To Rosemary IPA or Not to Rosemary; that is the question

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: May 30, 2019
Rosemary

Rosemary, or as it is scientifically known as Rosmarinus Officnalis is a woody, perennial herb.

Rosemary is extremely fragrant and contains needle-like leaves. It is native to the Mediterranean region.

Fresh rosemary from the garden.

When we think of rosemary, we usually think about a nice roasted turkey or pork chops. I usually do not use many herbs or even spices for that matter in my brewing.

However, that all changed after I was inspired by Dick Cantwell.

The Inspiration 

Cantwell, of Magnolia Brewing Company, wrote the book, Eclectic IPA, Brewing Eclectic IPA: Pushing the Boundaries of India Pale Ale. In his book he goes into great details about the evolution of the IPA. He inspired me to brew this Rosemary IPA.

The Session Podcast on The Brewing Network talked to Dick Cantwell  about his collaboration with Shaun O’Sullivan (21st Amendment Brewing Co.) for Eclectic IPA Month, which took place in November of 2018.

This was an event that featured a variety of IPAs both brewers brewed up that really tested the limits of what an IPA can become. You can listen to this podcast here.

Cantwell’s book was the topic of conversation when Drew Beechum interviewed Cantwell on Experimental Brew podcast. The topic of conversation was IPAs; how they started, where they are now, and where they are going.

Cantwell shares some insight into what I thought was a rather radical idea; incorporating rosemary into a beer. You can listen to this podcast here.

Relentless – Rosemary IPA Recipe

Grains
• 67% Vienna
• 21% Maris Otter
• 8% Flaked Oats
• 4% Caramel/Crystal 20

Hops
• 1oz Simcoe Boil 60 min 13AA 37.8 IBU
• 1oz Cascade Boil 30 min 5.8AA 12.9 IBU
• 1oz Simcoe Boil 10 min 13AA 13.7 IBU
• 3oz Cascade Flame Out 0 min 5.8AA
• 2oz Simcoe Dry Hop 5.8AA

Yeast
• Fermentis Safale US-05 81%

Herbs
• 2 oz. rosemary branches, cut into 2” pieces @ mash
• 1 oz. rosemary needles @ whirlpool
• 1 oz. rosemary needles @ conditioning

Batch Size:    5.5 gallons
Boil Size:       7.5 gallons @ 60 min.
OG:   1.070
FG:    1.013
Color:   7.1
Efficiency:  82%
Bitterness: 64 IBU
ABV:   7.5%

A Little Goes a Long Way

While thinking about brewing this beer, I kept on thing in mind; moderation. I really feel this has become my philosophy of brewing lately. Whether it’s specialty malts, hops, or spices, being heavy-handed with these categories does often lead to a rather regrettable beer.

I will admit, being heavy handed with hops is something that I am still working on these days.

Rosemary

Grains milled the morning of brew day.

Rosemary is a very aromatic herb. As anyone who has cooked with it can tell you, a little goes a long way. I really agreed with Cantwell’s idea to be rather conservative with the amount of rosemary.

The whirlpool herb addition was to be akin to a whirlpool hop addition revealing more hop aroma, or herb and hop aroma in this case.

Rosemary

The Hydra from JaDed Brewing.

The Pairing of Herbs and Hops

The combination of hops and herbs for this beer is delicate culinary conundrum that should be taken serious. Rosemary is said to take on a rather piney flavor and aroma, much like spruce tips.

When first conceiving this recipe and then hop schedule, my mind went to Simcoe and Cascade. First, these were some hops I was looking to use up that have been in my freezer for awhile now.

Second, the piney and citrusy aroma and flavor will really play nicely with the woody and piney rosemary.

Simcoe is a hop that imparts some nice pronounced pine, woodsy earthiness, and some citrus aromas and flavors. This goes well with Cascade that is used traditionally for its citrusy flavor and aromas. Simcoe has always been known as “Cascade on steroids.”

Pairing the two seemed like a match made in Hop Heaven. Along with the rosemary, this beer should achieve the classic west coast IPA taste that most of us love so much.

Rosemary

Nothing better than hitting your numbers.

Since I just brewed this beer prior to writing this for the blog, I will be sure to keep you updated on how it turns out.

I will make an effort to post pictures and tasting notes on the HomeBrew Academy Brewers Facebook group.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.