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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July Brew of the Month: Mark's Herbaceous Wheat Ales

By Mark Iacopelli and featuring Moondrop Herbals

Summer ales are booming! The warm weather came out of nowhere this year and I found myself without any brews for the season. In order to fill my taps for summer, I brewed a ten-gallon batch and split it to create two distinct beers. With many light summer beers a dash of herbs and spices add an extra layer of complexity to what would otherwise be a rather one-noted beer. For this month’s brew I wanted to showcase how the use of adjuncts and different yeasts can create two very different beers from the same malt and hop profile. This allows you to easily split batches and create a wide range of beers with only a few brew sessions.

MoonDrop Herbals Spotlight

At Siciliano’s Market we strive to always be a one-stop shop for homebrewers and we do carry a selection of herbs and spices for brewing and winemaking. However, sometimes when trying to create something new and unique a passionate brewer must look elsewhere for ingredients. This is where MoonDrop Herbals comes in.

MoonDrop Herbals features a wide array of ingredients from all over the world that can be used to spice up any homebrew. Conveniently, MoonDrop Herbals is located just a three-minute drive from our store west on Lake Michigan Drive.  I sat down with the owner Linda Snow to asked her a few questions.

How long has MoonDrop Herbals been around?

Moondrop Herbals Cottage of Natural Elements celebrated its fifth year as a brick and mortar business this past March. We are an aroma studio and retail space selling essential oils, herbs, teas and handmade skin and comfort care products. I've been studying the properties and uses of herbs and essential oils for the past twenty years and I am an advocate for the safe, informed and sustainable uses of Earth’s resources.

What are some of your favorite herbs and spices?

Since I stock over 150 dried herbs that have a multitude of uses and preparations, this is a tough question to answer! In terms of my experiences with flavorings for beverages in the form of tea, bitters or infused alcohol, here are a few of my favorites.

    • Floral - Lavender, roses, chamomile
    • Fruity – Lemon verbena, lemongrass, rosehips, dried berries
    • Herby – Sage, mint, rosemary, artemisia
    • Pungent – Black Pepper, Szechuan, Chili pepper
    • Spicy – cardamom, cacao nibs, cinnamon, ginger, star anise
    • Bitter – gentian root, orange peel, artichoke leaf
 . . . And don’t overlook teas for flavoring alcohol infusions - try Earl Grey, Jasmine green, or Rooibos!

Do you have any tips for trying new herbs and spices, or extracting their flavor?

Don’t be afraid to play with different combinations of flavors and lengths of time steeping the herbs. I like to mix cooling, floral herbs such as lavender with more warming or pungent herbs like Szechuan, cardamom or fennel, with maybe a lemony herb mixed in. Also – develop an appreciation for the taste of bitter herbs like gentian root, orange peel and lavender (lavender moves from floral, soft and light to very bitter the longer the steep) because they can really enhance and pull the other flavors together. In addition, studies have shown that bitter flavors improve digestion and increase metabolism of nutrients. For cooking – break down the ingredients in some of your favorite spice mixtures and try those spices or herbs separately to understand the individual flavors.

For these two beers elderberries, elderflowers, and sezchuan peppercorns were used. What are some other (non-beer related) uses for these ingredients?

    • Elderberry: (Sambucus nigra) Fresh elder berries are used to make jams, syrups and wine. Fresh and dried are used by herbalists to make syrups and elixirs for the prevention and treatment of colds and flu.
    • Elder flowers: The flowers of Sambucus nigra are sometimes lightly fried and eaten or tossed in salads, and have traditionally been used as a cooling remedy for fevers and respiratory conditions. It is often used in natural skin care recipes to treat certain skin conditions. It is also said to bleach freckles.
    • Szechuan Pepper: (Zanthoxylum bungeanum) Szechuan, a member of the citrus family, is the pod of the fruit. Contrary to popular belief, szechuan pepper is not hot but is often paired with hot spices. Its flavor is a complete journey for the palate, moving from salty to zesty to tingling numbness that finishes with salty-sweet-citrus.  It is said to prepare the palate for the heat of accompanying spices.

Szechuan Pepper Saison

The saison that made up half of this batch turned out great. The beer pours a hazy golden color with a bright white head. On the nose light fruit, spice, biscuit come through from the malt and yeast. The peppers also imparted salty and citrus character in the aroma. The flavor of the beer reflects that of the aroma with some additional earthy character. The finish on the beer is dry but the wheat keeps it from being thin in body. By the end of a glass (or two) of this beer you start to get some of the numbing/tingling sensation from the peppers, as well as the palate altering effects. Pair this beer with any of your favorite dishes and it will change how they taste in interesting ways.

If this beer sounds interesting to you and you would like to try it before you brew it, you’re in luck. As part of the first annual Beer City Pro-Am this beer is currently on tap at Railtown Brewing Company for a limited time!

American Wheat with Elderflowers and Elderberries

The American wheat that made up the remaining wort is a great summer sipper for any fruit beer lover. The beer has a reddish hue from the elderberries. It has an rustic, slightly tart jammy character in the aroma that carries into the flavor. This beer also has a nice spicy wood and floral flavor from the elder flowers. This is all wrapped into a great cracker and biscuit malt profile. Despite a bold body on this beer it still finishes crisp and dry due to a warmer fermentation.

These beers were both an experiment for me. At first my only intention was to do a beer with elderberries and elderflowers because you rarely see anything that uses both. Then while talking to Linda I was amazed by the complexity of the Szechuan peppers she suggested I try, and I had to use them in a beer. At the end of the day I am happy with both beers. Either one of the beers is capable of being a summer staple. I think the American wheat would pair well with caramelized fruit off the grill and chicken. While the Szechuan Saison would pair with a tender steak rubbed in some slightly spicy herbs.

All Grain Malt Bill ($13.75/5 gallon)

    • 6 lb Briess Pilsner Malt
    • 3.5 lb Pilot White Wheat
    • .5 lb Caramunich I
    • 1 lb Rice Hulls

Extract 5 Gallon Malt Profile ($18.52/5 gallon)

    • 7.25 lb Wheat LME
    • 1 lb Caramunich I

Hops for 5 gallons ($4.87)

    • .5 oz (60 min) MI Super Cascade
    • .25 oz (30 min) Czech Saaz
    • .25 oz (20 min) Czech Saaz
    • .25 oz (20 min) Tardif De Bourgogne
    • .25 oz (15 min) Tardif De Bourgogne
    • .25 oz (10 min) Czech Saaz
    • .25 oz (10 min) Tardif De Bourgogne
    • .25 oz (5 min) Tardif De Bourgogne
    • .25 oz (0 min) Czech Saaz
    • If doing extract adjust hopping rates to account for top up water

Yeast/Additional Ingredients

    • Belle Saison (with the Szechuan Saison) ($4.99)
    • Safale US-05 ($3.49), 1056 ($7.99), or 001($7.99) (with the American Wheat)
    • Saison: 1 oz Szechuan Peppers steeped in 4 oz of vodka (add vodka after 7 days)
    • American Wheat: 1 oz elderberries steeped in 4 oz of vodka (add vodka after 14 days); 1 oz elderflowers in 8 oz hot or cold tea infusion (add liquid to taste)

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