Gotlandsdricka – Review

DSC_0073

Juniperus virginiana

There is now absolutely no doubt in my mind as to why this is one of the most famous of old European beer recipes. The adaptive recipe that I followed to produce my own take on this profoundly flavored and legendary beer noted that the finished beer would take about a month to fully carbonate in the bottles. Despite this obvious instruction, I couldn’t help but sample this beer early, and to be honest it was carbonated enough. There wasn’t much of a head, but I’m sure this will improve over time. I also wanted to know if this was going to turn out to be another one of my sweeter recipes (which isn’t bad but on many occasions I was hoping for something bitter) or whether I had indeed added a sufficient amount of non-hop ingredients to sufficiently bitter and flavor the beer.

Turns out I was well rewarded for my impatience, more than rewarded in fact. The 1.3 pounds of freshly harvested juniper (from less than 1.5km away I might add), boiled and then steeped in the fermenting wort have imparted an enormous and completely crazy flavor profile. I’ll try to do my best to describe it.. but you had better swing by and grab yourself a bottle or two to truly appreciated it.

The aroma of this specialty herbal dark ale invigorates with sweet evergreen resins, turpentines and hits of wintergreen, peat and oranges. The flavor is lush with fragrant citrus, accompanied by the almost overwhelming and entirely unique coniferous complexity of juniper. It is overall pleasantly bitter with a lingering, tannin-rich and menthol-like aftertaste.

Considering the purity of this recipe (there are no other ingredients other than malt extract and yeast) this beverage can also be considered a medicinal tonic, as the amounts of juniper distilled into this beer are strong enough to effectively transmit its therapeutic properties. I would consider this recipe an effective digestive stimulant, urinary tract-antiseptic and astringent. Juniper possess potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that cleanse the urinary system and also rid the intestines and colon of undesirable bacteria. The astringency aids in digestion by stimulating the liver and gall-bladder to produce digestive enzymes and also reduces inflammation and swelling.

You can bet that I am going to be re-visiting this recipe. I was having an internal conflict about what I thought my favorite home brew recipes were in my previous post involving the making of Gotlandsdricka but I’m convinced that this recipe trumps them all. Something cleansing, woodsy, wild and untamable. A few bottles are definitely going to be aged for the cold months to come, inevitably, in the future. Might be fun to hop this buddy up and try to convert it into an IPA, but I love it de-hopped, just over-the-top pure juniper; savory and delightfully rich. I wouldn’t change a thing to this base-line recipe.

westerberg5

Advertisements

Winter Sprucer – Review

Winter SprucerThis recipe matured a whole lot faster than I expected. Once again, my lack of patience got the best of me and I couldn’t help but sneak a peak of my winter sprucer, which was bottled on the 4th of December, although I’m sure it will develop further character with a little bit of aging. To begin with, I’m pretty impressed. I got buffeted by some staggering levels of delicious from this one. The flavor is sufficiently bittered, but not to excess, with a light maltiness shining through. The aroma is rich in bright, tropical scents akin to pineapple and orange with a floral chamomile undertone. The initial flavor is a nice balance of light chamomile and malt, the aftertaste being dominated by a wonderfully potent and lingering flavor of roasted toffee accompanied by the essence of the deep winter woods; conifer boughs and sweet resin. As with all of my alcoholic experiments, I have not idea what the alcohol percentage is because I can’t use a hydrometer (All of my hippie ingredients throw off the measurements which are required to determine the gravity readings)

I am really proud of this recipe, and will most certainly use spruce tips again in future recipes, perhaps with an even greater volume being made in a single go. Together with the Earth hop gruit ale, I am pretty confident to say that these have been my best beers to date. With my Gotlandsdricka currently finishing it’s fermentation, I have high hopes that it will turn out to be another winner. As diverse as the craft beer in scene is Ontario, I’ve got to say that I think there is fundamental fault that has resulted in a shriveled variety of ingredients in beer. Although some recipes incorporate herbs other than hops, the majority of beers that are mass produced are made with the same 4 ingredients, occasionally one or two others. By ‘thinking outside the hops’, the experience of a beer can explode with potential and include the widest range of bittering, preserving and flavoring ingredients. But that’s just little ol’ me talking.

