Yes, I have returned to hard lemonade. No shame in my brew game. This time, I brewed the lemonade for one of my favorite hip hop super producers, Lazerbeak of the legendary Doomtree crew. I’m going to see Doomtree on their All Hands Tour in Philly on Friday and I plan to bring a twelve pack of this stuff to share with them. I’ve been planning this ever since I missed their Philly stop on the No Kings Tour a few years ago due to work.
Lazerbeak is not only the super producer, he is also more or less in charge of public relations for the band because of his weekly Tuesday’s With Lazerbeak blog on doomtree.net. It is from that blog that I know that he’s a long time devotee of Mike’s Hard Raspberry Lemonade. With all due modesty, I must admit that I’ve always thought that I could do better with a homebrewed raspberry hard lemonade. Well, I’m finally putting my private opinion to the test with this fine alcoholic beverage.
On brew day, I mixed six pounds of sugar with five gallons of water to get an OG of 1.050. I added six cups of lemon juice. Last time I posted about one of my batches of hard lemonade, I mentioned that I was considering waiting until after fermentation to add the lemon juice. I decided to just add some instead. The lemon juice drops the pH of the liquid below the optimal range for the yeast, making fermentation more difficult. If the fermentation does work out, it seems to blow out a lot of the flavor, anyway. I didn’t want to totally shock the yeast afterwards, as I planned to carbonate this stuff. That is how I came to this decision.
Since even the smaller amount of lemon juice made for a less than ideal situation for fermentation, I decided the use the staggered yeast nutrient method I previously used on Amy and Mitch’s Third Anniversary Mead. I added the nutrient, energizer and two packets of wine yeast and then set the fermenter somewhere warm (under my desk), and let the fermentation run its course.
Once the active fermentation died down, I checked the gravity. It was down to .995 so I added fifty ounces of frozen raspberries, ten cups of Splenda and six more cups of lemon juice. That was the low end of how much Splenda and lemon juice I thought it would take. I decided to add this stuff with the fruit, a week before bottling, so that I would have more time to taste test. I find that after a couple samples, my palate is pretty shot and blending becomes inconsistent.
As soon as I sampled the lemonade, I knew it needed more Splenda and more lemon juice, but I waited. A week later, I racked the lemonade off the raspberries and onto four more cups of Splenda and six more cups of lemon juice, plus a four ounce bottle of Brewer’s Best Raspberry Flavoring.
I was afraid that I’d overdone the Splenda, but I gave Amy a sample and she said it was still too tart. I took this into consideration and added some clearing agent before tucking the carboy away for a another couple days before bottling.
Once the clearing agent had done its work, I racked the lemonade again, onto two more cups of Splenda this time, and started bottling. I used my usual sugar cube method to bottle condition. I wasn’t sure if the lemonade would carbonate, between the acidity and clearing agent. Even if it doesn’t, the extra sugar in this already sweet concoction won’t hurt. I have already opened a couple bottles and gotten a light pop, about a week after bottling, so I’m hopeful that some crisp carbonation will form soon and make this even more refreshing.
I’m very happy with how this turned out. It is not my style and I struggled with the decision to add as much Splenda and lemon juice as I did because it just sounds like too much. I’m glad that I broke up the additions and that I enlisted Amy to show me the need to sweeten the deal that last little bit.
Now the bad news. Lazerbeak is not actually coming along with the rest of Doomtree on the All Hands Tour. I was excited to interact with him via Twitter after being disappointed by this news. He told me that I should entrust the lemonade to his fellow International Touring DJ, Paper Tiger. Lazerbeak is flying out for the show in New York next week and Paper Tiger is apparently the man to trust in keeping the rest of the group from drinking all of the hard lemonade before Beak arrives.
I will try to update on the situation after I have given my package of Legend Recognize Legend to the band and hopefully gotten some kind of feedback. For now, the simplified recipe, summing up all additions into total numbers is below. I’m not sure how much, if any difference the drawn out process above changed the final character.
Legend Recognize Legend
5 gallons water
6 pounds cane sugar
18 cups lemon juice
16 cups Splenda
50 oz frozen raspberries
4 oz raspberry flavoring
2 packets wine yeast + nutrient and energizer
ABV: 6% (adjusted for added lemon juice)