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Absinthe Ale

I have been reading about different versions of absinthe/wormwood beers, but it sounds like the end product often comes out way too bitter.

In my experience, there are a few important details to be considered making this product; I wanted to offer my insight and a recipe, looking forward to your opinions.

[i]Absinthe Ale 1656

16 oz ale
1 oz aniseed
1/2 oz licorice
1/6 oz dried wormwood

-grind the aniseed, licorice and mix it with the wormwood and ale
-let it stand for 8 hours in a closed container (<12 hrs.)
-heat over a moderate fire for 20 minutes (~150 F, <170; covered)
-strain and bottle (~12 oz after some loss, w/priming sugar)[/i]

The key points here are:

-pick a type of beer that is not already bitter; I had great success with saison au miel, and I believe it will also work well with brown ales

-don’t grind the herbs to a powder; keep them coarse, or the bitterness will be intense

-use beer that is ready to be bottled; don’t ferment beer with wormwood mixed in, or it will be unpleasant and bitter; on that same note, don’t soak the ingredients in the beer longer than 12 hours

-after soaking the herbs, don’t heat the beer too long or too hot; that’s where you want to save the alcohol content, but get the taste smoother

I’ve just opened a bottle last night, and it was surprisingly good! Balanced taste, bitter, but smooth, not at all unpleasant, with some sweetness to it, probably from the honey or the priming sugar –overall a very interesting mix between beer and absinthe.

I think it is still a very intense drink to make any large batch of it. However, I will continue making these using the last couple ounces on bottling days, and enjoy one on days when I crave something bitter or just ate too much…

As a general responsibility, I felt obligated to add the following:

Wormwood has a chemical compound called ‘thujone’; popular culture likes to deem it deadly, but it is actually much safer than some other spices and herbs out there. And it is a very ‘pleasant’ chemical,great for your digestive system when combined with anise, fennel or licorice.

If you heard otherwise, there is a reason: around the turn of the century, French winemakers started to lose business to absinthe, a traditional –and extremely strong- drink that became very popular; it went to the excesses where 7 times more absinthe was consumed than wine –by volume. As a respond to this new tendency, a coalition of winemakers started a marketing campaign to discredit absinthe and wormwood, succeeding to the point where the original absinthe became widely illegal, up until a few years ago.

To get scientific, one gram of wormwood contains about 1-2.5 mg of thujone. Thujone is safe all the way to 30mg/kg (of your weight); it starts to create potential complications at 45mg/kg, and becomes deadly at around 80mg/kg.

In laymen’s term, if you are around 75 kg/165 pounds, you can consume 2250mg of thujone, which would mean consuming 50-80 ounces of wormwood.

Considering the bitterness, one would hardly ever get to the end of consuming one single ounce; certainly, weird tinctures, concentrating and mixing compounds could cause health issues, but that’s both rare and a simply irresponsible approach.

(I believe the current law in Germany allows around 30mg of thujone/liter in alcoholic beverages, which would come from 30 grams / 1 ounce of wormwood; some private absinthe makers are using around 100 grams of wormwood per one liter of absinthe, safely; the issue there is rather the consumption of alcohol that’s literally flammable…)

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