4.5westerberg

Gotlandsdricka

Juniperus communis

Gotlandsdricka is a traditional ale that was brewed almost exclusively on the island of Gotland which lies off the coast of Sweden. The recipe included smoked barely malt extract and the boughs or berries of juniper (Juniperus spp.) trees which proliferated on the island. Juniper species are found throughout the north and south temperate world and also on any existing mountains in tropical regions. The common juniper, Juniperus communis, was the preferred species used in brewing Gotlandsdricka likely because it was abundant in the north temperate region of northeastern Europe where this recipe and many similar ones began being practiced.

For all intents and purposes, the majority if not all Juniperus species can be used to produce beer because, at least for me, they all tend to have a similar scents, flavor and medicinal properties. Juniper boughs and particularly the berries impart a citrus-like resiny flavour to the beer, as well as supplying plenty of tannins to bitter it. The plant also possesses strong anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties, and has long been used to help fight respiratory infections and cleanse the urinary tract.

Ironically, the common juniper is anything but common where I live in southern Onatrio. The species tolerates colder conditions further north with less biological diversity and therefore less of an opportunity for other species to occupy its preferred habitat. Instead, the pencil-cedar or eastern red-cedar, Juniperus virginiana, (despite being called ‘cedar’ it is in fact a true juniper) is quite locally abundant in open fields, fencerows and meadows. This species grows to a larger stature than the often squat J. communis, which provides more foliage to harvest with a decreased risk of over-harvesting and weakening the plant. I have however, included a small amount of J. communis berries in order to supplement the authenticity of this recipe.

Freshly collected Juniperus virginiana boughs & berries

Freshly collected Juniperus virginiana boughs & berries

I would definitely like to revisit this recipe by using fresh smoked malt and not malt extract which I have been using entirely up to this point. I did happen upon some darker malt than usual, so I’m going to interpret that as I was supposed to make this recipe now. So it isn’t entirely traditional, but the juniper is in there and that’s pretty much the point from what I understand.

Ingredients:

4 gallons water
3 litres dark amber liquid barley malt extract
1.3 pounds fresh juniper boughs with berries – Juniperus virginiana
1 ounce dried juniper berries – Juniperus communis
7 grams brewing yeast

Instructions:

1. Boil juniper boughs, berries and malt extract for 60 minutes.
2. Allow wort to cool to at least 75-80 degrees F
3. Pour into fermenter (including juniper boughs / berries) and add yeast.
4. Strain and bottle when fermentation is complete.
5. Age one month before consuming.

Carrot Seed Ale

wild carrot (Daucus carota)

Anyone who has tried the seeds of parsley or celery already has a general idea as to the flavour profile of carrot seeds. These plants (as well as dill, fennel, cumin, lovage and parsnip among many others) are all members of the Apiaceae, a botanical family. Although unique, all of these plant seeds have a recognizeable pungent, aromatic and almost ‘pine-y’ aspect to their aroma and flavour. This characteristic set of attributes was certainly not overlooked centuries ago when the seeds of wild or cultivated carrots (the plant Daucus carota) were used as a complimentary ingredient or substitute for hops in beer. I have paired wild harvested carrot seeds with 2 different hop varieties into what I hope will turn out to be a very beautiful combination of earthy aromatics and complex bitterness.


INGREDIENTS:

4 gallons water
3 litres liquid amber barely malt extract
2 ounces freshly ground ripe carrots seeds (1 ounce = 60 min. boil; 1 ounce = 10 min. boil)
30 g both Perle and Fuggle hop (Fuggle = 60 min. boil; Perle = 10 min. boil)
7 grams be-bittered ale yeast


INSTRUCTIONS:

Please refer to my older posts for more of a step-by-step guide to brewing beer. I feel like at this point I am just repeating myself over and over, especially for those of you that are reading this blog every once and a while and probably getting tired of it. For my next batch of beer (still in the works), I think I am going to try putting the wort through a secondary fermentation.

