To brew with botanicals is to introduce an astonishing spectrum of flavours into beer – and from there, the sky’s the limit. Dutch botanical brewer Lowlander Beer explains how the flavours in its range are as popular with drinkers as they are with food and beverage professionals.
When Lowlander’s founder, Frederik Kampman, made botanicals the distinguishing feature of his beers, he wasn’t claiming to be reinventing the wheel – botanicals actually pre-date hops as a bittering agent. However, what is unique about Lowlander is the way that Kampman’s background in gin distilling has informed his approach to botanical brewing from day one.
Flavour ‘wheels’ like this one are common currency in the world of gin – just as wine professionals spend time and effort refining their palates in order to be able to accurately and evocatively describe what they smell and taste, so gin experts have categorised the flavours in different gin expressions to provide a framework both for themselves as spirit makers and for their customers.
From the beginning, we’ve been greatly inspired by the world of gin, introducing our customers to the botanical flavours found within our beer styles using our very own flavour navigator. We’re convinced that it’s this appreciation of the subtleties of flavour in botanicals that makes Lowlander not only a favourite beer with adventurous customers in front of the bar, but also an ingredient that’s increasingly reached for by cocktail professionals behind the bar.
First and foremost, our flavour navigator is a great tool for newcomers to Lowlander to find a way ‘in’ to the styles in our range. For example, if one of our customers tends to favour citrus-led beers, the most logical choice for them would be Lowlander Pale Ale, brewed with blood orange, grapefruit and sumac. However, we would also encourage them to try our I.P.A, whose botanicals of coriander seed and white tea lend bitter, citrus character to its flavour profile. In this way, step by step, using the last Lowlander they tried as a familiar point of reference, curious types (we call them ‘explorers’) can navigate the flavours of our beers, discover their favourites, and fall in love with the brand.
However, Lowlander’s flavour navigator is also a useful reference for bartenders. Mixologists use our botanical beer to add flavour in the same way as they would bitters, shrubs and liqueurs – reducing Lowlander Poorter to a syrup, for example, to add sweet and spicy depths to fruity rum cocktails. Lowlander beers also work as a main ingredient, as in this twist on a Tom Collins, made with Lowlander White Ale, whose notes of curaçao orange add a sweet citrus tang. Similarly, consider how the spruce and juniper botanicals in Lowlander Winter I.P.A. complement the gin and citrus character of this ‘toast & marmalade’ beertail – especially with the addition of a rosemary garnish.
Spirit of adventure
Not content with using gin’s botanicals to brew beers, in spring 2018 we decided to use one of our beers to create a unique genever. Given the versatility of Lowlander beers, this was – for us at least – an obvious step. To pull it off, we teamed up with Wynand Fockink, the oldest working wine and genever distillery in the Netherlands, who helped to distil our 6% I.P.A. into a smooth 38% genever that was then blended with a distilled malt base of wheat and juniper. The I.P.A.’s citrus notes (from coriander seed) and aromatic sweetness (from white tea) really shine through in the genever’s fresh, slightly bitter aroma and its subtly sweet palate.
Fans of Lowlander I.P.A. Genever include Gandor Bronkhorst, Esquire’s digital editor. ‘I’m absolutely stunned by the craftmanship from the guys at Lowlander,’ he says. ‘With this genever, you get the IPA flavours, you get the IPA taste experience, but it’s still a genever – and that really is an accomplishment.’
Albert van Beeck Calkoen – better known as drinks consultant Mister Cocktail – agrees. ‘I love the combination of the century-old tradition of Wynand Fockink and the new and entrepreneurial spirit of Lowlander beer to make a real I.P.A. genever,’ he says. ‘The combined flavours have real synergy.’
Lowlander Beer, the chefs choice
It’s not only drinks specialists and informed enthusiasts who are discovering what the botanicals in Lowlander’s range can do for them; chefs and food writers have found a lot to like about the food and beer pairings at our Botanical Brewkitchen pop-up dinners.
At the Botanical Brewkitchen that we held in Utrecht’s Museum of Flavour back in summer 2017, Lowlander’s Poorter – brewed with liquorice and vanilla pods – was paired with a dessert of strawberries, ‘blonde’ chocolate, fennel seeds and salted caramel. For former MasterChef Holland judge Marcus Polman, a guest at the event, it was the high point of his experience. ‘With each bite and each sip we became more and more enthusiastic about that flavour pairing,’ he recalls. ‘The coffee and cocoa flavours from the toasted malt, and the beer’s liquorice overtones, together with the sweetness of the salted caramel and strawberries in the dessert, combined to take the flavours of both the drink and the dish to the next level.’
The tastemakers at Delicious magazine were also impressed when they attended one of our 2018 Botanical Brew Kitchens, a moveable feast in collaboration with ROEF Amsterdam that took diners from one plant-filled, flower-decked rooftop to another across three courses. ‘It’s amazing how well Creative Chef Jasper adapted the flavours in his dishes to Lowlander’s botanically brewed beers – for example, matching the saline and erathy flavours in the main dish with the blood orange, grapefruit and sumac flavours in the Pale Ale’. Foodies have a lot to look forward to: the second iteration of our flavour wheel will take food-pairings into account, too.
From fruity to floral, from sweet to spicy, and everything in between, there is a Lowlander beer to suit you – whether you’re building it into a cocktail, making it part of a special meal, or just drinking it how we bottled it. Like the original Dutch explorers from whom we take our inspiration, all you need is a sense of adventure.
Want to discover the flavours in our beer? Find our full range in our webshop, or get in touch. Fancy a beertail or use Lowlander beer in your recipes? Find recipes and inspiration on the Lowlander website.