Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hibiscus Pale Ale

With winter in full swing I wanted something a bit more that women would still drink, enter a malty pale ale. I wanted this to appeal to my girlfriend in flavor, and also in visual appeal. After reading about a gruit in which hibiscus was the main flavor/color component I began to think about that gruit re-imagined as a pale ale with hops.

Flowers in beer seems to be exploding at the moment; for SAVOR Dogfish & Sam Adams collaborated on an extremely exclusive beer called flowers. It was made with rose water and an experimental hops called 369. South Hampton Publik House brews a beer with flowers called Cuvee Des Fleurs. Arcadia here in Michigan had their summer seasonal on cask at Hopcat recently with Hibiscus added. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel also makes a brew with hibiscus called Rosee D'hibiscus. There are many more examples of this phenomenon.

After purchased a few ounces of dried hibiscus at a Whole Foods in Chicago I tried chewing on the dried petals. I found myself deeply enjoying the pungent tart-cranberry taste as just one dried leaf filled my mouth with flavor. I immediately decided that this was a beer I had to brew. I wanted a hop that had a reputation for being floral in nature; enter Palisade. Palisade has been described as "perfumey" "rosey" "floral and aromatic" with "subtle bittering". That sounds perfect for this beer.

As with any endeavor I began by researching my chosen ingredients. Hibiscus has long been served as a tea everywhere it naturally grows, and the people of these regions have combine natural local flavors into drinks characteristic of their region. In Jamaica it is called 'Agua de Flor de Jamaica' and is made as a tea with hibiscus, ginger, then sweetened with sugar. It can be served in water or rum. In Panama they make a Christmas tea flavored with hibiscus, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. In other parts of the world they drink the tea with lemon juice, or lime juice. The drinks can be served sparkling or still depending on the mixer.

(read more after the break)

I started by locating a french press to make tea. This is was what Mike over at did as well. When I pressed the tea I was surprised by the color and also the incredible flavor of the tea. It is a taste experience. After tasting the tea and mixing it in with a little fresh pale I determined if it was ready for prime time.

To assemble a malt bill for this I wanted a few things: I wanted a lighter beer in terms of flavor not to outshine but rather to accent the other flavors, I wanted a beer that was pale or pale red in color so that the natural color of the hibiscus would add to the beer, I wanted a tall billowing head that carried the scents from the hibiscus, and I wanted a unique look. I settled on my standard base of Organic 2-row, with an increased charge of Cara-pils for superior head retention, and a dose of Cara-red to bring out the redness from the hibiscus to make a truly red beer. The Cara-red will also add a touch of sweetness to the brew which I believe will balance the tart hibiscus flavors well.

Boil Size: 1.48 gal
Post Boil Volume: 1.04 gal
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Estimated FG: 1.012 SG
Estimated Color: 10.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

1 lbs 8.0 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 71.8 %
6.0 oz Carared (20.0 SRM) 17.9 %
3.0 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) 8.9 %
0.5 oz Special B Malt (180.0 SRM) 1.4 %
0.20 oz Palisade [7.50 %] - Boil 17.0 min 18.0 IBUs
0.30 oz Palisade [7.50 %] - Boil 7.0 min 13.4 IBUs
0.2 pkg American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)
1.00 oz Hibiscus Flowers (Bottling)

Saccharification Add 6.52 qt of water at 158.6 F 154.0 F 60 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 7 min 168.0 F 10 min

Brewing went well but the boil was a touch to vigorous, I might have to up my boil volume or remember to put the lid on. I can't wait until fermentation starts dying down to add the hibiscus. The beer came out darker than expected for the 10 Srm, but I think the Cara-red made it redder. We'll see once the yeast cleans things up.

I ended up waiting until bottling toadd the hibiscus so I could hopefully sample the beer and how bitter it is and see what I wanted to do as far as infusing it. I ended up going with 2 heaping tbsp into about a cup of water. and french pressing them.

Bonus Pictures:
To the imediate right is a picture contrasting the consentrated color of the beer in the carboy and then in the syphon. To the bottom left is a picture of the beer's color again with a closer up of the bottles. To the bottom right is the unappetising uncarbonated beer in a snifter. It got very dark in the middle I am hoping that bottle conditioning cleans out some of the yeast I accidently stirred up.


  1. It's really an informative and well described post regarding winter beer .Nice recipe . I like it. I appreciate your topic for blogging. Thanks for sharing such a useful post.

  2. Thanks for that, I appreciate you reading my blog. Many of my beers have turned out better than this one but the experimenting is what I am all about.