Green herbal beer with spirulina?

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PintOfBitter

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I saw something about a month ago about an herbal beer brewed with spirulina (blue-green algae) that was a very attractive green color and they boasted about its health benefits. I'm a skeptic when it comes to herbal claims, but studies are piling up to support some herbs and their benefits. It seems like there are a number of asian green beers like this, and I think even Tsingtao made one, maybe?

I'm intrigued by the thought of brewing a novelty beer using spirulina - anybody have any clue how the process works or the quantity to use? I'm assuming the spirulina is boiled to release the chlorophyll.

I got a bottle of capsules at our natural food store, and I'm wanting to try it out in the next couple of weeks.
 

weremichael

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I love the idea.

Rock On Hippie Beer.

The amount of spirulina algae is well beyond my comprehension. I would think that a "French Press Hop Addition" would be in order. For a bit of Japanese-ness, I would suggest going with about 1 oz. Genmaicha green tea (green tea and toasted rice) and your spirulina added to your secondary (both in a tea pot).

My one bit of advice is to avoid going completely Japanese with Sorachi Ace. That hop is on the "catty side."
 

GunnerMan

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Hmm well if you don't mind the taste of seaweed you may like this, I like spirulina but I like sushi style seaweed a lot more.

I would take some spirulina and boil it in some water for a bit, maybe 1 Oz spirulina to 1 gal of water and see how it tastes. I would also try and let some soak in a gallon of water for a bit and see if that works.

I think boiling would be better, I personally would not want that aroma in my beer, just the hint of flavor. Id say 2 Oz would be good for a boil amount of 5 gal, but id run a test like I said.

I think it would go well in a crisper beer, with a mild hop presence. Maybe a light Pale Ale or Amber Ale that has a good malt:hop balance. Either way I say go for it, I want to know how it turns out. Also you might want to adjust your water profile, the seaweed might introduce more sodium than desired.
 
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PintOfBitter

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thanks for the suggestions on green tea and watching the water profile - I like both ideas. I was thinking a very light beer to start - a cream ale with flaked rice to lighten it up sounds like the ticket. I did a bit of experimenting - boiling the spirulina seems to harm the nice emerald color - I'm thinking i'll expose it to an acid (citric?) or high proof alcohol hoping to lyse the cells and let the goodness out. I don't remember biology well enough to know what will break a cell wall open.

Also, +1 against sorachi ace. I brewed a beer with exclusively SA hops, even dry hopped it, just to really get the full sorachi ace experience. I found that it's not my fave.

I'm hoping the spirulina contributes a bit of flavor - I have been eating a lot more natural foods lately, and I have grown quite a taste for the earthier flavors. Something satisfying about tasting the flavors of raw nature, to some extent.

here's to experimentation.
 
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PintOfBitter

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OK I began a little experiment tonight. I filled three small vials with an equal amount of spirulina (1/3 capsule each) and varied them as follows:

1 had pH lowered to 4 using a combination of calcium carbonate and lemon juice. 1 was 20% alcohol by adding rum. 1 was just carbon filtered tap water, but the vial was brought to a boil for an instant in the microwave once the spirulina was added.

So far, it looks like the acidified vial is sedimenting out quickly, leaving the water a light blue hue. The alcohol vial is still very dark, and is not visibly stratifying at all. The boiled water vial is stratifying to a lesser extent, and the upper layer is remaining a fairly dark, green color.

I'll evaluate them tomorrow after sitting undisturbed for a while to see which appears to have extracted the most from the spirulina.
 

GunnerMan

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If you want flavor to come through you might want to do a first wort addition for flavor and maybe a flame out addition for color.
 

KingBrianI

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1 had pH lowered to 4 using a combination of calcium carbonate and lemon juice. 1 was 20% alcohol by adding rum. 1 was just carbon filtered tap water, but the vial was brought to a boil for an instant in the microwave once the spirulina was added.
You probably know this but I'm just making sure: Calcium carbonate is a base and will raise the pH. If you were using it as a buffer in order to keep the pH from getting too low, that's cool, but your extraction would be stronger if you were lower than 4. You might also want to try raising the alcohol in your alcohol extraction and acidifying it. Say 50/50 etOH/H20 w/ enough lemon juice to get the pH to 3. Shake it for several minutes before letting it sit to clear.
 
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PintOfBitter

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My calcium carbonate came from AHS and is marked "used to lower pH" hmm, I've been led astray. Hence the fact that I ended up having to switch to lemon juice. :drunk: Incidentally, the pH didn't appear to go basic when I added the calcium carbonate. Apparently it's not a very strong effect.

I'll try a sample at pH 3 and see what happens.

Almost 24 hours later, the alcohol solution appears to be the best for maintaining the nice blue-green color. The boiled vial has lost the blue hue and is more of a pure green (would be yellow green when mixed with beer I am supposing) and the pH 4 vial is a light sky blue with no trace of green. pretty neat experiment actually. If it wasn't a pain to post pics, I'd show one.

