Foraged pale mild

A couple of years ago I split a recipe for pale mild three ways and flavoured each third respectively with spruce tips, nettle and ground ivy (aka ale hoof). Last year I created a variant of this with meadowsweet, woodruff and sorrel and mentioned them briefly in the blog as a portion of the base wort was used for the hawthorn sourced yeast. I’ve brought it into the blog now as a stand-alone page because I want to experiment more with foraged plant flavours.

Nettle, spruce and ale-hoof

The original recipe was based on Casper Mild from Andy Hamilton’s Brewing Britain but with fewer hops and the herbs added. I added the three plants for bittering and flavour.  All three started off quite sweet with pronounced herb character but dried and mellowed over type. The nettle was the most subtle and easy drinking. The spruce had a pine and citrus flavour. The ale-hoof, or ground ivy, was perfumed and aromatic; possibly a balsam flavour, nice but unusual.

OG:1.044 FG:1.015 ABV:3.7 SRM:13 IBU:22 15L batch

  • 81% Mild ale malt
  • 5.7% pale crystal malt 30L
  • 4.3% carared
  • 4.9% biscuit malt
  • 4% flaked barley

Mash at 69deg C for 45mins. Boil for 60mins

  • 7g East Kent Golding (5.46% AA) to each third at 60mins
  • 7g nettle / 7g spruce / 7g Ale-hoof at 60mins
  • 10g nettle / 10g spruce / 10g alehoof at 10mins

Ferment with WLP002

Sorrel, woodruff and meadowsweet

I’m intrigued by meadowsweet. I used the flowers last year without drying and they added a floral and medicinal flavour. I heard Lottie Muir, the Cocktail Gardener, on Radio 4 describing the buds. We found them near the house and the marzipan hit was intense. These were added for a final five minute boil after splitting the batch. Initially the finished ale was quite intensely flavoured of medicin and almonds but this mellowed out to be more pleasant.

Sorrel leaves were treated the same way as the meadowsweet buds. In the finished ale the sorrel provided a pleasant but unremarkable flavour, lemony and a bit green.

The coumarin smell in woodruff intensifies as it dries so I added this post primary fermentation. I was worried about airborne mould settling on the woodruff and, without the preservative properties of hops, I decided not to simply “dry hop”. I had read about the traditional German Maibowle so partially dried 28g woodruff for 48 hours then steeped the woodruff in 750ml of reisling (10% ABV) for 24 hours before topping up the demijohn with 500ml of flavoured wine. I expect this beer to be about 4.5%.  The finished ale had a heady mixture of hay, leaf litter – almost smoky.

All three milds started off quite sweet, accentuated by a plantlike artificial sweetness, and lacked bitter balance, which I would aim to rectify next time.

The base beer recipe is given below:

OG:1.045 FG:1.015 ABV:3.9 SRM:11 IBU:14 20L batch

  • 81% Mild ale malt
  • 10% pale crystal malt 30L
  • 5% biscuit malt
  • 4% flaked barley

Mash at 69deg C for 45mins. Boil for 60mins

  • 22g East Kent Golding (5.46% AA) at 60mins
  • batch split. 1/4 boiled for 5min with 26g of sorrel. 1/4 boiled for 5mins with 20g of meadowsweet budS.

1/4 without herbs fermented with hawthorn flower sourced yeast. The remaining three portions fermented with WLP002 English ale yeast. The 1/4 without herbs but clean fermented had woodruff wine added after primary fermentation.