Friday, August 19, 2016

Lavender Beers for Summer

I am a well-documented lavender freak. I love the smell, I love the taste, and I always have to try any food or drink that contains it.  I’ve written before about lavender cocktails (here and here), I love my lavender earl grey tea, and I own a lavender cookbook. So of course I was excited when one of the new-ish Houston-area breweries – No Label in Katy, TX – released their “Forbidden Lavender” ale. Then I started noticing other beers that incorporate lavender and decided a post was in order.


I tasted all the ones I could find locally, then went searching online. Having run across just a handful of lavender beers in local shops, I was surprised to find so many available online and in other places. Popular flavor combinations are lavender with lemon, honey, vanilla, or other herbs. In my experience these are successful flavor pairings, whether in cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages, desserts, or other foods. A few of the beers in the list are seasonal or one-off creations that are not always available, but I included them for reference.

LAVENDER BEERS AVAILABLE AROUND HOUSTON

No Label Brewing:  Forbidden Lavender
Made with honey malt and vanilla. The smooth, strong lavender flavor gives a sweet impression. Not hoppy or bitter. 5.3% abv and 12.4 IBUs. I like this beer, as has everyone I've shared it with. Compared with the other locally available lavender beers it has the most lavender flavor, the most smoothness, the most sweetness, and the least hops. This is a good bet for the smoother, sweeter beer drinkers, not the IPA lovers.



Rogness: Joie d’Ete Saison
This Rogness Saison is more balanced than the in-your-face lavender of No Label (though I like the in-your-face approach too). The nose and palate have a definite impression of both lavender and lemon zest, as the label describes. This is less smooth and sweet than the Forbidden Lavender, more crisp from the citrus, and has a stronger bite at the end from the hops.

  



Dogfish Head:  Bière de Provence
Dogfish Head has possibly achieved the perfect balance between the No Label and Rogness takes on a lavender beer. The nose is sweet, floral, herbal, and lovely. The herbal notes come from marjoram and bay leaves. On the palate I get a richer, maltier flavor than I do from the Rogness, which is more crisp. The flavors are sweet and smooth up front, then the hops kick in a few seconds later. This beer has the strongest hops of the lavender beers I found, although it's still not very bitter at 30 IBUs. The strength of the lavender flavor is about equal to the lavender in the Rogness, but this one wins the prize for most overall complexity of flavor.




Texas Beer Refinery:  Herbed Melon Kolsch
This is TBR's Kolsch, "randalled" with lavender, rosemary, and melon, a one-off creation I discovered in their tap room one lucky Sunday afternoon. It's a little unfair to include it on this list, since you can't buy it in stores, and I don't know if they'll ever make it again, but it seemed wrong to leave it off. Strong lavender flavor dominates over the rosemary, and the melon is very subtle. Though the flavor is rich, the overall impression is clean, crisp, and refreshing. The hops are moderate – more than Forbidden Lavender, less than Dogfish Head, and about equal to Rogness. I hope TBR makes this again, because it's a great beer.

  



My verdict on the lavender beers I found locally is that they're all good, and you need to pick one based on your personal beer preferences. For smooth and sweet with no bitterness, go with No Label. For crisp and citrusy, choose Rogness. If you want a great overall combination of smooth maltiness balanced with a stronger kick of hops, Dogfish Head is for you. I like all of them, but Dogfish Head's version is my favorite.

LAVENDER BEERS AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE

Arbor Brewing:  Anahata Chakra Honey Lavender Ale
Beau's Beer:  St. Luke’s Verse (Lavender Gruit Ale)
BlackRocks Brewery:  Honey Lav 
Garrison Brewing:  Honey Lavender Ale
Gizmo BrewWorks:  Union Lavender Saison
Great Yorkshire:  Lavender Blonde
Indeed Brewing:  "LSD" (Lavender, Sunflower Honey, Dates) Ale
Samuel Adams:  Honey B's Lavender Ale
Squatters Craft Beer:  Bumpercrop Honey Ale
Stone Brewing:  Saison
Sunbeam Ales:  Honey and Lavender
Tin Pot Brewery:  Lavender Pot
Wolf Brewery:  Lavender Honey

LAVENDER MEAD AND CIDER

Maine Mead Works:  Lavender Lemonade
Awestruck Cider:  Lavender Hops

Lavender beers are refreshing and perfect for summer, so it's a great time to try one.  Is my list missing any? Are there more available in my area than I thought? Have you tried some that I haven’t? Let me know in the comments!

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