Recipe: Earthbound Cardamom Pepper Tea Blonde

Courtesy of Stuart Keating, founder of Earthbound Brewing in St. Louis, Missouri, here is a homebrew recipe for a crisp, sessionable blonde ale in which cardamom, black pepper, and black tea mimic the floral, spicy notes of British hops.

Stuart Keating Apr 21, 2020 - 4 min read

Recipe: Earthbound Cardamom Pepper Tea Blonde Primary Image

Pilot kit in action at Earthbound Brewing. Photo: Joe Stange.


Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.045
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.4%
IBUs: 13, except not really. Adjuncts alter the bitterness. Also, I dislike using IBUs as a measurement anyway, since everyone’s palate is different, alpha-acid content varies wildly over time, and handling and storage can all alter perceived bitterness.

7.5 lb (3.4 kg) two-row pale
10 oz (283 g) rye malt
5 oz (142 g) Caramel/Crystal 10
5 oz (142 g) biscuit malt

0.5 oz (14 g) East Kent Goldings [5% AA] at 60 minutes
0.5 oz (14 g) East Kent Goldings [5% AA] at 15 minutes
0.04 oz (1.1 g) black tea at whirlpool
0.5 oz (14 g) cracked or ground cardamom at whirlpool
0.125 oz (3.5 g) ground black pepper at whirlpool


Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, White Labs WLP005 British Ale, or other British ale strain. Any clean American strain will also rip right through this beer perfectly.

Mill the grains and mash at 152°F (67°C) for 60 minutes. Vorlauf until the runnings are clear, then run off into the kettle. Sparge the grains and top up as necessary to obtain 6 gallons (23 liters) of wort—or more, depending on your evaporation rate. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops and additions schedule. At flameout, add the tea and spices in a tea strainer or muslin cloth and steep during whirlpool. If you aren’t whirlpooling, let them steep for 10–15 minutes minimum. After the boil, chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, about 60°F (16°C). Aerate the wort and pitch the yeast. Ferment somewhere in the 65–72°F (18–22°C) range.

The cardamom and pepper provide floral, spicy notes similar to Fuggles or East Kent Goldings but without the resin character. For the cardamom, you can use ground seeds or cracked pods; green or black each produce different aromas, both are good. For the black pepper, I prefer Tellicherry.

A bit of background: I was teaching my business partner Jeff how to homebrew, and we started smelling spices to make notes and flavor/aroma maps. Very professional stuff. Jeff asked how one might use cardamom in a beer. I argued that most people would push for a malty winter warmer but also that you could balance the cardamom’s aroma with black pepper and then use black tea to dry out the beer and reduce the hop load.

We originally made the beer with just two-row brewer’s malt to isolate the aromas, then built the grain bill around the smells. The rye malt is there to harmonize with the astringency of the tea. (The spiciness of it also makes the pepper smell more pepper-like. Brains are weird.) The biscuit malt adds just enough toast to let the grain compete with the adjuncts for attention. The C10 is there for body and head retention; you could probably omit it and split the difference between the rye and biscuit for a slightly more rustic beer.

I have low-balled the tea, cardamom, and black pepper; you can scale each to twice the amount without overwhelming the beer. The pepper should add no (or very little) heat but an excellent black-pepper aroma. Note that the tea provides astringency, increasing the perceived dryness of the beer.