Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Saffron Ale

Continuing on with the historical sense the last few days I feel it is a good time to share a recipe from one of my favorite brewing books. This is not the typical home brewing book but more of a history book. It is called Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation by Stephen Harrod Buhner. You can find a list of merchants here and I highly recommend picking one up; it gives a great understanding of the brewing world in ancient times. 

Saffron is one of the worlds most expensive and oldest spices. It takes over four thousands flowers to produce just one ounce of saffron. Luckily though, you can find it at almost any grocery store. However, you may want to find a spice market or a ethnic food store for a better price and fresher product. 

It is said that you really can't describe the taste of saffron in words. Also, there are no known substitutes for saffron, cookbooks will tell you to use turmeric as a substitute but you will create something very different from the original recipe. An interesting read on the spice can be located here. This site describes the chemical properties of the spice and how best to utilize it. 

Below is an excerpt from the book including the recipe:

"[Saffron] exhilarates the spirits to such a degree, that when taken in large doses, it occasions immoderate mirth and laughter." W.T. Marchant, 1888

I must state that that neither I or Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers can be held responsible for any actions under the influence of this historic recipe. 

Saffron Ale:
      12 ounces molasses
      8 ounces brown sugar
      1/2 ounce saffron
      1 gallon water
Boil molasses, brown sugar, and water; stir well. Add saffron, stir, cover,  and let stand three hours. Pour into fermenter, add yeast at 70 degrees F, and ferment until complete. Siphon into primed bottles, cap, and store. Ready to drink in one to two weeks.

Take the recipe how you want it and adapt to your specific brewing ways. I would love to hear back from anyone that tries this and let us know if you were overcome with mirth...


  1. Simple and awesome. When I kick out the Honey Ale from my Mr. Beer fermentor I'm going to try this.

    Also wanted to note that using too much saffron can make things taste medicinal. This isn't one of those ingredients where "more is merrier"

  2. I just priced what a 1/2 oz of Saffron would cost. Never mind that last post.

  3. I figured it would be a pretty pricey recipe. The three most expensive spices in the world are saffron, pure vanilla, and cardamom... maybe i will turn my backyard into a saffron field and try to grow 2000 plants.

  4. After looking at the prices myself i realize this was probably a bad recipe to post...but anyone with a lot of disposible income please try this one!!!

  5. ha ok I sort of lied. I scaled it down to a 0.17 Gal recipe. I plan on going to Trader Joe's this weekend, picking up a gram for $6 and fermenting it in a 22 oz bottle.

    Here's the plans http://hopville.com/recipe/306677/spice-herb-or-vegetable-beer-recipes/saffron-ale

  6. Brewed it last night, I'll post the pictures onces it's done. FInal thoughts after brew night:
    -be careful when packing up, saffron likes to stain things yellow
    -I'll go with my original statement. This was too much saffron, it smelled like iodine and tasted like Nyquil. We'll see how it tastes in a few weeks.

  7. I can't wait to hear how this turns out. Like i said in the post this is a recipe from the book, and I believe the author got all these ancient recipes through historic writings as well. The post at this point doesn't sound to promising, hopefully with a few weeks the undesirable stuff will mellow...but then again the recipe is from a long time ago and they could have been just looking for a high.

  8. 3 months ago made saffron ale: 1gram saffron, 1 lemon rind, wheat malt, hallertauer hops:safale s-05 yeast: most awesome ale ever. must condition for 8 weeks to tame the lemon. holubtsi@msn.com