This is basically just draining the beer, after it has fermented and gone dormant once, into a new sterilized fermenter and letting it undergo another partial fermentation. By doing this you can be sure that the final product has had the majority of the available sugars converted into alcohol. Because the secondary fermentation works with relatively little sugar available in the wort, the vast majority of which was eaten up during the primary, this next fermentation is slower and more complete, digesting some of the more complex sugars.


CREEPING CHARLIE ’13 UPDATE:

This isn’t going to make anyone happy. It certainly didn’t improve the quality of my day. About 2 days into fermentation, the 6 gallon capacity glass carboy that Charlie was humming away inside exploded, sending frothy herbal goodness sloshing all over fellow BFB-er Robert Nagy’s basement bathroom. It was a pretty big bummer. I think that this new addition of the Creep was too good to be true: and the pure awesomeness that it held within it’s beer-y depths was too much for physics to handle. Next time, only 4 gallon batches in the 6 gallon carboy. Either that, or use a bucket which was a bit more give.

According to other BFB-er Chris Veska, the airlock may have prevented enough CO2 from escaping, a detail which could have saved this brew from it’s premature end. Even putting tin foil over the opening of the carboy, once the fermentation is in full swing, is enough to protect the wort inside from any ‘badies’ that might try to get it. Makes sense, seeing as a beer in full fermentation is pretty aggressive. Oh well, live and learn. This also means that Creep ’14 is going to have to be even more serious than ’13 or ’12.

Creeping Charlie ’13

Creeping Charlie

Glechoma hederacea or creeping-Charlie

I can’t believe I didn’t post the first trial run of this highly anticipated recipe that Robert and myself conjured up last summer. You can’t possibly understand how upset I am with myself over this. I really liked that beer and was really looking forward to making it and trying it out. ‘Creeping Charlie’, or simply ‘Creep’, was made with pale and dark liquid malt extract, Cascade hops and a whole bunch of freshly harvested ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea), which is a thin, sprawling perennial herb in the mint family with fragrant, kidney shaped leaves and small purple tubular flowers emerging in late spring and early summer. It was ‘heady’, bold, more well-balanced than bitter, and strange. So, it’s the kind of stuff I like.

Ground-ivy, also known as creeping Charlie by some gardeners, is an easily overlooked plant native to temperate and northern Europe (invasive in North America) that has a rich history as a hop-substitute in traditional beer recipes. It was deliberately added to batches to add it’s own slightly minty, floral bitterness and to make the beer more ‘heady’ due to the saponins (chemicals that produce suds) contained in the plant that boil into the wort. Unfortunately, the use of ground-ivy practically vanished after it was replaced by hops as the standard bittering and preservative herb in the late 1800’s via the German Beer Purity Act which expanded later to include all of Europe.

The exact amounts of ingredients added to the first recipe have been lost due to my terrible book keeping skills, that thankfully since last year, have improved considerably. So this time around, I actually decided to do the responsible thing and carefully measure out everything that I could and write it down. Brilliant.

Just making some delicious beery soup.

Just making some delicious beery soup.

INGREDIENTS

– 5 gallons water
– 4 litres pale liquid amber barley malt extract
– 40 grams mystery hops (possibly Cascade) for bittering
– 10 grams Fuggle hops for bittering and flavour
– 30 grams Perle hops for flavour and aroma
This is my favourite ingredient: a large paper LCBO bag loosely stuffed about halfway with the dried, uncut trailing flowering stems of ground-ivy. Understand how much that is? Good, let’s proceed.
– 13 grams Nottingham English ale yeast
– 1 Irish moss tablet


PROCEDURE

For the sake of not being incredibly redundant, I am going to keep this procedure short and sweet, as they say. If you would like more of a how-to / common mistakes / details guide to making beer in your kitchen, please consult my past 2 or 3 posts where I discuss the specifics of doing this properly and not like someone that’s going to wreck their whole kitchen and spoil their beer. Thanks friends!

