Spice, Herb and Veggie Beers

Fruit/Spice/Veggie/Herbal Beers As homebrewers, we all know that one limit we have to what we can brew is going to be our imagination. While a majority of the BJCP categories have restrictions and direction as to how a style such as a pilsner or Baltic porter should be brewed and what it may include, the fruit, spice, herb and vegetable categories allow us a blank slate for our imaginations and ideas others believe to be pure insanity to truly run wild. My Mint Pale Ale is an example of taking a chance on an idea that a commercial brewer may not be willing to do, and watching that chance pay off.   History Lesson on Herbs and Spices in Beer Now, the concept of adding these ingredients to beer isn’t anything new. Beer and alcohol, although not quite the way we know it today, has been brewed since the dawn of early civilization all over the world in a variety of ways. Holiday and seasonal beers use spices and herbs such as coriander, lemongrass, orange peel, chamomile, cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise for creating different flavors and aromas; however it’s a far cry from how the ancients used spices and herbs, mainly for hallucinogenic and healing use in their alcohol. They believed fermentation and alcohol was a gift from the gods, and would use it either to try and communicate with them or heal themselves with their power. This was mainly in areas such as the Middle East, but more recently discovered in South America and our own Native American culture. Fast forward to medieval Europe. Before the discovery and usage of hops, the main bittering additive to beer was a spice combination known as gruit. Basic gruit was made up of three mildly narcotic herbs: sweet gale aka bog myrtle, yarrow and wild rosemary, with each producer adding different herbs to their mix to produce distinct flavors and effects. Some used juniper (Urban Chestnut’s Old Tjikko is one modern beer that uses it, unfortunately not well if you’re not a fan of pine/resin flavor in your beer), while ginger and nutmeg are other examples still used today, but a majority of the herbs added had psychotropic properties supposed to stimulate the mind among other things. It wasn’t until hops started to gain use starting in the 14th century that saw their switch from gruit begin as well as the founding of drug control efforts by Protestant church groups and other trade organizations against merchants and the Catholic Church, effectively, but temporarily, eliminating the usage of herbal and spice additions to beer. Nowadays with the craft beer movement, those additions have become more commonplace as the population now goes crazy for pumpkin spice everything and lemongrass beers are getting notice, but psychedelic additions are still outlawed.   Ever-Changing Fruit Beers Fruit and vegetable beers, however, have met with much...

Read More »

Homebrewing, Beer News and Product/Brewery Reviews

Where Beer Began Beer, believe it or not, has been around since the dawn of civilization. The rough estimate is alcohol, even though nobody knew what it was at the time, was discovered by accident over 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. How it was discovered is still a mystery. Well, I take that back, scientists and historians have a general idea how alcohol came to be, they just aren’t sure how us humans figured it out.   Ancient Alcohol Now, if you’ve ever watched the Bob Ross show, Joy of Painting, you’ll remember his term “happy accidents”. That’s essentially what alcohol was. The theory on how alcohol, and later officially beer, was discovered is sugars from honey or accidentally malted grains got into water, combined, and the resulting mixture was spontaneously fermented by wild airborne yeast or bacteria. Belgian lambic beers are a perfect example of spontaneous fermentation, I highly recommend trying one, especially if you aren’t big on hop flavor or aroma in beer. And not too surprisingly, beer became the cornerstone of civilization. Mesopotamians used it as currency, writing was supposedly developed as a way to keep track of grains and brewing methods, and beer was sanitary to drink. Ancient Egyptians used it for real medicinal purposes, especially for stomach problems. A good source on brewing history is Sacred Herbal and Healing Beers, which gives the history of brewing worldwide as well as ancient/historical recipes. Some of those recipes and purposes behind them I’ll be exploring in this blog at a later date. Beer Beginnings For Me Like many of us, I “discovered” beer and alcohol in high school (DISCLAIMER, I do not condone underage drinking), but didn’t discover good beer and alcohol until college, and only learned how to start making it a few years ago from a one-gallon recipe kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. I’m still learning more every day when I create my own recipes, talk with local brewers, visit , or find articles online. To this date I’ve brewed dozens of ales, had some success with meads, and still doing some work on figuring out lagers and ciders. I’m even exploring a potential shortcut on making rice wine. Some of these ideas have been hits, others, well, you can’t win all the time. I’ll be posting more on each of these as time goes on. I’m keeping this short as I’m planning on making a post tomorrow of the process I’ll be using to make a brown ale I call Drunken Otter, and how I came up with the name and idea of it. Until then, good night, and God...

Read More »

Drunken Otter American Brown Ale

The story behind Drunken Otter American Brown Ale It wasn’t until roughly 18 months ago when I felt confident enough to start making my own beer recipes. Due to space, equipment and knowledge constraints, it wasn’t until this year when I switched over to all grain brewing and started using the brew in a bag method on my stovetop.I purchased a nylon mesh straining bag from my local homebrew supply store with an idea in mind. I’m a fan of brown ales, and one type of English barley malt that’s popular in them is Maris Otter. A nickname that my family stuck me with a long time ago was “Otter” (long story, trust me), so I decided to make a brew incorporating the two. Otter Beer didn’t sound as appealing, or as funny. Then I remembered one of my good buddies affectionately calls me “drunken b*st*rd”. I combined the two, and Drunken Otter was born. Take out the guesswork, use brewing software like Beersmith Granted you will need to occasionally do brewing calculations by hand and calculator. I think it’s best everyone who does brewing should know how in case the zombie apocalypse occurs and they live long enough to make some beer. I digress though, and I’m sure you can tell I’m joking about the zombie apocalypse. But there is computer software out there that allows you to take a decent amount of the guesswork out of brewing. You can find a list of available brewing software at Homebrewtalk, an online forum I joined when I first started out. Myself, I use Beersmith. Beersmith allows you to fine tune your recipe when it comes to alcohol percentage, color, bitterness from hops, track fermentation, you can keep it simple or get really technical. It comes with pre-loaded recipes, or you can create your own based on an established style. Below is a screenshot of a pre-loaded recipe in design mode so you can get a rough idea of how it looks Creating a beer recipe Now, when creating a beer recipe, if you’re going with an established style you want to use the right grains, yeast and hops. Brown ales are, well, brown, so aside from the base malt which gives the grains the enzymes needed to create the basic sugars the yeast needs to chow down, you need specialty and adjunct grains to help give flavor and aroma. Specialty and adjunct grains are treated differently than base grains in that they are malted differently and are either kiln or drum roasted to certain points to modify the sugars in the barley. I used brown malt, chocolate malt, and caramel malt in addition to the Maris Otter base malt to give the brown ale its trademark color and sweet, bready smells and flavors. These malted barley grains are then crushed by a grain mill beforehand to crack their husks...

Read More »

You must be 21 years old to visit this site.

Please enter your date of birth.

- -