I am always looking for new ways to incorporate local flavors into my brews, and after learning about the chicory flower/plant(and that it grows rampant near me), I decided an experimental batch was in order.
I have had good commercial examples that had used chicory, so I figured why not go with a full 5 gallons using a North English Brown Ale recipe.
Part A: Foraging Chicory
Chicory grows throughout the entire US and should be fairly easy to recognize. Since there are no poisonous look-a-likes, it’s a perfect herb to use in some foraging/brewing experimentation. It has pale blue blossoms that appear all through summer and fall. Its leggy, haphazard growing pattern is straggly, and the bottom leaves resemble the dandelion plant. Look for chicory in old abandoned fields, rural roadsides, and farmhouse yards.
Chicory has other uses than a roasted coffee-like root. The young leaves are edible in salads, as are the aforementioned blossoms, while the flower buds can be pickled!
Here is a very detailed explanation of the chicory plant and its uses.
Part B: Processing Chicory
We want the root for brewing, so you will want a spade or small spike of some sort to dig out the roots without damaging them. I used a new sponge and washed them with warm water to get them as clean as possible. You may have noticed these roots smell like nothing currently. Keep reading.
After a good scrub, we want to bake them to release/convert the amazing compounds that will fill the house with a very potent chocolate/coffee/earthy smell. Slice the roots into chunks and bake at 400F for 1 hour or until fully brown. They should look like the picture below (1).
Once roasted, we packed them into a mason jar, and filled 1/4 with grain alcohol, to create an extraction, preserve the flavors, and sanitize the roots (since we will be adding to the fermentor).
Part C: Brewday & Recipe
We went with a low abv sorta-english brown ale for the base beer. We decided to use the roots as a post fermentation flavor addition in the carboy. We were concerned boiling the roots would result in tannin extraction and harsh unwanted flavors. Using them in the mash is another option we have yet to try.
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 6 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 7 gallons
Estimated Gravity: 1.050 (recipe based estimate)
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)
|8 lb||United Kingdom – Maris Otter Pale||38||3.75||84.2%|
|0.5 lb||American – Caramel / Crystal 60L||34||60||5.3%|
|6 oz||American – Caramel / Crystal 120L||33||120||3.9%|
|4 oz||United Kingdom – Dextrine Malt||33||1.8||2.6%|
|4 oz||American – Chocolate||29||350||2.6%|
|2 oz||American – Roasted Barley||33||300||1.3%|
|1 oz||East Kent Goldings||Leaf/Whole||5.5||Boil||90 min||21.43|
|1 each||Whirlfloc||Fining||Boil||15 min|
|3 g||Yeast Nutrient||Other||Boil||15 min|
|1 tsp||Gelatin||Fining||Primary||0 min|
Wyeast – London ESB Ale 1968 (FRESH SLURRY)
- Mashed in at 158° F (68° C) and held for 60 minutes
- Mashed out at 168° F (76° C) for 10 minutes
- Sparged at 168° F (76° C)
- Gravity came in spot on at 1.048
Part D: Fermentation
- Original Gravity: 1.048
- Final Gravity: 1.018
- ABV: 3.9%
- Fermentation Temp: 66-68F
- Fermented at 66-68 for 7 days.
- Added mason jar with alcohol soaked chicory and allowed to condition for an additional 5 days.
- Took really crappy potato quality picture (above)
- Checked gravity (1.018). Cold crashed for 1 day, then kegged, and set to 30 PSI for 2 days.
Part E: Tasting & Notes
Strong earthy presence, fresh roasted coffee bean, slight ashy notes in the background. No hop aroma present.
Chocolate and roasted coffee flavors upfront mix well with the malty base brown ale. Earthy woody and vanilla in the background. Hops balance the high FG, definitely tastes more dry than sweet.
A bit thin, but after all it is a 3.9 % beer. Carbonation is a bit low and likely best this way.
Drink-ability & Notes:
Fairly straightforward, but for that reason it is a very session-able autumn ale. Not at all a desert beer despite the chocolate and coffee notes. Chicory is awesome, definitely plan to use in other styles/bigger beers in the future
A great beer that will be a regular around here during autumn. After now trying 4 and 12 oz amounts, I believe the 8 oz of chicory was the sweet spot. I plan to be more careful when roasting, lower and slower to avoid the very slight ashy (best word I could come up with) flavor and aroma. Also consider ways to combat the oil content from the roots, as it appears to greatly detract from the head of the beer. Either use a grain that increases head retention, or somehow reduce the oil content in the roots.
If you end up brewing with it or have before, let me know your experiences with it!