Experiment: Roasted Dandelion Roots
Using dandelions in beer is rare, but not unprecedented. New Belgium has a rather tasty Dandelion Ale, so I decided to start working toward understanding the taste and bittering qualities of dandelion. Fresh dandelion greens are not generally available until spring, so I thought I’d see what dandelion roots were like first.
If you don’t want to read through my entire process, here’s a quick summary, prefaced by a note: First off, this is experimentation. I’m trying to share the results of my experiments as I go through with them, which means not all of them will yield positive beer-worthy potential.
Dandelion roots fall into the “not gonna brew with it” category. In short, they simply don’t taste very good. The bittering quality is poor, the aroma is off-putting, and the taste can be described as kissing someone who just finished smoking an entire pack of cigarettes at very high concentrations or shoving a stale-but-dirty sock in your mouth at half that concentration. That said, here’s what I did:
The Control – Hop Tea
- Boiled 32 oz. water with 1/16 oz. (~0.06 oz.) of 5% Alpha East Kent Goldings for 15 mins.
- At the end of the rather vigorous boil, I ended up with 16 oz. of Hop Tea.
The Experiment – (Roasted) Dandelion (Root) Tea
- Boiled 32 oz. water with 12 g. (~0.42 oz) of Organic Roasted Dandelion Roots for 15 mins.
- At the end of the rather vigorous boil, I ended up with 16 oz. of Dandelion Tea.
The estimated IBU (using Tinseth) of the Hop Tea at the 16 oz. concentration was 30.9. As you might expect, this is bile-bitter when not balanced by any malt, but I sampled it anyway. It tasted like bile. The Dandelion Tea was not nearly so bitter, but it tasted rather terrible as well.
I proceeded to make the call to dilute both back up to 32 oz., which brought the estimated IBU of the Hop Tea to 16.1. This is still very bitter, but it’s tolerable and provides enough liquid to test various dilutions. The Dandelion Tea still tasted quite bad, but it wasn’t so much bitter-tasting as stale and dirty-tasting.
It was at this point that I decided the experiment was over. Roasted Dandelion Roots are not a viable option (in my home brewery) to replace hops as a bittering agent, and I wouldn’t them as an aromatic because I don’t want their flavor or aroma anywhere near my beer.
But, I forged on with one more dilution. I diluted both to 64 oz., which brought the estimated bitterness of the Hop Tea to a not-unpleasant 8.0 IBU and the estimated grossness of Dandelion Tea to “tolerable.” I downed a glass of each to punish myself and poured the rest out.
In hindsight, I should have expected the Roasted Dandelion Root to be incompatible with beer. Firstly, a large amount of Dandelion Root is supposed to be beneficial to the liver, which is quite the opposite of what large quantities of beer is supposed to do to your liver. Secondly, I made a traditional cup of Roasted Dandelion Root Tea prior to the experiment and found it rather unpleasant to begin with.
Oh, well… You win some, you lose some. At least I learned something. I might try the same experiment using Dandelion Leaves from the local health store, or I might wait until I can get fresh Dandelion Greens from the supermarket and run my next test then. If anyone else has experience using Dandelions (in any form) in beer, I’d be very interested to learn from you.