Lindera benzoin

Mugwort Spicebush Stout

5 1/2 gallons. Brewed on 6 August, 2012. (Compare with Mugwort Oatmeal Stout.)

Grains

  • pale 2-row malt, 9 lbs.
  • carafa 2 malt, 1 lb.
  • roasted barley, 3/4 lb.
  • caramel 120L malt, 1/2 lb.
  • crystal 60L malt, 1/2 lb.
  • black patent malt, 1/4 lb.

Herbs

  • dried mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) leaves, 2 packed pints
  • dried licorice root, 1/2 oz.
  • roasted dried dandelion root, 1 oz.
  • 1 vanilla bean, chopped
  • 25 dried spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries, halved
  • dried Indian sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus) root, 1/2 oz.

Extra sugars

  • wildflower honey, 2 lbs.
  • unpasteurized sweet apple cider, 1 gallon

Yeast

  • Safale S-04 (11.5 g. in 1-qt. starter)

Procedure

I followed my usual procedure, making 2 gallons of tea the night before with the mugwort leaves, putting it into sealed and sanitized containers and refrigerating until the end of the boil the next day, when I added it all at once to precipitate a cold break as well as to start chilling the wort. (I still don’t have a wort chiller; I just immerse the brewpot in an ice-water bath. This method does work to get it down to 80F in less than half an hour.)

The cider formed part of the strike water, for a total of 4 gallons. I experimented with a higher mash temperature to try and get a fuller body: 155F instead of the usual 150F. The other herbs went into a spice bag that stayed in the fermenter for the full two weeks that I let it work.

Results

I personally felt that the sarsaparilla was a bit too dominant, but both my brother Mark and my friend Lucy raved about this beer, Mark saying that he thought it was my best yet. The fact is that mugwort and Indian sarsaparilla are an excellent combination; that’s why I brew with them so often. Also, mashing in at a higher temperature seemed to work, and the resulting English-style sweetness combined with the roastiness from the roasted barley very well indeed.

The spicebush yielded a mild allspice flavor for a pleasing background note. Spicebush is a common shrub along mountain streams here in Pennsylvania, and it transplants easily. I planted one in my herb garden about fifteen years ago, and it reliably produces a large crop of berries each fall. They’re a favorite of migrating songbirds, and I let the birds have all the berries I can’t reach. They don’t contain a whole lot of moisture, so they dry out readily, not unlike juniper berries.

Housekeeping note: I’ve moved recipes from pages to posts here, mainly so I can index them better by tagging the herbal ingredients.