hist-brewing: Rowan ale

Jeff Renner jsrenner at umich.edu
Sat Jan 5 11:40:47 PST 2008

mprilla at comcast.net  proposes to brew a Rowan Ale.

British brewing historian Martyn Cornell <atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk>,  
author of one of what I think is the most comprehensive and best book  
on the history of British beer, The Story of the Pint (2003),  
responded, "Beer made from the berries of the rowan or mountain ash,  
Sorbus aucuparia, was a Welsh favourite ... Rowans are a familiar  
tree in Britain, planted in townscapes because the trees are quite  
small and the red berries look very attractive in the autumn."

These are commonly planted ornamental trees in the US as well.  It's  
possible that some fruit may still have escaped birds and be hanging  
on trees, but it might be better to wait until next fall.

I note that mprilla (it would be nice to tell us your name, BTW)  
proposes to add the rowan berries to the secondary.

It might be a good idea to cook them first, as the Wikipedia article  
on rowan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan says:
Rowan berries contain sorbic acid, an acid that takes its name from  
the Latin name of the genus Sorbus. Raw berries also contain  
parasorbic acid (about 0.4%-0.7% in the European rowan[3]), which  
causes indigestion and can lead to kidney damage, but heat treatment  
(cooking, heat-drying etc.) and, to a lesser extent, freezing,  
neutralises it, by changing it to the benign sorbic acid. Luckily,  
they are also usually too astringent to be palatable when raw.  
Collecting them after first frost (or putting in the freezer) cuts  
down on the bitter taste as well.

Good luck on the project.

Nice to see some traffic on historic brewing.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, jsrenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

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