Plant what you need to brew beer

  • By Dean Fosdick Associated Press
  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014 2:58pm
  • Life

You don’t need a garden to succeed as a home brewer, but growing your own ingredients is a flavorful step up.

Much of the creativity involved in crafting a custom-made beer starts with the plants you select.

“The modern palate pretty much demands some hops in beer, but beyond that, there’s a lot of choices available,” says Dennis Fisher, an organic farmer from Winterport, Maine.

Fisher, who with his brother Joe wrote a popular reference book for beginners, “The Homebrewer’s Garden” (Storey Publishing, 1998), says one of the most satisfying aspects of home brewing is producing some or all of your own ingredients from scratch. “Scratch brewing,” the brothers wrote, “refers to the cultivation, preparation and use of hops, barley, malts and other non-barley grains, and adjuncts ranging from fruits to herbs to vegetables.”

Growing your own ingredients ensures that the products are as organic, fresh and unique as possible. Homegrown also is cheaper than store-bought, the Fishers say.

The four basic ingredients needed for brewing are malt (malting provides the fermented sugar that yeast feeds on to produce alcohol), hops (reduces spoilage and balances the sugar’s sweetness with a bitter flavor), brewer’s yeast and water (about 90 percent of beer’s content).

“Hops are a particularly good (garden) choice because they thrive almost anywhere,” says Dennis Fisher. “They are also a great addition to a landscape — big, attractive columns of greenery.”

If the water from your tap tastes good, then it also should taste good in the beer you make, Fisher says. “But if it’s chlorinated, then you need to let it stand overnight to allow the chemicals to outgas before brewing with it.”

Adjuncts, in homebrew speak, are plants used to replace or complement hops to give beers distinctive flavors, odors and colors.

“Just about any flower you can eat can be made into a beer,” says Rebecca Kneen, an organic farmer and writer from Sorrento, British Columbia, who wrote about backyard brewing in the new “Groundbreaking Food Gardens,” By Niki Jabbour (Storey Publishing).

“It’s useful to experiment with them all though to determine how much should be used and when they should be added,” Kneen says.

Some common and not so common home brewer’s garden adjuncts include:

Herbs: (Bittering) Sage, horehound, gentian, yarrow. (Flavoring) Juniper, rosemary, ginger, oregano, mint, thyme. (Aromatic) Lavender, lemon balm, chamomile.

Flowers: Nasturtiums, wild roses, scented geranium leaves, daylilies and marigolds.

Vegetables and fruits: Rhubarb, blackberries and elderberries, pumpkin, chili peppers, sorghum, apples. “We like to add spruce tips to some beers,” Fisher says. “It’s more of a wild-gathered than home-grown adjunct that in Colonial times was a hops substitute.”

For even “greener” beer, recycle the brewing ingredients and their byproducts, Kneen says. “You can compost them, feed them to pigs and sheep, put some into your chicken feed,” she says. “We use them heavily as mulch … The gray water (relatively clean wastewater) is used for irrigation on our pastures. That’s the bulk of what comes out of our brewery.”

For more information, visit www.oregonhops.org/culture2.html.

Homebrew suppliers

Homebrew Heaven

Down Home Brew Supply

Monroe Homebrewing Supply

Homebrew clubs

Hops and Sips blog

The weather is sweltering outside and it’s the perfect time to get outside, sit under a little shade and sip on your favorite beverage. Let us be your guide. The Herald’s newest blog, the Hops and Sips blog, will be posting news, reviews and features from the world of beer and spirits. Check it out at www.heraldnet.com/hopsandsips. Cheers!

More in Life

Shrimp and grits, rendered healthful and Italian? We’re in.

This recipe features a sauce made with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs instead of cheese and cream.

UFO at Paine Field playground was left by an artist — not aliens

The flying saucer at community park in Everett is a cosmic attraction.

Chef James Abbott makes Buck’s peanut butter pie at Buck’s American Cafe in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fur & Feathers: 4 lovable dogs need homes

Meet Lola, Sadie, Scooter and Chance

Sweet baking tips: How to rescue brown sugar that’s turned hard

Soften the rock solid stuff, then try this recipe for chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt.

Valentina Bogdanova, 74, loves working in the gardens that nearly surround the Bakerview Apartments, where she has lived for 20 years. The units are among 16 affordable and subsidized properties leased to seniors by the Everett Housing Authority. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
As real estate booms, those with fixed-incomes need help

When senior citizens get housing, they are able to ‘age in place.’

Melania Trump to donate inaugural ball gown to Smithsonian

Melania Trump is donating her inaugural ball gown… Continue reading

Harry Potter exhibit marks 20th anniversary of first book

Many of the things Harry Potter fans thought were imaginary were actually based in fact — or folklore.

Visiting Germany’s Lutherland, birthplace of Reformation

The sights include the church where the first Protestant service took place in 1521.

Most Read