4 gallons water
Paper grocery bag full of Juniper branches and berries
5 lbs sparkling amber lme
3 lbs gold lme
1 quart pear juice
8 oz light brown sugar
Danstar Nottingham ale yeast
Artimesia tridentata, known as sage or sage brush to the locals
Jasmine and I recently went on a day trip to Central Oregon primarily to drive around and follow her father Scott while he made a hang gliding joy ride from Pine mountain over the sagelands. Our ulterior motive for this trip, as has been our custom as of late when we have the opportunity to travel to an area we don’t frequent, was to gather some of the native flora, in this case sage brush and Juniper berries & branches.
The native Juniper species to Eastern and Central Oregon is Western Juniper or Juniper occidentalis, considered invasive (as well as commercially useless) to the local agricultural and forest authorities, mainly for its unfettered encroachment into the lower sagelands. Officials cite the high amounts of water a young Western Juniper can consume in one day, 25 gallons, as a factor in control efforts in an area that is already stretched thin on water resources by a growing agricultural sector as well as a historically strong tradition of cattle grazing. Wildefire control efforts have also been cited as another source of Juniper encroachment.
Before white settlement in the area, Native Americans of had a rich tradition of Juniper use as food, drink, medicine, and as a source of workable wood. In North American traditions and the world over, juniper and cedar species are used for their antiseptic, antibiotic, and antiviral properties. The branches are distinctly bitter and the berries are 30% sugar, making them ideal for fermentation, which is something Scandanavian peoples have done for many years.
Juniper berries contain 30% dextrose, known commonly as grape sugar
We started off by making a juniper extract by boiling the branches and most of the berries in about 2.5 gallons of water. In a smaller pot we boiled some loose berries only in a little bit of water so as to make a separate just berry concentrate for taste testing purposes. We then strained out the branches and berries and ran water over them to get out extra good liquid that was still on them. We used enough water to bring the liquid level back up to 2.5 gallons as our liquid level had reduced considerably. Our taste tests at this point brought roughly the same face to all of our faces, confirming the bittering (and cleaning!) power this extract had.
After bringing the juniper extract up to a boil we added our malt extracts and then our brown sugar. We let this boil for about fifteen minutes and then began to cool the wort. At this point the wort tasted like a dream. The Juniper aroma and bitter flavors are coming on first and giving way to a delicious sweet, malty and caramel body.
After cooling to ~110F we added our yeast skurry from the last brew to the mix, let it sit for fifteen minutes, then added in our berry concentrate as well as our pear juice. We also brought the water level up tp 5 gallons which did not take much more water out of the tap. Our OG ended up being a modest 1.055.
All we can say is that we have truly high hopes for this unique and intrigueing ale. Our initial thought was to add hops in the secondary but we are all so universally intrigued by the juniper flavor that we are now set on splitting the 5 gallon batch into two secondaries, one sans secondary hops.