, this Saturday, we present the new (old) Pineapple Pale, which we are finally christening with a name, the Pineapalium Pale Ale.