Achille’s Heal 2.0 Tasting Notes

I am surprised to be admitting that this recipe crept up on me. Before I knew it, two weeks had passed since I bottled my newest yarrow infused IPA and it was ready to be sampled. Rarely does this ever happen because more often then not I find myself sampling my home brewed experiments by only around 10 days into the priming process because I am so impatient. Perhaps I am developing what some would call patience, or more likely, the beer slipped out of my mind during the whole process of moving my material and emotional life out to Heart’s Content Organic Farm where I will be interning indefinitely into the future. More on that later.

If you aren’t familiar with what exactly I used to make this beer (and how much of it etc.) then you can read about that all right here in the recipe post for this beer. As you might have figured out by ‘2.0’ included in the name Achille’s Heal, this is my second take on what I hope to be a long line of yarrow beers which I will brew with the fresh herb when in season and also using the dried herb during the winter months.

Just to save you the bother of having to link back all the way to the original Achille’s Heal post I’ll briefly mention some of the reasons why yarrow once enjoyed a rich history of use in fermentation and why I think it ought to be utilized way more often then it is. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a low-growing aromatic perennial herb with lacy, fern-like foliage and flat-topped clusters of composite flowers appearing throughout early summer to late autumn. It is a familiar and highly celebrated medicine of many indigenous societies that lived/live throughout the temperate north.

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The fresh or dried flowering tops and foliage have a wide variety of therapeutic properties including but limited to soothing sore throats, relieving nasal and chest congestion, clearing phlegm from the lungs, dulling pain, arresting diarrhea, indigestion or stomach upset, stimulating digestion, fighting bacterial or viral infections and quieting muscle spasms. The herb itself is so discouraging to microorganisms in general that it makes an excellent preservative, aiding hops with the all important taste with preventing the beer from spoiling or changing flavor.

This version of Achille’s Heal I consider to be my best yet, although it’s a tight finish between this batch and my last but also first attempt at a potent and complexly bitter IPA featuring this timeless but forgotten brewing herb. The original recipe was considerably fruitier than this one, and that’s likely due to the Amarillo type hops that I coupled the yarrow with. This time around, having used Pacifica and Magnum hops which have a spicy and earthy character to them which I find blends very well – exceptionally even – with yarrow.

The aroma is overall quite fruity, with hints of pear, chamomile and limes. The flavor is herbal, gently spicy and robust with a deep, lingering, resinous tang. A bit more approachable and accessible in my opinion when compared with my first recipe. This is something that I am continually working towards: accentuating the wild and unconventional flavors of medicinal herbs while also confining them to within a comfortable range.

Pairing certain varieties of hops with other herbs helps in this process and adds to the depth and diversity that characterizes well-hopped craft beers, but finding the right combination and balance of two very dynamic ingredients is something that is only accomplished through continual experimentation. Meaning, in short, that this expanding line of yarrow beer recipes is most definitely going to continue on for quite some time. See you on the other side.