Thursday, 31 May 2018

Foraged brewing

There were a couple of excellent speakers at the London and South East homebrewing competiton.

First up was a gentleman whose name I've unfortunately already forgotten speaking on local brewing and foraged ingredients.

He started my discussing what is meant by local: distance or terroir? If you live in St. Louis is Budweiser your local beer? Corporate buyouts have lead to a narrow (mono?) culture and big businesses are more profit motivated [small businesses of course just do it for the passion]

We’re still cavemen but now get our food from supermarkets or online. Getting into the foraging, but not yet the homebrewing, he mentioned he'd collected and gutted some road kill and put it in freezer but may not eat it. Which is probably for the best really.

He continued that there are few small scale maltings in UK, but we can get good malt. I think there are five floor maltings that brewers can buy malt from which really ticks the authenticity box better than a modern small scale plant will in many ways. I know a few people are looking into setting up small maltings so something might emerge in the near future.

Brewing local: using locally grown/foraged ingredients or collected yeast. You can but should you? Locally
grown/foraged will also be seasonal. Can now buy all foods all year round but they’re not in season locally.

Foraging: Don’t Die! Various plants will grow locally, you won't want to use them all!

The beers he's made with foraged and local ingredients included a Sussex "lambic".

The wort was pre-acidified (1ml/L, pH 4-4.3) and added 1% alcohol, though he said the alcohol probably wasn't necessary. Pre-acidifying malt is commonly carried out by lambic brewers and prevents the growth of potentially pathogenic enteric bacteria.

A primitive beer made with 1/3 birch sap, filtered stream water, grains smoked in birch, foraged juniper (astringent and peaty)
One half done as mixed fermentation and one half with bugs in sap left out 24hrs.
This one tasted smoky, slightly sour, refreshing.

If carrying out pontaneous yeast capture you might find that after six months wild yeast can clean up some of the crap flavours. Can hop wort to stop Lactobacillus or add alcohol to tailor the organisms captured (e.g. acidify to stop mentioned earlier). You can re-culture from successful captures, and a blog got mentioned:

A rosemary beer had unsurprisingly a taste of rosemary and was slightly sour.

He talked of the different pellicles you might see: some good, some bad. I didn't get the details down about which ones you should just dump, but I think it's fair to say if you see mould floating the beer's a lost cause. 

Dandelion wit was slightly sour, refreshing. If inoculating with flowers fill up the wort with flowers, not just add a flower!
Leave plenty of time to ferment out! At least six months. Perhaps add bottling yeast.

Dandelion hayson was posted about on Milk The Funk
Hay in mash. Added dandelion greens for bittering. Flowers at end of boil. Cultured yeast from hay, some with Brett. And some with Brett. and saison yeast. Bit of a curry flavour!

Wine makers are very good at making foraged drinks. [Though they normally add loads of sugar too]
Tinctures can be good as can add flavours to beer using a pipette rather than a batch at a time.

Various books were mentioned:

Homebrewers Almanac is good, [Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers sounds far too new agey for me to be interested in] Brewing Local inspired the talk, Against All Hops is interesting (smoked pig’s head porter!), I totally failed to get down what he had to say about Wildcrafting Brewer but it looks like it's a general booze book not beer specific, Edible wild plants and herbs is a good reference book, American Sour Beer I've already said is excellent. My notes fizzled out a bit after that, but I have got down that 100% spontaneous took 4-5 days to get going, so perhaps better to capture wild yeast and propagate it first. I guess that was from the questions at the end.

Then it was back to a bit of mingling before the next speaker. 


  1. The speaker was James Thor.

    Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers is indeed annoyingly new agey, but based on some interesting research. He's probably the only beer writer ever to have read Odd Nordland's book on Norwegian farmhouse ale and makes good use of it.