Expect to see a growing trend in craft brewing involving one of the world’s most common flowers. While I say “common,” it’s in the sense of proliferation and certainly not of being ordinary.
The hibiscus is native to much of the entire world appearing in temperate, tropical and sub-tropical regions. There are literally hundreds of species of the Malvaceae family to be found in Korea, India, Malaysia, The Philippines, Tahiti, Mexico, Ghana and, of course, Hawaii among many others.
Hibiscus flowers come in myriads of bright colors so gardeners use them in landscaping to attract birds, butterflies and bees. Certain species are also used extensively in paper making, textiles, food coloring and, in some rare occasions, to tan leather.
Beverage-wise, hibiscus has a long history. Traditionally-used as a medicinal tea, its health benefits are many. It has been used for centuries as a diuretic as well as a method of keeping blood pressure in check. Full of vitamin C, hibiscus tea has also been used to treat respiratory ailments. In China and India it’s used for skin and hair treatment. Also loaded with bioflavenoids, hibiscus is ideal for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Tangy and possessive of a natural sweet flavor, it’s no wonder that the hibiscus flower was put to use in beverages a very long time ago. As far as its utilization as a beer ingredient goes, it’s only recently that brewers have begun to make use of the flower. We can probably infer that because flowers aren’t “manly,” and for the longest time – at least in America – beer has long been associated with the every-day working man, that the two concepts shouldn’t coexist.
There are at least six commercial craft brewers currently infusing their beer with this dynamic member of the mallow family with many others certainly about to jump on board the hibiscus bandwagon. For now, let’s raise a glass and give cheers to those who took the chance first and are championing a whole new look at beer ingredients.
Always a fan of Red Brick Brewing out of Atlanta, I couldn’t wait to give their Hibiscuwit a shot. This Belgian-style witbier comes out a peachy shade of reddish-orange due to the flowers. Cloudy with a very creamy foam cap, it looks spot-on for the style.
With a small hint of musty funk to the nose, Hibiscuwit is citrus-scented with pink peppercorn notes and touches of banana. Flavor-wise, it starts out dusty before giving up orange, slightly under-ripe strawberry, coriander and what I can only describe as a lactobacillus-like tang that’s reminding me of strawberry-banana yogurt. That’s not a bad thing at all! Floral and tart, Hibiscuwit finishes smooth and memorable.
I’m sold on the concept. Healthy, flavorful and interesting, hats off to Red Brick for introducing us to flower power.