Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Lifestyles
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Beer Garden: crafting a creative brew from plants you grow

This Oct. 2, 2013 photo shows hop flowers that are both ornamental and edible in a garden in Langley, Wash. Hops are an easy-to-grow perennial that greatly enhance a beer’s flavor when picked fresh. (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick)

Enlarge Image

This Oct. 2, 2013 photo shows hop flowers that are both ornamental and edible in a garden in Langley, Wash. Hops are an easy-to-grow perennial that greatly enhance a beer’s flavor when picked fresh. (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick)

You don't need a garden to succeed as a home brewer, but growing your own ingredients is a flavourful 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 flavour), brewer's yeast and water (about 90 per cent 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 flavours, odours and colours.

"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 grey water (relatively clean wastewater) is used for irrigation on our pastures. That's the bulk of what comes out of our brewery."

___

Online:

For more about growing hops in home gardens, see: http://www.oregonhops.org/culture2.html

Dean Fosdick: deanfosdick@)netscape.net

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Election 2014
Brandon Sun Business Directory
The First World War at 100
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media