Now that St. Patrick has blessed us with his luck for the year, it's time for Spring. The beautiful signs of Spring are all around us, from the honking Geese flying over head to the two foot difference in where you planted your bulbs last fall and where they have decided to grow. But either way, this rejuvenating season is reason enough to try some interesting brews, perhaps even some botanical ones! If you haven't noticed my ladies picking some spring buds up above, this post is all about flowers and beer, and the magical things they can do together. And if women had anything to do with the creation of beer, there better well be some flowers in it! Brewing beer with flowers does not have any historical start date, considering that experimenting with ingredients has been continuous since the creation of beer (what German Beer Purity Law?). But remember that Hops, which are normally found in beer, are a type of flower, and brewing with a different type of flower isn't a crazy concept to swallow. Like hops, flowers help to add a floral/herbal aroma to the beer, another way of balancing out the base ingredients of that beer. So before you go picking flowers from your muddy garden, try one of these beers to see what blossoming brews you'd plant in your fridge.
Dieu du Ciel Rosée dHibiscus (5.9% ABV, Flower: Hibiscus) A wheat beer that adds Hibiscus during the "flame-out" step of the brewing process. A "flame out" is exactly what it sounds like, the step in which you turn the flame off the brew, yet it remains at a temperature in which the oils and acidity are still extracted from the ingredients, but do not burn off. The name of this beer translates to "Pinkish Hibiscus" which describes the pink color of the beer that comes from the hibiscus. The hibiscus also produces the prominent fragrance found throughout this wheat ale. The aroma is of acidic berries, a sour fragrance that blends with a floral perfume. The flavors are awakening, like a sharp champagne that is grapefruit tart, with more hints of berries and orange. A lingering sweet and fruity finish that is crisp on the palette.
Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs (8.2% ABV, Flowers: Lavender, Chamomile, Dog Rose, Marigold, Hops) This Saison gives a whole new meaning to what a Beer Garden might be, because I am pretty sure you can find one in a glass now. It's packed full with floral aromas from the edible flowers used, creating a scent like potpourri. A Saison is typically a low alcohol, pale ale that would include flavors of orange zest, coriander or ginger. The orange zesty flavor can be found in this saison, but at a wopping 8.2% ABV, this Saison is different from it's classical cousins. Flavors from this garden in a glass are of sweet fresh flowers, bitter from certain petals (hops) and a mild grain flavor breaks through to help balance everything. Nothing could take a refreshing spring day off the mind when you're sipping on this ale, except for those damn Geese.
Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir (9% ABV, Flower: Saffron Crocus) Dogfish Head is very proud of this one, as they should be, because it's the recipe for the oldest known fermented beverage in the world. The ingredients used were found in the 2700 year old drinking vessels of the tomb of King Midas. He is popular in Greek Mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into Gold, also for his Garden of Roses (which, apparently must have been gold?) Either way, I'm glad all of this happened because it has led to one awesome beer. Dogfish Head uses Saffron in this brew, which is a derived spice from the Saffron Crocus. In addition, they use barley, white Muscat grapes and honey. The aroma and flavors are very sweet and alcoholic like a white wine, so be ready for this one. The flavors start with the honey and grapes, very sweet, followed by a slight bitterness from the hops. The saffron comes through at the end, which helps to add to an aromatic finish. A slow sipper for sure, after all, it has the Midas Touch!
These are just a few examples of the different flowers/herbs you could infuse with beer. In 2008, we (the world) went through a bit of a hop scare, when there was a shortage and prices went through the roof! It was a hard time for many small breweries and still is, but it also helped some breweries get back to the drawing board and get creative with their brewing methods. For example, to help offset their dependency on hops, New Belgium came out with a dandelion beer called "Lips of Faith - Dandelion Ale" which was inspired by the hop shortage, and added the natural bittering affect usually supplied by the hops. They proved that despite hard times, brewing a beer you love is still possible. So when you are walking around this spring, think to yourself, would that flower taste good in my beer? Then try it.