experimental beers with a botanical twist

Ground Ivy Gruit Porter

Stripping the leaves from the ground ivy (photo by Rachel Rawlins)
Although I’ve only just bottled this, the samples that I and my partner tasted before I added the bottling sugar have led us to agree it’s a success. It grew out of a foraging walk we took two weeks ago, led by the excellent Gavin Ireland of Totally Wild UK and specifically focusing on “wild edibles that can be used in beers, spirits, wines and cocktails.” Ground Ivy, AKA alehoof or gill-over-the-ground, is a plant I’ve known since I was a kid. It was introduced to what is now the US by English settlers, largely because of its value as a brewing herb—or so the foraging books always claimed. I was skeptical, because previous attempts to brew with it had yielded less than impressive results. Here’s what I wrote back in 2012:

This was very interesting, but I personally would’ve preferred something bitterer. I’ve never found ground ivy to be anywhere near as bitter as the books say, but it could be the wild stuff I use tastes different from British or cultivated varieties.

By contrast, the ground ivy I gathered on the foraging walk, in a private campground north of London, was full of flavor, and even the shape of the leaves is slightly different from those back home in Pennsylvania. It is clearly a different variety. Gavin was enthusiastic about the taste, even adding some alongside nettles to a wild greens and mushroom risotto, which did turn out really well. I needed no further convincing to gather a small bagful of the vines, which were growing in profusion.

I spread it out to dry as soon as I got home. The beer was already in progress, but when I tasted it five days later, I decided it was a bit insipid and would benefit from some ground ivy. So I took half of what I’d just dried and stripped off the stems (a probably unnecessary step), 20 grams (about one packed pint) of leaves, and put in in a hop bag with six tea bags of an herbal tea that listed its ingredients as anise seed (42.5%), fennel seed (21.5%), cardamom (15%), plus unspecified smaller quantities of licorice root, coriander, and celery seed (which I’ve left out of the slightly idealized recipe). I pasteurized it by holding it in about a quart of 140F water for 20 minutes, then cooled it down and added it (plus the water) to the beer. It was also at this point that I added the second packet of yeast, Safale’s US-05, which yields a crisper, more American-style ale than their workhorse British ale yeast S-04, because I wanted something a bit less sweet. That was nine days ago. It seems to have worked!

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
13.3 L 45 min 0.0 IBUs 131.7 EBC 1.070 1.014 7.4 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Maris Otter Pale - UK 2 kg 49.94
Munich - UK 750 g 18.73
Smoked Malt - DE 375 g 9.36
Crystal 140L - UK 250 g 6.24
Chocolate - UK 130 g 3.25
Special B - BE 130 g 3.25
Midnight Wheat - US 120 g 3
Dark Brown Sugar - US 250 g 6.24

Miscs

Name Amount min Type
meadowsweet leaves, dried 0.35 oz 45 min Boil Other
bog myrtle, dried leaves and seeds 0.88 oz 10 min Boil Other
yarrow leaves, dried 0.71 oz 10 min Boil Other
ground ivy leaves, dried 0.71 oz 0 min Secondary Other
anise seed 0.25 oz 0 min Secondary Other
fennel seed 0.18 oz 0 min Secondary Other
green cardamom 0.07 oz 0 min Secondary Other

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Fermentis Safale S-04 75% 17.78°C - 20.56°C
Fermentis Safale US-05 81% 17.78°C - 20.56°C

Notes

A porterish ale with meadowseet, yarrow and bog myrtle in the boil and ground ivy, AKA alehoof, in the secondary, along with some spices. Ground ivy taste is strong but not overwhelming, and blends well with other flavors.


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