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Mad Scientists Series #4: Hibiscus Ale

Summer has arrived and colors are popping in the wild, even in the most industrial corners of Brooklyn. Echoing this natural splendor is our fourth Mad Scientists Series beer: we’ve taken a Belgian-style wheat beer and flavored it with a popular medicinal herb. It’s not Red #40 that stains this brew, but hibiscus, a flora in the family malvaceae.

The process for making this beer began with a combination of American pale ale barley malt and Canadian wheat malt; German Munich and Crystal malts were added for complexity, along with flaked oats. Employing a Belgian yeast for a signature taste of summer, the brew was finished with light, refreshing Citra and German Hallertauer hops… and 15 pounds of organic dried hibiscus.

“The tart and slightly herbal hibiscus blends well with delicate hop flavors, and lends hints of citrus and vanilla in the finish,” noted Sixpoint headbrewer Ian McConnell. “Appearance is deep strawberry red, with a pinkish white head. Flavor is tart and summery, light and refreshing.”

Hibiscus has been used around the world for various purposes. It has a long history of medicinal use for its diuretic properties and uplifting character. But the herb is perhaps most notable for its vibrant, magenta hue that it casts everything it meets with — including beer.

Hence, our hibiscus ale has a deep rosy color, with sparkling effervescence. The process of making it began with blend of American pale ale malt and Canadian wheat malt; German Munich and Crystal malts were added for complexity, along with some flaked oats. A Belgian yeast was pitched for a crisp, summery taste  for a signature taste of summer. Into the boil also went Citra and Hallertauer hops, along with 15 pounds of dried organic hibiscus.

There was a brief moment at the brewhouse that resembled a scene from The Shining: one fermentator, overwhelmed, began to leak the thick, red wort from its seams. And then, when being transferred to kegs, the overflow beer washing into the drains was another unnerving shade. In any case, with a color that only beets might compete with, Hibiscus Ale is out and ready to taste as of today. Get a fresh glass while it lasts.

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