3D Cthulhu handle on my Fhtagn Lavender Vanilla Belgian Ale
Fhtagn! Debuting my 3D-printed Cthulhu beer tap handle! Photo by Bruce Ruiz.

A dry, rich, estery Belgian Pale enhanced with the warm pleasance of fresh vanilla and the delightful aroma of hand-picked organic lavender. The two adjuncts blend beautifully in the rounded mouthfeel of the base style to create something entirely unique and entirely Morgue.

This turned out to be one of my best beers in a while. The Belgian pale ale base with White Labs #WLP530 Abbey Ale yeast beautifully complemented the warm vanilla mouthfeel and floral lavender nose.

Developing the beer was an adventure too. Upon inquiring on my Miller Beach neighborhood Nextdoor social space where I might source some fresh lavender, the prevailing response was that it’s worth taking a trip to Lavender Hill Farm in Niles, Michigan. We’re fortunate to have this curious blessing just an hour or so away. Plus I got to drive by one of my favorite high school haunts, the Ready Theatre.

Lavender Hill Farm boasts a wide variety of lavender available for u-pick — as much as you can fit in a standard twist-tie for $5. Loddon Blue English Lavender (in the Lavandula angustifolia species) was, to me, hands-down the most floral and flavorful of the options. Others seemed more grassy — perhaps great in a noble-hopped German lager (Reinheitsgebot aside), but that wasn’t what I was going for.

We visited the farm in the second week of July, which was already well into the season and a bit late for the English lavender. Pickings were slim, but I managed to fill a twist tie mostly to the brim. Figuring I already had far more than enough for my 5-gallon batch of beer, I got quite impatient towards the end and stuffed it with some Grosso lavender, a classic hybrid of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia, which was very plentiful. Aside from the differences in aroma, they’re visually quite distinct, as seen in the images below. Grosso has longer stems and the blooms are clustered differently on the stem.

I diligently plucked the blooms from the stem, yielding a couple ounces of fresh lavender flowers. It was laborious, but almost meditative. My fingertips remained purple for a couple days.

Wanting to make a vanilla lavender beer, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I already had a little less than half a bottle of vanilla vodka in my liquor cabinet from I-don’t-know-when. So I infused an ounce of lavender in a muslin bag in the vodka in a ball jar. After a mere day, it went from clear to ruby-red!

Then I blended the finished, kegged beer with the infusion to taste. It didn’t take much of this wondrous infusion to get the beer where I wanted it. Maybe only 2 or 3 ounces for 5 gallons! Done to taste. I wasn’t being scientific about it. Blend a little today, wait a day and taste, blend some more… It’s the way I roll. Deal.

Bonus. Lots of lavender left over, so I infused more plain vodka, then mixed the leftover lavender vanilla vodka with the lavender vodka and topped off an empty Dan Aykroyd Crystal Head vodka bottle. Yes, it’s a real thing!

Photo by Bruce checking-in to my beer on Untappd; lavender vanilla vodka infusion in Dan Aykroyd Crystal Head skull bottle at top
Photo by Bruce checking-in to my beer on Untappd; lavender vanilla vodka infusion in Dan Aykroyd Crystal Head skull bottle at top

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