Bring water to a boil. Add malt extract, about 85% of the ground-ivy, and maybe-Cascade hops. Set timer to 60 minutes and stir ingredients in until a boil has returned. After 30 minutes has passed, add the Fuggle hops and stir them in a bit. After 50 minutes have passed, add the Irish moss tablet, the rest of the ground-ivy and the Perle hops. Stir until the tablet dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. One the timer stops, remove the wort from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, strain into your fermenter and top up the water level until 5 gallons is reached. Stir to mix, pitch yeast and insert airlock.

I really enjoyed the infamous Creeper 2012. It was a very interesting experiment and I leaned a lot about the flavour profile, aroma and texture that it infuses into the beer. It was more of a sweeter, porter / weak Belgian ale hybrid that was a bit all over the place. Oh, that’s right! We also added brown sugar to the recipe. I remember that now. That is what gave it the sweetness common to candied ales which are made with caramelized sugar. So yeah, it was pretty wacky and unpredictable. Probably fooled around a little to much, but whatever. It’s whatever it was and I enjoyed drinking it, especially after it ages for around 6 months to a year. It chilled out a bit. But the allure of an American Pale Ale that’s quite malty, but also refreshingly bitter, citrusy, and possesses that dark, floral bitter-mint spice of creeping Charlie. Here’s take two.

Pis en Lis G’root’ Ale

Common dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) delights our eyes with carpets of stunning yellow composite blooms that invade grassy fields, the edges of roads and other waste places throughout mid to late spring. Despite being labeled as a nuisance and having an impressive assortment of biological and mechanical weapons specifically devised for it’s eradication, dandelions still hold a firm grip on our landscapes as well as our folkflore and traditions.

For example, the common name ‘dandelion’ is derived from the French ‘dent-de-lion’ which means ‘lion’s tooth’ and refers to the jagged, irregularly toothed edges of the leaves. Another French name for this plant is ‘pis en lit’ which means ‘piss the bed’ [an excellent name for a beer!] and refers to the diuretic affect which results from consuming the leaves, flowers and roots. It has been known for centuries that the dandelion is a potent cleaner of the urinary system.

In fact, the roots of dandelions have been used as a powerful and safe medicine since antiquity, additional to cleaning and strengthening the urinary system. Numerous studies and hundreds of years of practice have revealed that the plant is rich in important minerals such as magneseum and iron, and has the capacity to heal and detoxify our liver, gallbladder and bloodstream from accumulated bacteria and other toxins.

Ground milk-thistle seed and dried, chopped dandelion root.

Ground milk-thistle seed and dried, chopped dandelion root.

The bitterness of dandelion also excites and stimulates the production of gastric juices [yum!] and enzymes to be released into the stomach which assist in the proper assimilation and absorbtion of nutrients in our food. In Greece, salads featuring dandelion leaves are traditionally eaten before a heavy meal in order to increase the appetite and prepare the digestive system for the bulk of the meal which has yet to arrive.

I have always regarded the spring as a time of renewal, rebirth and healing. So what better way than the cleanse the body after a long, dark winter that is often accompanied by a monotonous diet low in fresh fruit and vegetables than with a spring tonic beer made with dandelion root? Here here, says I! Spring cleaning is most definitely not exclusive to the household. Part of experiencing the blessings of a new year includes making sure your body is healthy, clean and functioning efficiently.

Ingredients:

4 gallons water
3 litres liquid amber malt extract
2.2 ounces both dried and fresh dandelion root
18 grams ground milk-thistle (Silybum marianum) seed
8 grams de-bittered ale yeast

comments: I could not find any resources which describe the moisture content of dandelion roots. They do weight considerably more when fresh than dried, as would be expected. The original recipe from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers recommends 4 dried ounces of dandelion root for a 4 gallon batch, which seems like a lot, so I am halving it based on what I have been able to harvest and not wanting to make the taste too strong. I definitely still want to feel the super dirty, earthy bitterness that is unique to dandelion. It is likely that arround 200 individual plants were harvested to compose the 2.2 ounces of roots.

