experimental beers with a botanical twist

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Fugwort Stout (A.K.A. Muggle Stout)

Fugwort Stout (A.K.A. Muggle Stout)

This was one of my two most successful experiments of the winter brewing season, and the first I’ve used hops in fifteen years. I wanted to make it basically because the portmanteaus amused me, but as it happened, mugwort and Fuggles hops go together in more ways than just linguistically.

Dark Lager with Mugwort

Dark Lager with Mugwort

An unhopped lager. The herbs are assertive but not overpowering, and the bitterness is fairly low.

Sleepytime Beer

Sleepytime Beer

Hops, valerian, and chamomile to sedate and mint to aid digestion.

Sassafras-Black Birch Beer

Sassafras-Black Birch Beer

Sassafras and black birch (i.e. wintergreen, more or less) are the dominant notes here; the other flavors blend into a citrusy background. This is a refreshing, summery drink, a bit acidic — imagine a cross between unsweetened herb tea and a nice mild ale.

Juniper-Yarrow ESB (Extra Scandinavian Bitter)

Juniper-Yarrow ESB (Extra Scandinavian Bitter)

Is there such a thing as a juniper head (like a hop head)? I think I could become one.

New “ancient ale” from Dogfish Head revives hybrid Scandinavian grog

New “ancient ale” from Dogfish Head revives hybrid Scandinavian grog

Fascinating to see yarrow already in use as a brewing herb 3500 years ago. Here, it’s in combination with several bog plants: sweet gale, meadowsweet, cranberries and lingonberries.

All-grain homebrewing for lazy cheapskates

All-grain homebrewing for lazy cheapskates

Our very ability to experiment with things like gruit blends without worrying too much about the yeast and the malts is a direct result of the precision and predictability achieved by industrial brewers over the past 200 years.

Mugwort Spicebush Stout

Mugwort Spicebush Stout

Mugwort and Indian sarsaparilla are an excellent combination; that’s why I brew with them so often.

A beer thinker’s guide to life

A beer thinker’s guide to life

The best brewer sometimes makes bad beer.

Sweet flag

Sweet flag

The aroma was unmistakable, musky and strong, with hints of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon—the quintessence of spice.

Meadow in a bottle

Meadow in a bottle

Up until that moment, I’d been intending to make some kind of very standard beer style—an IPA or a porter—and simply substitute yarrow for the usual hops.

Summer Meadow Ale

Summer Meadow Ale

My idea was to flavor a summer ale with a mix of common meadow plants, all gathered at the time of brewing, and thereby to try and capture the essence of a midsummer meadow. Much to my own surprise, I seem to have succeeded on the first attempt!