Chamomile flowers are best known for their use as a tea, to help promote sleep or help an upset stomach. It’s also a common gin botanical, and has uses in brewing ales too.
In gin, it’s used in small quantities, at about 1/00th the weight of juniper. If distilled on it’s own, it comes across and cleaner and more aromatic than in tea, with warm and succulent floral tones, and an apparent sweetness. In infusion distilling through a botanical basket, chamomile flowers are hardy enough to withstand the heat for the full extraction time. The flavour doesn’t dissipate with time, and doesn’t dominate either, but complements and softens a gin. It’s one of the botanicals in Tanqueray No. 10.
In brewing, chamomile lends itself to lighter beers – try a small amount in a blonde, wheat beer or a saison, to achieve orange-like floral notes.
Chamomile goes well in non-hopped gruit style ales, whether made with barley or with regular sugar like this recipe for a 4.5L batch:
Make a strong sweet tea of 500g sugar (this will give about 4% abv), about 50g chamomile, and a couple of litres of water.
Leave to steep for 30 minutes to extract the full chamomile flavour.
Add juice of a lemon or two, and maybe a tablespoon of molasses (if you like that darker colour and more licorice flavour).
Allow to cool and add to a sanitised carboy, topping up with cold water.
Ensure the temperature is about 20-22C before adding some champagne or wine yeast, and topping with a bung and airlock.
Leave to ferment a couple of weeks before bottling.
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