I first learned about grains of paradise when viewing advertisements for Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale, and thought it was some sort of citrus spicing. Little did I know that this pepper rival was used:
“to give false strength to wines, beer, spirits, and vinegar” – Joseph Meyer, 1918
I had bought a bunch for my medieval cooking phase and had some left over to attempt a recipe for Windsor Ale from circa 1829. This recipe not only included GOP, but also honey, hops, coriander seed, orange peel, licorice root, ginger, and caraway seed. Not to be deterred by a cacophony of medieval herbs/spices, I acquired the ingredients from the local co-op, ordered 3 ounces of whole leaf Fuggles hops, London Ale yeast, and a shit-ton of pale malt extract to give this beer a wild shot in the dark.
Trouble started when the yeast pack failed to vigorously swell. Pitching the yeast and hoping for the best, foam failed to manifest itself atop the potent-smelling wort. Desperately, I quickly mixed two packets of year-and-a-half old wine yeast in some hot water and threw it in the mix, because any fermentation is better than no fermentation.
As a result, I (finally) learned a valuable lesson in over-carbonation. I bottled this ale far too soon, resulting in an enormous maelstrom of foamy discharge upon cracking the cap of each 22oz bottle. My apologies, Ellen. I should have let it sit for a longer period of time, expecting the wine yeast to work much slower, consistently measure the gravity, not have added priming sugar, et. cetera.
However, I thought the taste was promising, if not typical for modern commercial craft beer palates. Complex sweet and spicy flavors explode from the thick, viscous liquid, mostly, I believe, from the residual honey sugars. I’ll for sure try something like this again, albeit with more patience.