Fermentation Friday: Homegrown and Homemade

Posted on 09.26.08 6:47PM under Brewing, Fermentation Friday, Herbal Beer, Hops

I took a work buddy of mine to the local homebrew shop the other day at lunch. The dude working at the shop had a long pony tail and a calm, relaxed demeanor that makes you think he probably listens to the Grateful Dead and might have at one time enjoyed some herbal self-medication on occasion. Who among us hasn’t?

On the way back to the office, he remarked, “There seems to be a similarity between home brewers and home growers.” This, of course, incited me to begin a conversation about the hops I grew this summer. I am not sure if he was talking about hops, but I know there are a lot of brewers growing their own hops this year.

I wanted a hedge against a lack of Centennial hops, with a fun dose of Willamette and Saaz for extra insurance. The Willamette came out best, yielding maybe an ounce of whole hops. The Centennial came in second with a few grams of hops. The Saaz never broke ground. That’s OK – it turns out that I don’t really like Saaz that much, anyway. Next year I’ll plant Amarillo and something like Chinook or Columbus or Newport or Summit.

I have harvested all the hops from this first year and dried them out best I can. But I have not used them yet. I’m not sure they came out OK. The smell is a bit grassy, or something. They don’t quite smell like hops. But maybe I’m being paranoid. Still, I am going to wait and use them in one special (if small) brew.

In addition to these homegrown hops, I also seem to have some Yarrow growing at my house. That is supposed to be a classic Gruit herb with some sort of highly inebriating effects when fermented. I think using these in the experimental homegrown hop beer will be the perfect way to have a good time. Either I’ll get high and drunk at the same time without using anything illegal, or I’ll die from using some random poisoned weed growing in my garden. No matter what, it’s all in the name of science and beer love.

I have some bittersweet nightshade growing around my house, too, but I don’t think I’ll use that quite yet. And there’s always local honey. I also have a few books on herbal beers without hops, including one that will send me seeds to make their herbal beer recipes. One day I’ll get myself organized enough to order these seeds and plant them and then make the beer-like substances using their leaves and stuff.

But until then, I’ll settle for homegrown hops on a not-too-crazy homegrown homebrew.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by BobbyO on 09.28.08 9:37 AM

    Careful with that yarrow, Keith… Water hemlock, which is highly toxic, is frequently confused with yarrow. My philosophy regarding wild plants is to leave them alone unless I can absolutely, without any shadow of doubt, identify them and distinguish them from any possible imposters. The wild black raspberries and concord grapes that grow all over my property are the best examples: they’re completely unambiguous, not to mention delicious. An example of what can possibly go wrong if you’re not vigilant happened here a few years ago. I was pulling some weeds at the head of my driveway when a (now former) neighbor wandered by with his 5 year old son. They paused a few feet from me, observing at the edge of the woods a spectacular 6-foot tall specimen of flowering pokeweed; the man commented to his son, “Look, wild blueberries.” I quickly and forcefully warned him that what he was looking at was extremely poisonous and that he shouldn’t even touch it, as pokeweed toxin can be absorbed through the skin. (As an aside, pokeweed and blueberry plants don’t look even remotely alike, and you would have to be just about legally blind to confuse the berries.) The gentleman actually had the audacity to argue with me, whereupon I called him a blithering idiot and a moron who obviously didn’t deserve to have survived to reproductive age, and challenged him to eat a handful of the berries. Luckily for him, my charming personality won out, and he continued on his afternoon stroll, with his son fearfully exclaiming, “Daddy, that man is scaring me!” I shudder to think of what might have happened had I not been there. The moral of the story is be really, really careful.

  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 09.30.08 7:32 PM

    On second thought, maybe I’ll skip my so-called-Yarrow. But now those Pokeberries are really tempting me!