I made my first gruit ale last night, and if I don’t blog the recipe I’ll lose it.
- 7 lb wheat malt extract
- 16 oz 10L crystal
- 6 oz special B
- 4 oz chocolate
- 1 oz yarrow leaves, partly dried (I harvested them the day before brewing) – 60 min
- 1 oz dried dandelion root – 60 min
- ~5 allspice berries – 60 min
- ~12 juniper berries – 60 min
- 1/2 tsp Irish moss – 20 min
- 6 oz partly dried yarrow flowers – 5 min
- 2nd-generation Northwest Ale (Wyeast 1332)
I started with the house dunkelweizen recipe from my friendly local homebrew store. Then I made shit up. People on the Internet gave conflicting reports about how much yarrow is too much, and many of them attained “too much”. Since I personally like it when my beer tastes like hippies, I decided that a person who used 2 oz. leaves and 2.5 oz. flowers for a 2 gallon batch sounded believable, and so was going to aim for about 8 oz. yarrow total for a pure yarrow beer.
Not being in the habit of weighing my herb harvests I didn’t realize how much material it takes to make a full ounce! This was a medium sized paper sack of yarrow (minus the stalks). When I ran out I added my collection of dandelion roots. The final wort didn’t taste any more ridiculously sweet than wort usually tastes, so I’m hopeful that the herbs were bitter enough to make a balanced beer… if not, I’ll balance it out at bottling time with some extracts from my bitters-making shelf.
OG: 1.050. Yeast seems happy so far.
Lesson learned: I’m gonna need to harvest a lot more dandelion roots. Might be worth laying in a stock of dried old dandelion leaves, too, just in case I run out of bittering agents again.
Might also be worth picking up a couple more gallon glass jugs, so I don’t have to gamble on a full batch when I don’t really understand my recipe… but where’s the fun in that? Full batches = HIGH STAKES EXCITEMENT!
Update 28Jul: Gravity 1.028 – stalled fermentation? Maybe I didn’t give the starter enough time to grow. So I swirled up the cake a bunch while transferring to the carboy. There’s not a lot of room in there to pitch another starter; hopefully stirring up the yeast will get it going again. But if the gravity doesn’t drop in the next few days I’ll pull some more yeast out of the fridge.
On the brighter side: It is delicious. Still a bit too sweet, but enough of the malt’s been eaten that you can taste the yarrow – it is floral without being cloying. If this batch doesn’t work out maybe I’ll just go with it and make yarrow root beer.
Update 31Jul: Gravity 1.020 – oh me of little faith! The yeasts are still at work. Used the test tube liquid to play around with bittering agents. I think it’ll be fine without bittering as a light, sweet session beer – it is to wine coolers what those fancy dry sodas are to soda, basically the same concept but slightly more grown up. The Mr. thought it needed bittering and/or some pine-y terpene-y flavors. If I do my next gruit with mugwort that should take care of both those things.
Update 27Oct: Oh, I forgot to update when I bottled. It was a little bit sour at bottling but maybe it just needed to bottle condition to get rid of aldehydes or something, right?
No. Some enterprising Lactobacillus (or something – but it tastes like lactic acid, without the diacetyl that’s supposed to be associated with Pediococcus) got in there while it was in the carboy and made a mess of it. Dammit.
I’m currently doing a test run of vinegar with it to see if I can salvage something from the batch.