Brewing with Elderflowers – Easy to Follow Guide

Today’s article is about brewing with elderflowers. It is the third part of our brewing with herbs series. So let’s start with what are elderflowers?

Elderflowers are the product of the flowering Elder plant. The Latin name is Sambucus. The seeds, twigs and leaves of the elder plant can be potentially toxic.

Elderflowers however, are used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Also they are used to in the production of several alcoholic beverages from Elderflower wine to St. Germain liquor.

Today we are going to look at how you can use them in beer making. As a guide many people compare the flavor of apricots but with a floral taste.

Brewing with Elderflowers
Brewing with Elderflowers

Using Elderflowers When Brewing Beer

William Bros. Brewing Co. from Alloa Scotland make three elderflower beers. They use the Elderflower blossom and that is what we suggest you use.

The Elderflowers can be used in the boil on the hot side as well as in the fermentation on the cold side. Using them on the cold side you need to be careful of infection.

Therefore, we recommended the elder blossom as you can buy it pre-prepared so have less chance of infection in your brew. So what beer style best suits Elderflowers?

Brewing With Elderflowers – Which Style?

Elderflowers suits several beer styles from a lager to saison and IPA. If you imagine the flavor from the blossom like apricots but with floral notes then you can imagine it’s versatility.

Some people say they give a citrusy character in food and wine and I have found that true of beer too.

If you are going to use elderflower in an IPA you may want to up the amount used as it will be tempered by the hops used. We are going to suggest how much to use for a middle of the road golden ale.

You can adjust accordingly depending on the beer style you make.

How Much Elderflower Blossom To Use?

If you are going to use the Elderflower wholly in the hot-side you do need to use a lot of the blossom. We are looking at 18-20g per liter. This is a lot I know and not commercially viable.

At this rate you will get a noticeable elderflower aroma and taste. You can add it at flameout or in your whilrpool if you have one. Put in a muslin bag so it doesn’t block your pump or heat exchanger.

Elderflowers and Beer
Elderflowers and Beer

Getting A More Subtle Flavor

You can use less blossom for a more subtle favor. Dead Good Golden Ale a beer out of New Zealand uses elderflower in the beer. They used 0.5g/L at 15 and another 0.5g/L five minutes before the end of the boil.

These rates give a much more subtle flavor but the elderflower character is definitely present. 1g per liter is much more viable cost wise.

Cold Side Elderflower

Then there is Monkey Wizard Brewery who also brew beer using elderflower. They make a seasonal Elderflower Ale. This beer practically shouts out elderflower aroma and taste.

They are using elderflower blossom in the fermentation vessel (FV). This as we say has to be done carefully. As you don’t want to infect your beer.

Beer in Glass with Sip Taken out of it
Beer in Glass with Sip Taken out of it

Elderflowers unlike hops don’t have anti-micro bacterial properties. That’s why we suggest steeping them in a minimal amount of boiling water for 10 minutes before adding the “tea” and flowers to the FV at 1-2 Plato above terminal.

Adding before reaching terminal gravity will help ensure any oxygen introduced has a chance to be consumed. It will also make sure the elderflower taste is homogenized throughout your brew.

The amount you add depends on the beer you brew but between 1-5g per liter should be sufficient for adding to the FV. You can do small scale trials before adding using the “blossom tea” and trialing in glasses of beer.

In Conclusion

Elderflowers are a versatile plant to use in a number of styles of beer. It can be used to add a subtle unique twist to a beer or be the main component with great results.

If you do use Elderflower in your beer then please comment below and share your results. I am sure it will help others in their brewing.

If you want to learn more about brewing with herbs then click the link to see more articles in our series. In the meantime thanks for visiting our site and happy brewing!

Neil Playfoot

Neil is a brewer with 25 years international brewing experience. Based out of China (first came in 2010) he works as a brewing consultant helping brewers with their projects and brewing processes. To find out what services Neil can provide your brewery please click here. If you'd like to contact Neil you can email at neil@asianbeernetwork.com.
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