Author Topic: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!  (Read 2512 times)

Offline jivetyrant

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Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« on: January 31, 2011, 03:35:27 PM »
Hello all!

     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?

Thanks again!


Offline pinnah

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2011, 03:51:21 PM »
This is cool,
the topic "Sleepytime beer for the wife".

I don't have a lot to suggest yet, but a few 3 gallon carboys
could allow for a lot of experiments in small volume.

Also, perhaps don't be too hostile toward the Hop. 

She is good medicine. ;)

Good luck.


Offline jivetyrant

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2011, 03:59:14 PM »
I'm definitely not hostile to hops, I am pretty sure IIPA's run in my veins!  Absolutely love the stuff, but the thought of more ancient brewing practices, before hops were readily available, is very intriguing to me!

Offline dbeechum

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2011, 04:05:48 PM »
Buhner's  book is a fascinating read, but the overall hostile nature of the book to pretty much all things modern (hops, thermometers, sanitation, using malt instead of sugar sources, etc) kinda put me off what are some otherwise fascinating ideas. That and the way much of the information is reported worries me since there's no notice on efficacy, toxicity, etc.

But... having said that. :)

Chamomile and lavender have traditional uses in brewing. Chamomile is rumored to be the secret spice in Hoegaarden. Lavender requires care otherwise everything ends up smelling like soap.

Valerian tastes pretty funky and I know for that one the soporific properties are supposed to be heat sensitive.

A good start might be to create an ethanol extract (do research to see if the active ingredients are ethanol soluble. I'd imagine most are) and then use these extracts to dose up a beer with a sweet finish/taste. (Maybe make an oat beer to have that richness).
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Offline jamminbrew

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2011, 04:07:38 PM »
You might  try 4 ounces of yarrow, along with 4-6 ounces of chamomile and make them with a 3-gallon test batch of a plain lager
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2011, 04:09:44 PM »
Hops do have an affect on sleep, there is some studies that suggest they help enhance dreams and drop people into a slightly deeper sleep. In fact there people have been making "hop pillows" for centuries to induce dreaming. However, alcohol is a sleep disrupter - after a couple beers you may find you fall asleep faster, but wake up after the initial effects of the alcohol ware off. This is because alcohol is a depressant and a stimulant. Most doctors advise people with sleeping issues to avoid alcohol.

I don't usually have problems sleeping (unless I have been drinking) but I know a lot of people who do. One of the main sleep issues with people is the TV. The flickering light actually tricks you into thinking it is still daytime and causes your brain not to produce melatonin, which is what your brain needs to produce to fall asleep. She may also want to try taking melatonin in a tablet form - this is what I have often taken when I have had too much to drink and have woken up at 2am.
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Offline jivetyrant

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2011, 04:28:42 PM »
Wow, thanks for all the fast and helpful responses! 

     She has had some success with melatonin caplets but they tend to make her oversleep and have a hard time waking up.  Better than OTC sleep aids, but still not ideal for all circumstances.

I hadn't thought of yarrow, I will have to add it to my list!

Using an oatmeal stout recipe as a base sounds outstanding.  Enough body to counter the often strong flavors of my other additives without needing large hop or alcohol levels - perfect!  The ethanol extract route is something I had not even considered, it definitely seems promising.  I will have to look into it further.

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2011, 04:39:43 PM »
Wow, thanks for all the fast and helpful responses! 

     She has had some success with melatonin caplets but they tend to make her oversleep and have a hard time waking up.  Better than OTC sleep aids, but still not ideal for all circumstances.

I hadn't thought of yarrow, I will have to add it to my list!

Using an oatmeal stout recipe as a base sounds outstanding.  Enough body to counter the often strong flavors of my other additives without needing large hop or alcohol levels - perfect!  The ethanol extract route is something I had not even considered, it definitely seems promising.  I will have to look into it further.
Yarrow was traditionally used in ales before hops became popular.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2011, 05:34:11 PM »
Valerian is the herbal ancestor of valium by the way.

I think chamomile would be a good place to start. I would be carefull with wormwood as it does contain neurotoxins (It is the active ingredient in true absinth as I am sure you know after reading Buhners book) Chamomile can be used a bittering agent in the same way hops are. If boiled for an extended period it will get bitter. I have seen recipes for chamomile tripple that looked interesting.

I second the poster who pointed out that alchahol is a sleep disrupter so for the purposes of helping your wife sleep it might be more advisable to go to your herb shop and discuss teas or tinctures that might be used instead. French chamomile is a powerful sleep aid if it is fresh enough and you use enough, which thankfully is easy because it tastes SOOO GOOD! even in large amounts.

I personally will vouch for the efficacy of hops in sleep aid as everytime I drink an IPA I am out like a light within the hour.
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Offline oscarvan

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2011, 05:56:29 PM »
Then there is the happy medium? Say 1/3 or so of a bittering hops in the boil, and then a selection of the herbs for taste and effect, real or perceived....... Just thinking out loud. The last thing you want is sugar water beer.
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Offline rabid_dingo

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2011, 06:38:54 PM »
Then there is the happy medium? Say 1/3 or so of a bittering hops in the boil, and then a selection of the herbs for taste and effect, real or perceived....... Just thinking out loud. The last thing you want is sugar water beer.

No worries, this almost seems like the direct route to a gruit.
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Offline richardt

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2011, 07:18:53 PM »
Though the scientific evidence is weak for the adage "(warm) milk helps you sleep," I find that regular cold milk and a 100 calorie granola bar to be a great, and convenient, sleep aid should I wake up in the middle of the night for whatever reason.  I'm usually hard asleep within an hour and remain asleep until 7 or 8 a.m. without the "drug" or "supplement" concerns mentioned above.

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2011, 07:19:06 PM »
Please use a cautious approach though, sleeping well is one thing killing your wife is quite another.  Some of the things you listed should be used/prescribed only by medically trained individuals.  For example, valerian root shouldn’t be used with alcohol and can cause nervousness, heart palpitations, etc.  Damiana, should be completely avoided unless you check your recipe with a homeopath (not one of the fly-by-night types either).  St John’s Wort can cause conflicts with all sleep aids, mood regulators, birth control, and should only be used occasionally when a person with no mood disorders has a bad day at work.  Yes plants are natural but when misused they can most certainly cause damage or death.  I witnessed this firsthand when a local self-proclaimed homeopath recommended a regimen of herbs for a friend’s mother who was in poor health; she died when the herb concoction caused her already taxed system (liver and kidneys) to fail.  This is of course an extreme example but nevertheless shows that it can happen.  Like I said, just use caution and maybe find yourself a homeopath to double check things with.  I have made porter using white willow bark (aspirin) in small amounts and that was a very relaxing beer.   As far as meads go the “Compleat Meadmaker” is a pretty decent book.  Cheers, j

Offline beerrat

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2011, 01:20:09 PM »

  Does anyone know of any "must have" resources for mead brewing?


Ken Schramm's book the Compleat Mead Maker is a must, plus the info he presented on Jamil Show podcast.  See bjcp mead page.  http://www.bjcp.org/mead.php

Offline oscarvan

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Re: Planning sleepytime beer for my wife, need input!
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2011, 02:01:50 PM »
Downloaded to Macbook and iPhone.... Something to read when I go on the road.... 8)
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