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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Melissa Ale In the Garden

This week In the Garden I shared my process for brewing Melissa Ale, which if you tuned in, you’ll know is Lemon Balm Ale. Now, to keep things simple, I focused on making a small, 1-gallon batch of Melissa ale. I felt that a small batch might be less daunting for newcomers to try, and that experienced brewers can easily adapt it to larger batches! One gallon makes about 10-12 12-ounce bottles. A respectable start!

Now I’m not going to share the walk-through that I did on air in this post (you can listen to the Podcast on Demand for that), but I am reviewing the list of materials, and some resources to help you get brewing. You can check out at our In the Garden Flickr Group for more info too!

First, if you are new to ale brewing and thinking of getting a kit, most commercial ale starter kits prepare you for 5-gallon brewing and should cost about $100. If you want to brew lagers, that’s a different story, and one I can’t help you with because I’m an old school ale brewer. No muss, no fuss – that’s my approach to brewing and to life! So, on with the show …

For one gallon of Melissa (Lemon Balm) Ale, you will need:

  • 8 ounces of fresh Melissa officinalis, AKA lemon balm (or 2-3 ounces dried herb)
  • 1 tablespoon of earl grey tea (loose organic and fair trade)
  • 1 pound (2+ cups) of brown sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • Ale yeast
  • 12 teaspoons of corn sugar (or any sugar of your choice)
  • Stainless steel pot
  • 1-gallon wide-mouth glass jar
  • Funnel
  • Spoon – stainless or plastic or dedicated wood
  • Strainer or cheese cloth
  • 1-gallon jug, AKA a carboy
  • Racking cane
  • Food grade hose
  • Bottling wand
  • Bung (to fit your carboy/jug)
  • Airlock
  • 10-12 12-ounce bottles
  • 10-12 bottle caps
  • Bottlebrush
  • Bottle capper
  • Love and patience

For a 1-gallon ale starter set, if you recycle/reuse/reclaim and have some basic quality kitchen utensils (IE: stainless steel pot, strainer, spoon), the most expensive piece of equipment will be your bottle capper, which runs in the $20 range. Of course, you can use Grolsch style bottles to eliminate that expense and you can find these bottles at thrift shops and yard sales. Anyway, based on these assumptions, I estimate that it will cost about $50 to get a basic 1-gallon fermentation station started. Double that if you want a basic 5-gallon start up.

For your brew, assuming you grow your own Melissa, the cost for a gallon will be about $7 … can you see the economy here? Not only that, but the chances of finding a Melissa Ale on the market anywhere at any price is highly unlikely.

So, get brewing!

Here’s a few resources to help you get started:

Brewing Books:

Home Brewing Supplies:

Also, check out my “What I Made Today” blog for my “Ale” and "Homebrew" tags for more inspiration.

Lastly, post your homebrewing questions here because I will be using them for next Thursday’s show “Melissa Ale follow-upIn the Garden at 11:30 AM, ET only Blockhead Radio! See you then, if not sooner and …

Get Brewing!


LazyTcrochet said...

Ahh our carboy is huge. We've been meaning to start brewing again. It's been many years. I do have lots of lemon balm in the garden though! Sounds tasty.

Tammie Lee said...

Oh this sounds so wonderful. I shy away from buying all the gear being a renter. But.... I am considering! Thank you for all the links to make this happen!
Now to listen to your show and find out how long it takes to ripen.

TC said...

Lavender beer is what I might be more inclined to make.