yarrow

Juniper-Yarrow ESB (Extra Scandinavian Bitter)

Brewed on 3 March, 2013.

Grains (all organic)

  • 2-row pale malt, 8 lbs.
  • Caramel 60L, 1 lb.
  • Munich, 1 lb.
  • Briess Victory, 1/2 lb.

Herbs

  • yarrow, dried tops, 2 packed pints plus one cup
  • dried spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries, crushed, 1/2 oz
  • 4 small branches of fresh juniper (eastern red cedar), old winter growth (no berries attached)
  • dried elecampane root, 1 tablespoon
  • dried juniper berries, crushed, 1/2 oz. (1 heaped tablespoon)

Other sugars

  • wildflower honey, 2 lbs.
  • pale dried malt extract, 1 cup (bottling)

Yeast

  • Safbrew S-33 in starter with a little corn sugar

Procedure

I departed from my usual procedure and did not make up a couple gallons of herbal infusion to chill and add at the end, in part because it was very cold on the day I brewed, so cooling down the wort didn’t need much extra help. I added the juniper branches to the sparge water, then subsequently to the boiling wort. I was aiming to make a cross between an ESB and a Scandinavian folk brew such as Gotlandsdricka or sahti, whence the juniper and the yarrow. I added two pints of dried yarrow tops half-way through the boil. The spicebush berries were a mistake — I added them in haste thinking they were juniper. Fortunately, I tasted the beer after one week in the fermenter and decided it was a little insipid. I racked it into a 6-gallon fermenter on top of the juniper berries, elecampane root, and additional cup of dried yarrow tops, all of which had been steeped in enough boiling water to make up the difference in volume and fill the fermenter. When I bottled a week later, the beer was very far from insipid indeed.

Results

A definite advancement over last year’s Juniper-Ginger beer. As with that beer, “juniper forms the dominant note, resiny and vaguely citrusy, supported by the camphor quality of yarrow” and this time backed up by elecampane. (I couldn’t really detect the spicebush.) The bitterness is stronger this time, but not at all unpleasant — possibly not up to ESB standards, but about right for my taste. Is there such a thing as a juniper head (like a hop head)? I think I could become one. I’m also drinking one of my standard mugwort-sarsaparilla-vanilla stouts right now, which is a bit more alcoholic, but I quite prefer this.