Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lavender Rosemary Ginger Ale #1

Walking around my neighborhood last weekend, I walked past several rosemary and lavender bushes and it inspired me to try a new concoction.

1/2 oz fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp dried lavender flowers
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp stevia extract (cut with dextrose)
1/8 tsp ale yeast
1/2 gal water

Simmered ginger alone for 20 minutes, with rosemary an additional 10 minutes. Removed from heat to steep with lavender for 10 minutes. Brewed 7 days at 70 degrees.

This recipe was really a shot in the dark, so I was completely prepared for it to be disgusting. It is not. Everything settled leaving the liquid totally clear, but the sediment makes it cloudy with a slight pinkish purple tinge. When I put my nose to it, I was afraid it would be too gingery, but after tasting it, I think the tiny bit of sharpness is needed, as the other flavors are very round. It is distinctly, but not overwhelmingly lavender-flavored. I get almost none of the rosemary, so that can be at least doubled. My room mate, who has a cold and had just drunk tea with honey, found the stevia's sweetness a bit odd. I think it's fine, though it isn't just like sugar. Most people would probably judge the level of sweetness right, but I could use a little less.

As far as carbonation, the small amount of sugar has made it bubbly enough. I'm not sure whether more time would make it any bubblier, and we'll have to see if the other three bottles turn out once they're chilled. This is definitely a good start. Perhaps some rose or ginkgo would be a way to add the next layer of complexity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Warm Christmas

For Christmas, my dad built me a thermostatically controlled lightbulb and fan so I can carefully control the temperature of the oven at fermentation temperature. It's already been great for bread (set at 98 degrees--as high as the home thermostat will go) and I'm about to try 70 degrees for some root beer. Hopefully this will eliminate the lengthy and flakey fermentation caused by our 55-60-degree kitchen.

Root Beer #5

Since I lost recipe #4, I went back to #3, upped the bitters, as I suggested, and added wintergreen.

4 Tbsp sassafras
4 Tbsp coarse birch bark
2 1/2 Tbsp sarsaparilla
2 Tbsp wild cherry bark
2 Tbsp wintergreen leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp yellow dock
2 tsp licorice root
1 tsp burdock
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/8 tsp ale yeast
1 gal water

This is getting close to what I want. It definitely has a much woodsier aroma than commercial root beer, but it's sufficiently sweet (wondering if more licorice or something like stevia can substitute for some of the sugar, though) and has a complex, well-rounded flavor. There might be a little too much bitterness, so maybe taking the yellow dock back to 1 Tbsp would be good.

It definitely has a taste of ale that you don't find in non-brewed carbonated soda. There must be something in the roots that inhibits the yeast, because even at a steady 70 degrees, the root beer carbonates much slower than ginger ale with the same yeast. After three days, a not-completely chilled bottle got a bit of a head, but wasn't super-bubbly, so I gave it another day. Fully chilled after four days fermentation, and it has a nice bubbly feel in the mouth, but doesn't get a head or look very bubbly. 1/4 tsp of yeast in a gallon seems like a lot, but I'll have to give it a try.

Talking about it with my roommate, I counted the ingredients. Perhaps this should be called eight-tree ale. That has a good ring to it.