Homebrew Batch 8: Roll the Bones 1.0

Why are we here? Because there's beer!

After cutting our teeth on established recipes of several favorite styles (porter, amber, English mild, American brown, Kölsch, and altbier) my wife and I decided to try something different. Inspired by Randy Mosher's excellent Radical Brewing I designed a recipe that nearly defies categorization and which I therefore refer to as American Strong Ale, a delightful catch-all for such awkward situations.

We brew with extract and steeping grains (no all-grain yet, but we'll get there one day), so the concept was to work within Mosher's parameters to create a beer that is easy to design, brew, and drink. The parameters for a 5-gallon batch are 5 lbs pale dry malt extract (DME), 1/2 to 1 1/2 lbs crystal malt (any color), and 4-8 oz high-quality aroma hops (Kent Goldings, Saaz, Hallertauer, Cascade).

Much later in the book there's a cool table of herbs and spices that can be used in brewing. In keeping with the spirit of adventure I perused said table and found something that might be fun to throw in as well: chamomile. Conveniently I had a bag of loose-leaf chamomile tea I'd been wanting to get rid of, so that became part of the recipe.

Before we get to the recipe, a word about the beer's appellation. All of our beers are named after Rush songs, albums, lyrics, etc. I love Rush, no apologies. The idea behind Roll the Bones is that you throw stuff into the beer and see what happens. The next batch we make will still fall within the parameters given above but hopefully end up very different.

Anyway, here's what we ended up doing:

3 lbs Briess Golden Light DME (4ºL)
2 lbs Briess Sparkling Amber DME (10ºL)

Steeping grains
0.5 lb Crystal malt 20ºL
0.5 lb Crystal malt 40ºL
0.5 lb Crystal malt 60ºL

2 oz Saaz hop pellets (2.4% a.a.) for 60 min
2 oz Saaz hop pellets (2.4% a.a.) for 15 min
4 oz Saaz hop pellets (2.4% a.a.) for 5 min

0.5 tsp yeast nutrient for 15 min
0.5 tablet Whirfloc for 15 min
16 g Chamomile tea for 5 min

1 packet White Labs WLP036 Düsseldorf Ale Yeast

Ferment at 66-68ºF for 11 days, then at 69-72ºF for 3 days. Bottle condition for 3-4 weeks, then let sit in refrigerator for 4 weeks so yeast settles.

OG: 1.070
FG: 1.013
IBU: 42 (Rager method)
Color: 12 SRM
Alcohol: 7.6% ABV

The beer pours medium amber, with some haze (from the large amount of hops and chamomile, which also soaked up some water, resulting in the higher ABV), and good head and retention. It smells of caramel apple with a kiss of black pepper. The taste is much the same, with a spicy hop bitterness at the end. The clean spiciness of Saaz hops plays well with the floral notes of the chamomile, making the latter unidentifiable on its own but enjoyable as part of a larger whole. The beer has medium carbonation and medium-full body, and is juicy up front with a dry finish, sweet but not cloying. It pairs well with dark-chocolate-covered dried mango, with the chocolate complementing the caramel malts and the beer's overall sweetness accentuating the fruit's earthy tartness.

Will I make this beer again in exactly the same way? Probably not, but it was a lot of fun to design and brew. We got to work with new ingredients we hadn't used before and discovered some fun possibilities we might not have discovered without taking a few risks. I'm sure I'll incorporate chamomile into a beer again one day, probably in a Belgian of some sort. And I'm even more sure I'll keep trying stuff that may or may not work, just to see what it does. The worst that can happen is I'll have to drink it. Cheers!


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