This will be my second time posting to the forum, thanks again to the assistance I got regarding my wonky OG problems, the brew came out wonderfully! I currently have 2 completed batches under my belt and 2 more currently in-process and have decided that it's high time I start working on my first original recipe, this one will have a distinct purpose!
My wife has struggled with trouble sleeping for years and found that drinking hoppier beers sometimes helped her nod off. I did a little research on hops and found that they are indeed a commonly used sleep aid, though they can tend to have unwanted side effects when used in frequently. The side effects are said to range from a somewhat drugged, drowsy feeling when awaking, (especially prevalent in users of hop stuffed pillows) an increase in estrogen levels, (hops contain a large concentration of plant-based estrogen, look up information on a condition known as "brewer's droop" if you're interested) and some people, my wife included, seem to get mild to moderate headaches after drinking several very hoppy beers. Being that she isn't thrilled with heavily hopped beers anyway I opted to search for other options.
At the recommendation of a local homebrew shop owner I tracked down a fascinating book titled Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner to get me started. The author takes a somewhat hostile stance towards hops in brewing, though not one that I agree with. As a result of this belief he discusses the use of dozens of alternative, traditional bittering agents, along with many herbs and spices added to beer for medicinal purposes. My research has led me to many possible additives to my proposed beer, including but not limited to the following:
Valerian Root - A known and widely used sedative and anxiolytic (anxiety suppressant)
Chamomile - A mild sleep aid with a pleasant taste, often used in tea
Damiana - A sleep aid, said to assist in reaching REM cycle sleep more easily. This also results in more frequent, vivid dreams.
Oat Grass - I have had trouble finding information about this, though it was recommended by the owner of my local bulk herb and spice store for having calming properties. It just looks like hay, I am concerned that it may contribute grassy flavors to the mix. More research is needed.
Lavender - Another common mild sleep aid and relaxant. It also tastes and smells great!
St John's Wort - A mild anti-depressant and sleep aid, along with a bevy of other purported uses.
I am considering bittering the beer with wormwood instead of hops, if necessary. This would be produced in small batches and would likely be relatively low ABV (4-6%) for quick turnaround time and drinkability. I will probably start with 1 to 2 gallon batches so I can make multiple batches in a row and tweak the recipe as-needed.
My questions are many, but here's where I'll start. Does anyone have experience with a project like this? Has anyone used any of the aforementioned herbs? Does anyone have other recommendations I may not have come across? I also need some advice on alternative fermentation vessels, I only have 2 carboys currently and would hate to tie them up on very small batches of beer.
I'm sure that I will come up with more questions as time goes by, but I figure this is a good start. Any advice the community has would be greatly appreciated!
Off topic, the book also got me very interested in brewing Mead. I find that I have a truly primal connection to the stuff and am fascinated with it's ancient origins. Does anyone know of any "must have" resources for mead brewing?