Sage Advice: Homebrewing a Savory Tripel

BYOB by | Nov 2017 | Issue #130
Illustration by Miranda Harmon

Welcome to the holidays! It’s time to bust out the beer to help us survive all the family time coming down the pike. It’s time for holiday ales. It’s time for the robust, powerful, calming magic of beer.

Usually, we reach for flavors that remind us of dessert. Classic spices like pumpkin pie’s cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, or fruitcake-inspired: dark fruits, booze, and ginger. But does the muse always have to be dessert? Can’t it be something savory, like stuffing?

OK, no stuffing beer—that’s too stunty—but how about the constituent herb, sage? It’s an ancient ingredient with a long tradition of medicinal, culinary, and brewing uses. Sage comes in nearly 1,000 varieties beyond the familiar European Salvia officinalis. Here in California (and the Southwest and Mexico), white sage (S. apiana) has been ascribed magical properties and grows prodigiously over our dry hillsides.

For this beer, I took a cue from Craftsman Brewing’s Triple White Sage, a celebrated ale infused with locally harvested and dried sage from Pasadena’s surrounding chaparral. The sage is used as a knockout addition on top of a healthy 9 percent ABV. (Hot off the press: TWS is returning!)

Normally, I advocate using tinctures for the best control of flavor additions. With resin-rich herbs like sage or rosemary, however, unless you enjoy tar-like or pitchy flavors, a tea or late kettle addition is best. Don’t go overboard with the amounts—sage is potent. Reputedly it’s supremely calming, too—perfect for family gatherings!

Father Sage Tripel
For 5.5 gallons at 1.081 OG | 25 IBU | 4.6 SRM | 9.1% ABV

14 lbs Pilsner malt
0.5 lbs Aromatic malt
1.5 lbs cane sugar (added in a bag during the boil)

Single infusion at 150°F for 60 minutes.

0.75 oz Magnum | 11.5% AA | 60 minutes

0.25–0.5 oz dried white sage (added at whirlpool and adjusted based on potency or desired level)

Wyeast 3787 Trappist Style High Gravity