Outside the Hops: Chamomile Beer

Outside the Hops: Chamomile Ale

Inspired once again by the poetically profound and leucrative book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, I have developed a slight adaptation from one the featured recipes. This is the first time I have tried making a beer entirely out of my own ingredients and with my own supplies, so I am pretty excited for the end result. Of course, I am going with something wacky on my first try which might not be the smartest idea but is definitely going to make for an interesting product.

Ingredients:

After making a few minor changes to the recipe found within the book, this is the final that I decided would be best. It is designed to fit into a 1.9 litre growler that I have available, but obviously the ingredients could just be scaled up to encorporate another larger container.

1.9 litres water
0.5 pounds brown sugar
4.5 ounces Chamomile flowers
handful of ginger root, thinly sliced
some lemon juice (I subsequently forgot to add this, but I intended to)
some brewing yeast

Why Chamomile? I mainly decided to go with this recipe because I had quite a bit of Chamomile at the time. Although, Chamomile is one of the more common herbal remedies that has survived into modern popularity. It is a well known sleep aid, inviting relaxation and calming anxiety, stress, restlessness and insomnia. It is also great for soothing muscle tention, headaches, and is in general a mild nerve and digestive tonic that suppresses the nervous system. Therefore, in a beer Chamomile would make an excellent nightcap, a perfect way to end the evening. The addition of Ginger was my idea, believing that the two flavours would go together. Ginger will hopefully strengthen the digestive qualities of this beer and add great zing.

Materials and Methods:

The first step was to boil the 4 ounces of Chamomile in the water for 1 hour. I didn’t have (but plan to purchase) a pot large enough to fit 1.9 litres of water, so instead a split up the 4 ounces of Chamomile between 2 smaller pots that together would hold the 1.9 litres. After bringing both pots to a comfortable and steady boil, I added the 2 ounces of Chamomile flowers to each pot. I then threw in a handful of ginger, thinly sliced. I covered both of the pots and let them simmer for around 1 hour. Note: Your house will smell amazing for the entire duration of boiling the flowers and ginger and for a good while afterwards.

After boiling the herbs was complete, I thoroughly washed a colander, large roasting pot and it’s accompanying lid thoroughly with soap and water. It was a bit interesting using these odd utensils for the purpose of making this beer, but whatever, it was all I had and it ended up working fine. So, I strained the chamomile and ginger ‘tea’ through the colander into the roasing pot. This removed all by the finest of plant material (I don’t mind if there a few petals floating around in the finished product). Then, I added the 1/2 pound of brown sugar and stirred the entire mixture with a clean metal spoon until the sugar was thoroughly dissolved.

Next, the wort needed to cool to around room temperature. I placed the lid on the roasing pot and left it in the coolest corner of my apartment. It took about 2 hours to cool to just above room temperature, which I found to be surprisingly fast. It was now time to begin the fermentation process. After cleaning an air-lock, a cork and a growler (from Peterborough’s Publican House Brewpub) I poured the beer into the growler, pitched about 2 tablesspoons of brewing yeast into the growler and sealed it. It is now resting ontop of my fridge and will remain there until complete. (The recipe in the book did not provide a length of time when fermentation would be finished)

Results

For the first day, I was worried I that I might not have put in enough yeast because nothing seemed to be happening. It turned out that the yeast just needed about a day to become active, and are now feeding ferociously on the brown sugar suspended in the wort. The yeast are displaying a tell tale convection current within the wort, individual colonies are rising on one side of the growler and decending on the other. Unless I messed up and didn’t sanitize everything properly (all I had was soap and water) then I am sure this will be a good one.

From the last beer that I brewed at the 61 Elgin St. Bakery and Brewhouse, I have a good idea what a beer brewed with brown sugar tastes like. It usually comes out resembling a dry cider, so I figured a gentle, floral flavour such as Chamomile and a light spice like ginger would be incredible compliments for a brown sugar ale. Now it’s time to play the waiting game and see how this recipe turns out.

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6 Responses

  1. Shitty.

    Also, save me some.

  2. Very interesting! Growler brewing is a pretty good idea. Are you just going to cap this growler and let it carbonate on its own? Or are you going to transfer it to another growler?

    Tom, you should experiment with oatmeal. It will add a silky and thicker body to the brew which can help ease some of the cidery dryness of fermenting sugar.

  3. Nice… is this coming to Burlington with you??

  4. I know a number of people who have brewed in growlers with some excellent results! I have another growler, a larger one, that I might transfer the fermented beer into primed with some sugar to allow it to carbonate. I have no idea how long this recipe will take to ferment, I am leaning towards maybe a week or two? I am counting one bubble every ten seconds or so in the airlock, so it is still going strong for now.

    Depending on when it is ready, it may be coming to Burlington. I am hoping it will be finished by not this coming week but next weekend, as it will be the last day of the semester for me and all of my friends are having mad parties, yo. I only brewed a little bit, so if anyone does not get to try it this time around I will definitely be making this recipe again as long as it is a winner.

  5. Ah yes, sounds delicious.

  6. […] by a bright, sweet, and lively malt character, which judging by the art, leads me to believe is a hint of chamomile, some bready malts, and some wheat undertone. If I hadn’t just brewed Sam Calagione’s […]

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