Sunday, May 09, 2010
She's crazy, I tell ya,
Beer from NETTLES? And I've heard of dandelion wine, but BEER? From the GREENS?
I did it. Today, because I was fascinated with the idea that in other times, other cultures, people (especially women) brewed beer from ingredients other than malted barley and hops, I brewed a beer from stinging nettles. And dandelions.
Of course, dandelions are in no short supply. And on my 40 acres, I have a couple reliable sources of stinging nettles, one of them being a flower bed right outside the house. Why nettles choose to grow there I do not know.
I did add a few non-locally harvested ingredients, among them lemons and ginger root. I also added some lime basil, because I had it, and because I thought it would add a good flavor.
Nettles, dandelion leaves, dandelion root, ginger root, and lemon zest were boiled for about half an hour, or until the leaves barely retained any leaf structure. Meanwhile, two pounds of brown sugar (that's one whole bag), and cream of tartar and the juice from the lemons (4 of them) were mixed together. When the whole mess was done boiling, I strained the liquid into the pot with the sugar and stuff, and let the sugar dissolve before pouring it into the fermenter (the 5 gallon glass carboy in the top picture). After a couple of hours, when it had cooled to slightly warm to the touch, I added the yeast.
The yeast is a story of its own. You can buy bread yeast in any store, and it might work for brewing beer, but if you want the kind of yeast that works best for brewing beer, you generally have to buy it from home brew supply stores. Being short of cash and not wanting to drive 100 miles to a brew store last week, I made an appeal over Facebook to see if anyone in my area was keeping any yeast cultures and could spare some. To my great surprise, a local Facebook friend and musician, whom I had only just recently met in real life in a chance encounter in line at the grocery store, contacted another friend of his, who had a packet of yeast to spare. Say what you will about social media, but I have gotten to know a few people locally through Facebook whom otherwise I would not have met.
A few hours later, carbon dioxide is happily bubbling through the air lock, a sign that fermentation is well on its way. We'll see how this experiment tastes in a few days. I don't expect it to be like any beer I've tasted before, and that is part of the fun of this whole project! I like that I didn't spend about 30 bucks on a pre-assembled beer kit. This is far more adventurous.