My latest idea: Add a small amount of ginger and possibly eucalyptus or something similar to the beer when I brew it. They would serve to round the "seaweed" flavor out to more of a generic "herbal" character. The goal would be to make them background flavors. I'll probably skip the aroma hops if I do this.

What do you think?
 
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PintOfBitter

PintOfBitter

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just checked my chemicals - I was using calcium chloride, not carbonate. oops. regardless, I was seeing negligible effects even when adding relatively large amounts to my vial, thus the switch to lemon juice.
 

weremichael

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I assume you're aware, but I would be careful with the eucalyptus because it's poisonous (even if it takes quite of bit to become so).

I'm following this thread with a fair bit of anticipation.
 

KingBrianI

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I've been thinking about how to best extract the color and here is what I would do. Soak the spirulina in water for an hour to reconstitute. Then freeze the spirulina/water mixture. By freezing, the forming ice crystals will pierce the cell walls of the rehydrated spirulina. Thaw the sample then add lemon juice to pH 3, then an equal amount of everclear to the amount of water originally added. Shake for about 5 minutes. Then refrigerate it until the spirulina falls out of suspension. Decant off the supernatant and it's ready to add to the beer.
 
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PintOfBitter

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Assuming I'm aware of anything could be dangerous... and no, I wasn't aware. Thanks for pointing it out. Maybe juniper or wintergreen would give the desired effect without that pesky toxicity. We have this cool shop in town called The Spice Merchant - I'll just go sniff their jars until inspiration strikes.

I'm getting kind of excited about this too. Mmmm hippie beer...
 

SumnerH

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My latest idea: Add a small amount of ginger and possibly eucalyptus or something similar to the beer when I brew it. They would serve to round the "seaweed" flavor out to more of a generic "herbal" character. The goal would be to make them background flavors. I'll probably skip the aroma hops if I do this.
Do you have any sort of lager/pale ale/etc to bottle soon? Maybe try just adding a little to one bottle and see how it looks when you pour it after carbing?

Even better, pick a target amount, and do that in one bottle, half as much in bottle #2, and twice as much in bottle #3. Label clearly and check on color/taste in a few weeks.
 
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PintOfBitter

PintOfBitter

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Do you have any sort of lager/pale ale/etc to bottle soon? Maybe try just adding a little to one bottle and see how it looks when you pour it after carbing?

Even better, pick a target amount, and do that in one bottle, half as much in bottle #2, and twice as much in bottle #3. Label clearly and check on color/taste in a few weeks.

yeah, i am actually just about to go do just that - I happen to have a light ale in the fermenter. Too bad results on this kind of experimentation take so long. I'll have to find something else to occupy my mind for a week.
 

weremichael

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I say, "Just brew it." Take good notes and add the algae as late as possible (in whatever your chosen form is). Then again, I might just be curious on how this experiment ends so I can reap the results of its progress.
 

GunnerMan

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Well blue and yellow make green in a controlled environment. So def test, you might need a pretty dark tea of stuff to make the desired ruby green/turqoise you desire. So I would use a large amount to "dry hop" or mash with, and then maye make a tea and boil it off to make an essence of sorts for flavor. There are so many ways you could do this, i think you just need to pick a way and brew it, even if its is only 1 gal.

It may do best in alcohol but Beer is not equal to everclear.
 
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PintOfBitter

PintOfBitter

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brewed 1 gallon on Monday - was a great color, but every hint of color sedimented out. I've got some more experiments in the works. should have results this weekend. These little guys have notoriously tough cell walls. there are patents i've found online for fairly complex devices invented for fractionating spirulina.

I won't easily accept defeat with this - it's quite a fun challenge and it's getting me back into some basic biology, which I was always very interested in.

The other side of this is the herbal flavors - I haven't tasted my 1 gallon batch yet, but I'm optimistic.
 
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PintOfBitter

PintOfBitter

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Following up on this old thread: my experimental gallon kept getting nastier and nastier, color-wise, and the taste was cack.

Someday I may try this again, but the Spirulina need some sort of special treatment in order to extract the color - the cells themselves seem to flocculate just like yeast. The best method i've come accross in my research seems to be ultrasonically rupturing them.
 
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PintOfBitter

PintOfBitter

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Tsingtao tried it :)

I'm thinking of having another go at this, possibly using a small amount of Star San to lyse the cells open. After all, that is it's method of sanitization... I talked to 5 star, and they wouldn't advise me on the topic (kind of expected it).
 

MarsColonist

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Freetail Brewing in San Antonio had a spirulina Wit (actually had three.. one was a hibiscus varient) during the Alamo Cerveza Fest this last year.. one straight spirulina wit, one had hibiscus; the color of the beers was crazy....
 

robtotten

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Was it more green or blue? I'd love to have a blue beer for March Madness next year, but I'm not willing to go the food coloring route.
 
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