Licorice Ale

** I would like to begin this post with an apology to everyone other than those involved with this blog that may be reading these sets of publications. You’re buddies here at Beers for Breakfast totally dropped the ball, and stop posting for a few months. We all promise to post as we were before; semi-consistently and hopefully somewhat interesting. Thanks ya’ll.**

DSC_0004Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a plant deeply entwined with early European folklore and has enjoyed many centuries of use as a choice medicinal plant. The roots contain an array of chemical compounds which impose a positive influence on the liver as well as strengthen and regulate the digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. The roots are also anti-spasmodic, mildly pain-releaving and have wonderfully soothing and healing capabilities.

Most of us know of licorice not as a therapeutic herb, but as the flavouring for those black rubberoid candies. Although it’s true that licorice was used as a sweetener centuries ago in traditional Europe, the flavouring used in those candies is derived from extracts of anise (Pimpinella anisum) or fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), two unrelated plants. Licorice root is palatable and incredibly sweet, much unlike the sour-tanginess of anise or fennel.

Licorice root also has a long history of being an ingredient in beer. It was added in generous quantaties to porters and stouts to make them thicker, darker and produce a longer lasting head. Also, The sugars that are contained in licorice cannot be digested by the yeast, and therefore linger in the beer after it has fermented and provide a glamorous and unusual sweetness that is like nothing else.

So why not make a beer with licorice, seeing how medicinally valuable it is and how agreeable it seems to be with enhancing some important qualities in beer? Sure. Sound’s good. I made this 3 gallon batch with liquid amber malt extract, hops I collected growing wild along a bike trail just outside the town of Lindsay, and a few chunks of whole licorice root. The only issue I had with producing this one was that it didn’t ferment initially. I must have pitched the yeast into the wort when it was still too warm, thereby killing all my yeast buddies. After adding the yeast a second time I saw successful fermentation starting.

Because of that, you can definitely taste the yeast in this beer. But it’s fine. Besides that, I really like everything else about it. The color is amber, as one would expect when using amber malt, and quite cloudy. The texture is smooth, soft and creamy; aroma intensely sweet with some dried apricots but overall uniquely that of licorice root. The flavour is fascinating; faintly malty with a possible overdose of floral, earthy sweetness. Pour this one rather slow, so as to not be overwhelmed with head. At 6.5%, this super-sweet treat is quite a bit to handle. I am definitely going to let a couple of these boys sit for a few years and see what this might turn into.

westerberg2

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One Response

  1. […] since my Licorice Ale was ready about a week ago, I had my eyes set on producing another homebrew. Best not to run out of […]

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