Over the past few months, BCS has frequently discussed millet and inula/elecampane in beer. For an anthology of these discussions, see below:
Millet Beer HBWs (Strabo Passage; Brew Day; Tasting)
Konuza/Inula defined; Parabias defined.
Pliny on the dietary and medicinal qualities of inula
Historic uses of Elecampane in Beer/Alcohol
Judgement Day. How did our recreation of the Paeononian beer, parabie (barley-millet with elecampane added), turn out? If you recall our brew day, we made two batches: Batch 1 added the elecampane with 10 minutes left in the boil; Batch 2 steeped the elecampane during primary fermentation. Supposedly, elecampane lends bitterness and medicinal qualities to the beer.
There was little to distinguish either beer in appearance; they share the same piss-yellow color.
Batch 1 (FG: 1.018)
Aroma: Very off-putting sour apple smell.
Taste: Not as sweet as the nose. It has a slight herbal quality to it, but no noticeable bitterness is present and the residual sweetness clings to the back of the mouth.
Verdict: There is only the slight herbal quality that differentiates this beer from any other unhopped brew. The elecampane (in the quantity added) offers no noticeable bittering qualities.
Batch 2 (FG: 1.018)
Aroma: Very floral and aromatic. Little indication of the malt foundation
Taste: All the off-putting and cloying sweetness that was present in Batch 1 is absent. This is quite a pleasant and aromatic beer. It tastes like a mixture of tea and herbal medicines. With this said, there is no real bitterness present. The elecampane, however, smooths out the malt sweetness and offers excellent balance.
Verdict: I enjoyed this beverage. I could image dry hopping a modern beer with elecampane to provide an assertive tea-like quality to beers. I think it might work well with a saison or paired with certain herbal hop varieties.
A non-beer nerd and friend’s description (batch 2): “This tastes like aftershave”
Steeping the elecampane is certainly the best method to impart noticeable flavor, but I was disappointed by the lack of hop-like bitterness in either batch. Batch 2, however, did balance the malty sweetness. Consequently, this beer is far more approachable to a modern palate.
How does this recreation compare to the ancient Paeonian beverage? I have no clue. Unfortunately, Hecataeus does not provide any detail about the brewing process or any other adjuncts. His description of a millet-barley beer with inula suggests that these were the primary ingredients (or, at least, unusual enough for comment). It is not unlikely, however, that other adjuncts were added during the mash, boil, fermentation, and/or drinking. Despite this, this experiment demonstrates the flavor qualities of the millet-barley-elacampane combo and indicates that elecampane was likely added during fermentation, rather than the boil.