Lavender, like other florals, adds a unique flavor to beers. Knowing how to homebrew with lavender will give you another ingredient to your homebrew kitchen.
Lavender is one of our favorite beer ingredients. Unlike other florals that we’ve used in our homebrews, it doesn’t add a tart or bitter flavor. It is a really surprising ingredient for beer, but one that isn’t frequently used. There also isn’t a ton of information around the internet on how to brew with lavender.
Our first beer with lavender was kind of an experiment since resources on brewing with lavender are so scarce. We were lucky that our first try worked out well. Since then we’ve perfected our technique and our lavender Kölsch is now one of our favorite summer brews.
If you’re looking to try brewing with lavender, here are some of the things we’ve learned in our quest to brew a delightfully delicious lavender beer.
What Lavender Brings to Your Homebrew
We have brewed beers with other florals like hibiscus and jasmine flowers. They add a really nice sweetness to a beer, but they also add a sort of tart or bitter flavor as well.
When we first brewed with lavender, we did have a bit of apprehension about using another floral, but our apprehension faded when we tried the finished beer.
Lavender can add a very subtle flavor and aroma to your beer. It also tends to bring a bit of sweetness without a tart of bitter flavor. The aroma is herbal and floral, and depending on the variety of lavender you use, flavors range from pepper and spice to citrus.
One word of caution about brewing with lavender; if you use too much, your beer will taste like granny’s old-fashioned lavender soap. Start small, and if you desire more lavender flavor or aroma, you can always add more before you bottle or keg.
Best Lavender Varieties for Homebrewing
One thing we think is important for a good result is to always use fresh herbs and spices whenever possible. We grow our own lavender (both French and English) and using fresh has made a huge difference in the quality of our lavender beer.
If you can’t find fresh, dried culinary grade lavender will work fine. You can source your lavender from your local health food store, grocery or some homebrew stores even carry lavender and other herbs and spices.
- English Lavender – English lavender tends to bring a more earthy flavor and aroma to beer. You’ll notice hints of pepper and light florals.
- French Lavender – French lavender has notes of citrus and pine. French lavender would be a great addition to a pale ale or IPA.
- Spanish Lavender – Spanish lavender has a similar profile to French lavender. It tends to be stronger in flavor and aroma, so use sparingly, especially if you’re brewing a lighter beer style.
There are many other varieties of lavender, these three are the most common that you will find dried in health food stores or at your local garden center as a live plant.
When to Add Lavender to Your Homebrew
There really isn’t a consistent answer to when you should add lavender to your brew. Since it isn’t as popular as other herbs in brewing it seems like many homebrewers just experiment and see what works. For our lavender Kölsch, we add lavender flowers with the last hop addition at the end of the boil.
- Mash – Some homebrewers add lavender to the mash. In this step you’re kind of making a tea, so you get some nice subtle lavender notes in your brew.
- Boil – As with other herbs and spices if you’re adding to the boil, wait until there is only 5 to 10 minutes left before adding your lavender. Boiling too long can really make your beer taste and smell like soap.
- Flameout – Just as with some more mild beer styles that add hops at flameout for a fresh and mild flavor, you can do the same with your lavender. The result will be a very subtle lavender aroma, with very little taste.
- Primary Fermentation – Think dry hopping here. This is also the time to practice the idea of “less is more”. Since your lavender flowers will be spending some time in your fermenting beer, a little will go a long way.
- Tinctures – Tinctures can be a great way to add lavender flavor and aroma in a controlled way. To make a tincture, soak lavender flowers in a flavorless booze like vodka.
The flowers should soak for a week or so. Before using, filter the flowers out of the alcohol, placing the liquid in a dark glass bottle or jar. Your tincture can be added during primary or secondary fermentation or when you bottle or keg.