Thursday 13 May 2010

21. Gorse Barley Wine

When whins [gorse] are out of bloom, Kissing's out of fashion. (1846 M. A. Denham Proverbs relating to Seasons)

Picture the scene. It’s the first flush of spring and I am walking the cliff path from Trevone to Padstow. After an austere winter, the feeling of the hot sun on my skin is like a mother’s caress to a fevered head. A light breeze is wafting fresh from the dark blue Atlantic ocean to my left. To my right is the beauteous rolling landscape of God’s own Cornwall. In front is the beautiful rear of my beautiful female companion. Surely a day cannot be more perfect? But wait, what is that enticing aroma? Light yet heady, intense yet subtle, earthy yet fragrant, my heart is ablaze. The aroma in question was the flowers of the banks of gorse which bordered the cliff path. I fell in love with the stuff that day.

It is impossible to accurately describe the aroma of gorse. To say it smells like coconut is to describe Beethoven’s 9th as a nice tune. Since that day I have been trying to use gorse in my beer to get at least a sense of that wonderful aroma, but like satisfaction and true happiness, my goal has evaded me. This time I am trying a new tack. I am brewing a barley wine without gorse. At the same time I am macerating gorse flowers in neutral spirit at 60% ABV, (don’t ask me where I got it from) to extract the essential oils. I will then fortify the barley wine with the gorse flower infusion.

I have picked a very good time to do this brew because the cliff tops are on fire with gorse flowers at the moment. The only downside to gorse is that it has more pricks than an Estate Agents conference, so picking the flowers is a painful task. My barley wine will be designed to be quite sweet so as to provide some body once the spirit is added. I’m keeping the hopping light, using less oily, less expressive hops so that the gorse can shine.

Will it work? Probably not, but it won’t stop me trying.

Tech Spec

Malt: Pale ale, 140 crystal, amber and cara

Hops: Fuggles, Goldings, Saaz and Mittlefruh

Yeast: Sharp’s

OG: 1095

PG: 1025 (before fortification)


Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Gorse is major pest here. My valley is full of it and you can smell it miles of on a calm summers evening when the sun hits it. A good smell even if the plant isnt.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I always think coconut oil with gorse and there’s an old Welsh brewing recipe in which gorse is used as a filter, bit like a hop back.

Fishter said...

I love the smell of gorse; reminds me of where I grew up.

Bottling it sounds pretty off-the-wall, but I'd definitely try it, at least once!

Ed said...

Love the estate agent simile.

Stuart Howe said...

The more of these brews the more I discover that there's no such thing as originality! I've tried something similar to the Welsh recipe Adrian but the aroma didn't make it through fermentation. The Alcohol infusion is intended to bypass the loss of volatiles in fermenation.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

I was talking about making a gorse beer with phil "the daddy" lowry the other day, i love the smell of it, its all tropical and coconuty.

we have loads of it round here and one day i will make something with it.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

ps your cliff tops look very much like the ones between here and whitby (26 miles of them that we walked the other day)

Anonymous said...

The young green tops of gorse's relative in the Faboideae, broom, was regularly used to give a bitter flavour to ale, and broom ale continued to be a favourite even after the arrival of hops. However, as I say in Amber Gold and Black, another reason for broom's popularity may be that "among the bitter compounds found in broom is sparteine, a narcotic alkaloid which can cause hallucinations in very large doses, and probably caused enhanced merriment even at low doses." Don't know if gorse, too, contains sparteine: let us know if you get any wacky visions after a couple of pints of gorse barley wine, Stuart …

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