Red Harvest: Brewday AG#1

Red Harvest Watermelon Wheat Beer

1kg wheat malt
1kg lager malt
250g carared

10g Saaz @ 60 mins
10g Saaz @ 10 mins
15g Saaz @ 0 mins

2.6kg watermelon flesh (original weight of melon 3.6kg) @ 0 mins

Wheat yeast
Campden tablet to treat the water

(Brewed on 06/04/14 – Recipe is designed for 10 litre BIAB batch)

The original concept was a melon wheat beer, made with watermelon and galia melon. Two main changes occurred along the way.


Firstly, I pondered the name for a while. I’m a big fan of hardboiled fiction and film noir, so you may come to notice a trend with the way I name my beers. It struck me that Red Harvest, a novel by Dashiell Hammet (author of the Maltese Falcon) sounded good for a wheat beer and I vaguely recalled that red wheat beers are a thing. Not having any red wheat, but some leftover carared from the ruby ale homebrew competition, I decided I would throw some carared into the grain bill to give it a red colour.

Later on, but before brewing the recipe, I learned red wheat is actually a winter variety of wheat; it has more protein, so lends a fuller, richer taste to wheat beer but assumedly with added haze. It isn’t actually red in colour. By this point though it was too late – I wanted Red Harvest to live up to its name. Therefore I threw in the carared I had left over from the ruby ale competition.

The second significant change was the melons. I have the Flavour Thesauraus by Niki Segnit, an excellent book for creating new recipes (intended for cooking but can also be applied to brewing), which states that galia and watermelon pair well. However, after I bought the watermelon and hefted the sucker I realised any more melon would probably be overkill – I took it home and it weighed nearly four kilos. Also there’s cost to consider, the watermelon cost me £4 (reduced from £5!) so I wanted to reign in the expense a little bit.


Two nights before the brewday I hacked up the watermelon, scooping out the flesh from the skin and picking out each seed with the tip of a knife. Then I threw the chunks into a large stockpot, mashed them with a potato masher and gradually heated it up to 73c to pasteurize it. I wanted it pasteurized to kill off any wild bacteria that may exist in the fruit flesh. It also helped turn the large chunks into a soup-like consistency. The soup was then decanted into jars, tubs, whatever, and placed into the freezer – partly to prevent it spoiling before brewday, but also to help further break down the chunks.

fresh from the freezer: 2.6kg of frozen watermelon soup
fresh from the freezer: 2.6kg of frozen watermelon soup

After that, brewday was fairly standard. I aimed for 90 minute mash but failed and stopped at 75 – keeping a BIAB brewpot at consistent mash temperature is a damn pain. The semi-thawed melon was thrown in at flameout and from there it dissolved, with a just a few remaining chunks floating around the brewpot.

The other main change form the norm was the pitching rate – a standard yeast sachet is sufficient for 5 gallons, so I normally halve mine given that my batches are around 2 gallons; however, I didn’t see the need to keep half a wheat yeast sachet hanging around and given all the juicy, sugary watermelon kicking around I figured the pot would be better off with a whole sachet of yeast.

Cooling stage: the addition of the watermelon topped the wort up to a full 10 litres.
Cooling stage: the addition of the watermelon topped the wort up to a full 10 litres.

And that’s that. The OG came out at 1.040, which is at the low end for a wheat beer but clearly the addition of all that watery watermelon will have dropped the OG. Hopefully it’ll come out as a low strength, pleasantly refreshing thirst quencher in time for the summer.


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