When recent backyard foraging yielded an abundance of basil and chilli peppers, I got thinking about their beer-making potential. No doubt there are plenty of more orthodox culinary opportunities to consider with these versatile ingredients, but I'm not a Thai chef.
Unusually, my learned research assistant Mrs Google could offer only scant advice on herbaceous homebrewing techniques, so I was on my own for a beery Masterchef invention test. I settled on a standard 20L Pale Ale recipe as the base, pimped out with a generous handful of about 25 HOT chilli peppers and a large bowl (~40g) of fresh basil leaves.
The chillis went into the boiler for the last 15 minutes, the basil for just the last 5 minutes as my half-arsed research suggested that excess proteins could result if herbs are boiled too long. Only bittering hops were used (40g of Northdown, 8.5% AA) as I figured the chilli and basil would suffice for flavour and aroma. Starting gravity was about 1.048 and I used a Whitelabs California Ale Yeast. Half the brew was kegged in a 9.5L minikeg and I bottled the rest.
Biased I may be, but in my humble opinion Chilli Basil Ale is quite pleasantly drinkable. The appearance is maybe a little hazy, but quite respectable looking in the glass. I've cheerfully drank much mankier looking brews. Lively carbonation (from the keg at least) keeps a light head afloat with no apparent ill-effects from my backyard adjuncts. An interesting jaffa-like aroma hints at the warm, mellow herbaceous flavour to follow.
The chillis add enough heat to be interesting, but are subtle enough that it remains an easy drinking, summery ale. On first tasting from the keg I thought I'd probably go a little longer on the chillis next time, but I've found that over several weeks the bottled portion has developed an appreciably stronger chilli profile. The basil balances nicely with the bittering hops to provide a refreshing counterpoint to the chilli heat.
Chilli Basil Ale is definitely not an all night session beer, but it's well worth a crack if you're feeling up for something different. Much better than a Pad Kra Pao.
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