Bottling day! Herbal Brown

This was a deliberate freestyle mess from the very beginning, and after three weeks in the fermenter I finally bottled it up and had a chance to taste it. It’s good! Dryer than I expected (this keeps happening…I need to quit babystepping with my malt and just get a drum of it) and pleasantly herb-y. Unfortunately I can’t really post a full recipe, since I made so many side-trips, but here’s an approximation:

All-In Herbal Brown Ale

First: boil two gallons of water. Turn off the burner and dump in anywhere from a few pinches to a few ounces of these things, dry or fresh, mixed to your taste:

Sage, mint (any kind), lavender, citrus peel (any), chopped ginger root, apple peel/apple slices

Put a lid on it and let it cool off while you do everything else. Put it in the fridge if you have room. Just leave the herbs in to steep, they don’t mind. I used one to two ounces of everything and my brew was about as strong as a normal cup of herbal tea. An herbier brew will make an herbier beer: freestyle.

Take an unremarkable 5-gallon recipe for brown ale. Any will do, subtle differences will not be important by the time you’re done. Use a quarter of the hops called for. Proceed as normal, and chill wort.

Plop the chilled wort into your fermenter. Strain the herbal mix in. Top up to 5 gal if necessary, and pitch your yeast. Bottle in 2-3 weeks and rejoice!

So that’s what just came out of the carboy this morning. Tried it with lunch and it’s really good with spicy food. Also with sharp cheese–it cuts the spice and the milkfat really well and the herbs perk up your mouth. I’m going to give it a couple of weeks to bottle-condition and then rig up a peppery beef stew to go with it.

Here’s some action shots, including a moody noir close-up of the priming sugar waking the yeast back up:

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7 thoughts on “Bottling day! Herbal Brown

  1. Ben Messina says:

    Very interesting – Where are you getting your ideas? I love what you’re doing so far.

    • brewingape says:

      I scrape bits and pieces off the internet and I like a lot of things from “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers”, even if the author’s a complete jackass.

      You probably know how it is to be minding your own business when your eye falls on something and your brain yells YOU COULD TOTALLY BREW WITH THAT (and then you have to look up if it’ll kill you).

  2. Matt Spaanem says:

    Why not just add the herbs to your wort boil?

    • brewingape says:

      Concerns about volatility. Sometimes good (mead) sometimes not so good (here). Mint, lavender, and sage are all pretty essential-oil heavy and I wanted minimal evaporation with maximum freshness of flavor.

      • Ben Messina says:

        I had this thought as well – It seems like if you were to get too much evaporation on the herbs they might come out tasting medicinal. That was my thought, at least.

      • Matt Spaanem says:

        add them at flameout?

      • brewingape says:

        Could do, certainly! I also like the separate-pot method because you can make the herbal decoction as strong as you want and adjust the herbalness of the beer to your taste by adding more or less–once you’ve got a standard mix that you want to repeat, wouldn’t do any harm to pitch them right in.

        …although, having said that, now I’m wondering if the quantity of dissolved material already in the wort would mean less extraction from the herbs? Probably ought to experiment with that and see how it goes.

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