If you love making your own beer, homebrewing a variety of ales and stouts is probably high on your list. However, you may or may not know that you can add your own gardener's spin on typical beer varieties by adding a little bit of some of your favorite backyard botanicals can give a whole new flavor to your beer batches. Experiment with these options to find the next refreshing brew to share with your friends. While some of these flavoring agents are a bit unusual to grow in temperate gardens, you can experiment with the more tropical varieties indoors or in a greenhouse.
This beautiful red flower also is a popular addition to sour-style ales like gose. Many people use parts of the flower for this, so try growing the flowers for their beauty then saving and drying them to build a store of hibiscus to work with for your batch of homebrew. Consider using hibiscus in a red ale too, since the red of the flowers is often apparent when they are infused into the beer.
With a flavor that has been compared to licorice, thai basil mixes and plays well with pale ales and even more hoppy IPAs, or Indian Pale Ales. The flavor is stronger than you might think, so make sure you experiment with a little for a small licorice "twist," before you move on to more thai-basil-forward flavoring.
For a delicious, tea-like floral flavor, try adding lavender blossoms to a good wheat beer or hefeweizen for a wonderful mixture. Combined with a lemon flavor, lavender can become a great summer beer, perfect for relaxing in the garden as the bees buzz around the lavender plants.
Light, flowery, and relaxing, chamomile makes a lovely addition to a light lager or pilsner. While not a heavy flavor, chamomile is a good candidate for when you are just starting your infusing journey, and because it is so common in teas, there are many good guides to drying the flowers effectively. Experiment with fresh and dried flowers, and see if there might be other herbal additions, including peppermint and lemon balm, that could add to your beers. Mint is a fun flavor to add to a chocolate stout, for instance.
A great source of vitamin C and a delightful tangy flavor, rosehips add a sour note to beers that already have a citrus twist. Combine rosehips with hibiscus in a gose or add some to a golden lager and make a beer that looks best with an orange wheel on the side of the glass.
For a strong, herb driven beer, add some rosemary to an India Pale Ale. This beer will already derive a strong bitter and floral flavor from the heavy hops, so the herb can add a new dimension to the mix. Rosemary is hardy and can be grown in window boxes, making this a good option for apartment dwelling brewers, but as with many of the other options, this is a spicy, intense flavor, so you want to aim for a little at first and scale up to more rosemary-intensive beers.
Chilies and Hot Peppers
Experiment with tiny quantities of chilies and hot peppers in your favorite chocolate-y milk stout to get something akin to a "Mexican chocolate" beer. These chilies should be powdered or mashed, and make sure you know exactly how much of the pepper's flesh versus seeds are going in, since that will affect the flavor and the heat. A spicy kick is also popular in light lime flavored lagers. As with other botanicals, make sure to strain them before you bottle the beer as actual bits of jalapeño make for a much less pleasant experience than balanced note of tiny spice in a drink.
Ginger is downright medicinal in its properties, so consider making a full blown ginger beer or adding some of the spicy root to your favorite existing brew. Many people boil large amounts of grated ginger into a foamy ginger beer, but the same ginger-infused water can be added as part of your beer making process in various quantities. To grow the plant indoors, you'll needs a live ginger root to get started, but after that, aim for moist but not overly wet conditions as you tend to your ginger. Be careful as you harvest, since you may be tempted to make more ginger flavored beers than your root can sustain!
While many traditional types of beer are delicious enough to just brew with your homebrew equipment and drink as they are, adding backyard herbs and spices to your brews at specific stages can yield a beer that is as unique as it is delicious. Experiment in small batches, since some herbs don't do as well when added too early in the process, and always err on the side of too little of the herb rather than finding yourself with an overwhelmingly lavender driven beer.