Chamomile Ale Review

Woah, I am really surprised by this one. Considering that it was my first attempt brewing beer at home using less than ideal equipment, I was sort of expecting a complete bomb but this really turned out to be quite good. Just as a reminder, this beer is made with unfiltered tap water, brown sugar, ginger root slices, dried chamomile blossoms and un-bittered brewery’s yeast. So in all honesty, this creation can’t legitimately be called beer because it contains no malt or hops. I don’t know what you would call this. I call it great.

This beer, adopted from an 18th century recipe, has an apricot color and is quite cloudy.The flavour is quite yeasty and a direct result from my inadequate straining methods (perhaps cheese cloth isn’t the greatest) but I sort of like it. Too often people forget that yeast has it’s own bitter and hearty flavour that could contribute quite a  bit of complexity to a beer. So, I’m glad that I didn’t strain it properly. Initially, there was a lot of carbonation that forms a light soda pop like fizz which quickly dissipates to a slow tangy hum on the tounge.

I feel like I should have added more ginger than I did, because you can’t really taste any zing. Although, it is possible that the flavours of Chamomile and ginger compliment each other so well that they blend together indestinguishably. I don’t know what’s really happening though. The sugar I knew would produce a cider-like sweetness, and this makes the beer (if it can even be called beer) light and summery. I should have tried making this beer next month, then it would have been the perfect temperature outside to enjoy it.

The level of Chamomile flavour in this is perfect. It it is fresh, bitter and explosively floral. Might be too strange for some palates, but I think it is really, really good. I’m satisfied with how this turned out, and I might try an adaptation of this recipe again sometime soon. Growler brewing has been a successfully experience, mostly. I know now that sterilization is a pretty big deal. I made 1.9L ofthis beer in total, but half of it developed some strange, white film on the top of while it was fermenting in a clear glass jar (I put a garbage bag over it to keep it out of the light, but that did nothing). I actually tried the brew to see if it was still alright, but it tasted like death. I really need to get a hold of some sanitizer for my next patch, because I kind of don’t want to see that happen again. Chamomile is naturally anti-bacterial, but apparently not as anti-fungal as would have been appreciated.

Cool stuff. Not sure what I am going to make next, but I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

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4 Responses

  1. This is a cool brew! You’ve got my interest in using herbs in beer – I think I might try something unusual soon.

    Sanitation of everything after the boil is super important. Do yourself a favour and get some StarSan, which is the best no-rinse sanitizer. You can put a little bit in a spray bottle with water and you are good to go. Just spray everything, including yourself, and you should be safe from infections.

    But, if your in a pinch and can’t get the good stuff you can try this:

    A mixture ratio of 1 oz distilled white vinegar to 5 gallons of water is thoroughly mixed, and then 1 oz of house hold bleach is added only after the vinegar is diluted in the water will work perfectly. This high dilution of the vinegar in the water before the bleach is added prevents any out-gassing of chlorine from the bleach that is added at the end. The vinegar actually helps the bleach work as a better sanitizer due to acidifying the solution more. The high dilution also means it leaves no residual tastes behind of bleach or vinegar, making it a perfect “cheap” no-rise sanitizer.

    ******BE SUPER CAREFULL IF YOU TRY THIS!!! FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS 100%. IF YOU MIX BLEACH AND VINEGAR DIRECTLY YOU WILL CREATE CLORINE GAS WHICH CAN KILL YOU!!!*************

    I vote for StarSan because there is no chance of it killing you if you mix it wrong.

  2. Sounds pretty delish. I would love to try it.

    I use metabisulfite for sanitiser. Just go to a local brew-store for some food-safe sanitiser.

  3. Sweet, I would like the chance of accidentally killing myself when making beer. Starsan sounds like the better idea. Can I get some around here or is it better to get it online?

  4. Around here, yeah, but you might have to call around a bit. Any home brew store should have it (not nickel brook). There is a place called Brew Time in Hamilton (on Centennial, near Barton) and Canadian Homebrew Supplies in Mississauga (where I go – it has literally everything imaginable). Canadian Homebrew Supplies has a great website and they do ship for a reasonable rate.

    StarSan is the best stuff as its easy, safe, fast acting and no-rinse. Sodium Metabisulphite is another type of sanitizer, which is readily available at an Wine Kitz or Wine making store (nickel brook included), but this stuff has some issues. Here is what I found on a brew wiki:

    “Sodium Met is slow to act and often used ineffectively. To use it properly, dissolve the sodium metabisulfite in the correct amount of water, as directed by the instructions, rinse all surfaces with the solution and allow to air dry. Drying is essential because this is when the sodium metabisulfite does its thing. It does not kill bacteria outright but it inhibits the growth of wild yeast. The fumes are highly irritating (particularly to asthmatics) and should not be inhaled.”

    I have inhaled this stuff (I started with this stuff before I got StarSan) and its gives you a wicked headache. In small quantities its okay to be in your final product, but it does take a few months to fully dissipate. Drinking too much of this stuff can cause headaches and allergies to some. Waiting for this stuff to dry is also annoying, it takes something like up to 5 minutes to sanitize a surface. StarSan kills bacteria and works immediately on contact – just spray and go.

    You can probably get metabisulphite easier since there are so many Wine making stores around, but I would definitely recommend ordering StarSan if you can’t get to a homebrew store.

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