DSC_0096

The boiling wort with dandelion roots.

Instructions:

1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a large pot (preferably one with handles as you are going to be handling it after it is boiled)
2. Once boiling, slowly pour in and stir 3 litres of liquid amber malt extract until it is dissolved in the water.
3. Add 2.2 ounces dandelion root, stirring to evenlydistribute them.
4. Simmer mixture for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. After the 15 minutes has passed, remove pot from heat.
6. Place pot of wort in a place where it can cool to room temperature.
7. When cool enough, carefully pour the wort through a strainer and into a sterilized fermenter, such as a glass carboy.
8. Pour the 18 grams of ground milk-thistle seeds into wort inside the carboy.*
9. Top up the carboy with cool water until it contains a total of 4 gallons.
10. Pitch 8 grams of yeast into fermenter and insert airlock.

DSC_0097

The wort chilling out.

* The seeds of milk-thistle contain active compounds which are alcohol soluable and therefore not effectively extracted by boilding. The compounds in dandelions, however, can be extracted by water. By placing the ground milk-thistle seeds in the carboy during the fermentation process, those alcohol soluable compounds are extracted and remain suspended in the final product. I decided to add milk-thistle to this recipe because, like dandelion, they have potent liver strengthening and detoxifying capabilities and will also hopefully add an interesting bitter flavour of their own. More can be read about the medicinal applications of milk-thistle here.

DSC_0100

Yeast pitched and ready to start fermenting.

Lemon Ginger Beer

Lemon Ginger BeerThis one really turned out unique; a very special winter treat that completely surprised me and turned out quite different from what I initially anticipated. Everyone knows what ginger ale tastes like, I know for me it comprised a large proportion of my liquid intake when I was a young’n. Likewise, with the onset of adulthood (whatever that really is) I turned the bulk of my appreciation of ginger ale to the fermented variety.

This beer tastes pretty much exactly like regular ginger ale, except it is most definitely alchoholic. It was brewed as a 3 gallon batch, and contains 750ml of liquid amber malt extract and 1 pound of brown sugar. Given the ratios involved (1 pound sugar or 1.1 pounds liquid malt extract = 1 gallon 5% alc./vol. beer) and the fact that 750ml of liquid malt extract weights approx. 3 pounds, this batch should be around 5.5-6%.

The little bit of boost provided by the extra concentration of alcohol as well as the spicy, warm flavour and aroma of ginger make this a real winter warmer. It’s really refreshing even though it’s beer. Another interesting aspect to this recipe was the addition of lemon juice. There is no hops what-so-ever involved with this beer, and yet it  is not sickingly sweet or tastes like table syrup. I think this is because the powerful sourness of the lemon juice cuts off the natural sweetness of the malt. This leaves a well balanced sweetness than is not overwhelming.

So, now for the specs: the color is a light yellow-amber, with a numbing soft carbonation (this ought to get better with time). The flavour is neutrally sweet, smooth and thirst quenching with a mild sour aftertaste. The scent is that of a clear cold stream; clementines, and crushed fir needles.

Would I make any improvements next time? Yes: grate or finely chop the ginger in order to get the maximum flavour released from them (I want a ginger flavour so strong it’ll make you cry) and do not leave the ginger chunks in the fermenter unless contained in a muslin bag and weighted down so that they do not float at the surface. The ginger chunks that were left in the beer as it fermented settled just below the surface and a few fostered some mold growth. There wasen’t enough growth to threaten the whole batch of beer and during bottling the patches (which only grew on the surface of the beer where it was exposed to air) were easily avoided. But still… best to avoid that as a possible complication.

Thanks again to Michelle Doherty for assisting with this recipe; this being one occasion among many. You have evidence in writing that half of this batch is yours. So come and get it! Preferably with someone that drives so you can pick it up all at once. Just give them a cut, pretty much anyone will agree to drive you around if they get paid in beer.

paulwesterburg3.5