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05/31/10 07:19 PM  
Rhubarb beer
Back-story: My roommate will be house sitting for the next month at a place with a great garden, including plentiful rhubarb. While discussing fruit beers he asked if I knew of any rhubarb beer. So yes, I've read about Cantillon Zwanze 2008 but have never had the opportunity to try it.

The Plan: Take a gallon of well soured lambic-ish beer and age with garden fresh rhubarb. My questions are the following:

Has anyone else ever made rhubarb beer?

How should I prepare the stalks? Would cooking them help the flavor?

What range of lb/gal? I'd like a fairly strong and distinct rhubarb flavor but still let the beer's character come through.

Maybe add some strawberries for the classic pie combo?

Is this a stupid idea and I should just use another fruit?

05/31/10 08:18 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Intrigued by the idea (and the three rhubarb plants growing next to the hops), I Googled Rhubarb Beer and found a few hits both by commercial and home brewers. Even found rhubarb wine! Did not (yet) find it being added to a sour base. Rhubarb can have a fair amount of pucker power on it's own, so perhaps that's why.

There's a guy on aussiehomebrewer.com that spells out his recipe/adding process. Another rhu-brew: http://selfsufficienturbanite.blogspot.com/2008/06/brewing-belgian-white-and-rhubarb-beer.html

Few rhubarb harvesting hints: leaves are toxic. Stems: darker color = more flavor. Supposed to be better for the plant to grab stem near base and rock/twist off. Cooked rhubarb freezes well (for future experiments), and rhubarb syrup stores well in the fridge. Hmmm...I'm already thinking rhubarb syrup for a berliner weiss...

Al B and I would be curious to hear your results.

05/31/10 09:13 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
hi everyone. i am a long time lurker, first time poster.


it's not a stupid idea at all! we make a berliner weisse style beer that gets rhubarb. basically i cook down the rhubarb into a slurry and add it after fermentation. i am planning to use the pilot system and play around with adding some of the rhubarb slurry to the end of the boil. i'd like to get more of that rhubarb vegetal/earthy sourness without the longish aging time that we currently go through. right now the rhubarb is at about 6 liters of slurry per barrel and is it certainly noticeable in the beer at that rate.



06/01/10 12:26 AM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Nina and Chris, thanks for the feedback.

So I will be cooking down the rhubarb stalks once I get them. I had looked into the toxicity issue so I know not to eat the leaves. I also found that the stalks also contain small amounts the toxin, oxalic acid. But since the dose makes the poison, they are safe to eat.

Good to know it freezes well as it sounds like we will have a bounty of 'barb.

I will be sure to update on the results. May not be for a while as I will be patient with the aging.

tom sawyer
06/01/10 01:30 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Is oxalic acid the source of rhubarb's tartness? Or is it anthroquinone, or something else? I couldn't find the answer in my brief online search. I wouldn't think it was all oxalic acid, since spinach has this and isn't sour.

A tart rhubarb beer sounds interesting.

06/01/10 02:13 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
tom sawyer,

Rhubarb contains a (WARNING: bad pun) garden variety of acids including Malic and Oxalic (see link). Oxalic acid is the source of rhubarb's toxicity. It is present in the leaves in unsafely high concentrations and in the stem in concentrations low enough to eat safely.


06/01/10 02:32 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
I did a rhubarb b weiss awhile back, it turned out good, very tart but almost no rhubarb flavor at all



Tom - Im not sure if its oxalic acid thats the source of the sourness, I know that you can remove some of the oxalic acid by adding chalk and precipitating calcium oxalate, which could be a good thing, as its the primary constituent in kidney stones, after doing this the juice is still quite tart

06/01/10 03:41 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
I like to cook with Rhubarb a lot but I have never brewed with it. It is going to add some sourness and I would think maybe some astringency too!

My girlfriend and I have made a Rhubarb simple syrup for mixing cocktails and that's pretty nice. The key with cooking Rhubarb is to add some sugar to balance out the intense sourness, so by my thinking, it would be cool to do something like add it to a very tart Berlinner Weisse at serving time. It might go well in fermentation, I'm not sure. Maybe for a beer with a little residual sweetness. I like that you are thinking of making a gallon only, in case it is incredibly sour.

tom sawyer
06/01/10 04:16 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
I suspect that the anthraquinones might also have a sour and/or astringent flavor. I'm thinking of tonic water with quinine.

I agree about a sweet base beer maybe being a better choice for a rhubarb flavored beer.

06/02/10 06:08 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Thanks for all the feedback and discussion!

I chopped up 1 lb of rhubarb and cooked with 1 cup water until mushy. The raw rhubarb was great and the cooked was even better. While the base beer is sour, the acidity is not overpowering. I like incredible sourness so I'm not worried about the combination being too sour for me. I think it added a bit of color (See link for picture). I was a bit surprised that the rhubarb sank to the bottom.


08/22/10 11:44 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
The rhubarb sour turned out nicely. Very sour but not harsh. Tasting notes below.

"Hazy burnished orange. The rhubarb added some color but not the vibrant red of its ripe stalks. Some small chunks of rhubarb appear to have made it through the sieve at bottling and float suspended in the beer but aren't perceptible when drinking. The aroma is mostly lactic sourness and a bretty funk with a slight earthy vegetal note in the background. The flavor starts off with a sharp, austere acidity and morphs into a rounded earthy, herbal bitterness. Not hop bitterness, but, well, rhubarb bitterness. The finish is bone dry, but not harsh despite the acidity and slight bitterness. Still, this is not a beer for the non-lambic lover."

Mike T
08/23/10 08:52 AM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Glad to hear, I'm considering giving this a shot if my most recent batch of Berliner doesn't sour up soon.
08/26/10 01:53 AM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
"Glad to hear, I'm considering giving this a shot if my most recent batch of Berliner doesn't sour up soon."

Same. My wife and I have several plants, and I've been looking to put them in a beer for a while. This might be the time to do it.

08/26/10 11:25 AM  
Re: Rhubarb beer
Good luck guys! Keep in mind that my ratio of 1 lb/gallon gave only a slight whiff of rhubarb. Use more if you want more rhubarb flavor. I've also read that the darker red parts of the stalk are more flavorful.
04/30/14 02:30 PM  
Re: Rhubarb beer

I'd like to get more flavor by using more rhubarb but am worried about getting the beer too tart, or getting too much of a vegetal flavor, or tannic result.

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