Heather ale

For those who know me RL, you’ll know the amusement in deciding to brew with heather flowers. (Heather brews a heather ale? How could I not!?) First, some background. I am off playing with dyes, and the next step in those experiments are to try some dye extractions with fermented alcohol, rather than distilled alcohol. Hey wait.. I’m a brewer, I have rapidly getting more stale grain in the brewing supplies! I can make this happen!

Photo by Julia Zaporozhchenko on Pexels.com

I decided that I wanted to make an unhopped ale, and hey look, there’s a baggie of dried heather buds in the brew supplies too, so let’s go with that. I only wanted to brew up a gallon batch, as I really only needed this for dye experimentation and honestly drinkability was a secondary hopeful feature.

I wanted my grain bill to end up being about 2 lbs. (I am very Canadian and liberally sprinkle measuring systems in my world, you’ve been warned) So I started with 1.3 lb from a bag labelled ‘base malt’. Who knows, I certainly don’t, but it was a nice light inoffensive choice, so base malt of questionable origin it is. Then I honestly just started polishing off last bits of bags of grain so a bit of honey malt (0.4 lb), and some Munich II (0.1 lb) and a good dash of flaked barley. (0.2 lbs) I had only about an once of dried heather buds, which was less than most recipes I found wanted, but that’s what I had, so that’s how much was going in.

Experience has taught me that I need about 6 litres (I warned out about the mixed measures) going into things to end up with about a gallon after the boil, so everything got mashed for an hour at 155F (ish), and then got the boil going. (Do not use my rough shorthand as a good how to on basic brewing, follow a real recipe! I can recommend these ones over at Beer Craftr.) No hops in this boil, but instead I popped in about half the heather flowers at the start and the other half with 10 mins left in the boil. Most of the recipes I was vaguely cribbing off of suggested adding honey near the end and I utterly forgot. So no honey top up for the yeastie beasties, and an OG (Original gravity, essentially a measure of the sugar that’s available for the yeastie boys..) of 1.052.

Ale in progress

It hung out for about 10 days to ferment, bubbling away nicely at the start, trailing off at the end as expected and the FG came in at 1.020. The difference between OG and FG, plugged into an arcane formula (aka I use a web form), tells me that my final ale sits at 4.2% Lower than I’d hoped, but oh right.. I didn’t remember the honey. Oh well, close enough. I primed it with a bit of honey, such that, in theory, my bottles would be carbonated (spoiler alert.. they were not. Sad trombone.)

A couple weeks in, I cracked a bottle and … it was terrible. It was sharp and acidy and unpleasant. Thank goodness for swing tops, I closed that sucker back up and all three bottles are hanging out in storage now. Two in the cheese cave and one in the fridge. Less what I used for my dye experiments, of course. Perhaps forgetting about them for a year or two might make it drinkable. Stranger things have happened!