Competing at The Beer Growler’s Homebrew Battle

Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in Events | 0 comments

On June 22, Avondale’s Beer Growler (the flagship store!) is hosting a Homebrew Battle that my friends and I have entered. We brewed two IPAs, and we’ll taste each ahead of the event and compete with whichever we like best.

It’s our first competition, and I’m excited to mingle with other brewers. Since at this point I’m less interested in ABV and large batches than I am in figuring out ways to apply the herbs I cultivate in my garden, it’ll be fun to put a lot of that aside and just enjoy a day of beer and music.

If you’re free June 22, come taste the offering from Team Brew Like A Girl (we may or may not call ourselves that, but I’m leaning toward it).

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Mugwort Gruit

Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Herbal Medicines, Recipes | 0 comments

Alright, it’s late in the springtime, my yard is bursting with an amazing variety of plants, and I seem to have the gruit bug.

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Here’s the grain bill for a one gallon batch of gruit ale. Here’s the herb pack that’ll go in:

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Bottom to top, this is Calendula, Cleavers, an ornamental Artemisia, and then three handfuls of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).

But wait! There’s more!

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This is honeycomb – but notice that it’s open. Ripe honey is stored in these cells underneath an airtight wax cap. When the cells are open like this, it indicates that flower nectar – not yet ripened into honey – is in the cells. You can also see stored pollen in varying colors.

Like an old school brewer, I put it all in – wax, pollen, nectar and all.

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I love being a beekeeper. And for an ultimate low-tech milling solution, I use my grandmother’s meat grinder.

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I mashed the grains for 90 minutes in a grain bag, with water starting around 155 degrees. It was still around 140 when I started the boil. Did a 60 minute boil, adding calendula, cleavers, and artemisia at 60 min (start), 45 min, and 30 min, then mugwort at 20 min, 10 min, and flameout.

Ended up with a little less volume than I was hoping for, but it should keep the airlock on. I think this is going to be the sort of drink you have six ounces of before bed, then have crazy dreams. This is, by the way, actual kitchen witchery.

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Alabama Legalizes Homebrewing – Congrats!

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Whatnot | 0 comments

Today, Alabama becomes the 49th state where homebrewing beer, wine, and cider for personal use is legal. Mississippi passed legalization legislation before Alabama, but the law won’t take effect until July 1. So once again… oh, never mind. Good on both of you, and happy brewing.

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Brewing Up Medicine: Gruits and Tinctures

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Herbal Medicines, How to Brew, Recipes | 0 comments

A few weeks ago we had a group brew day with a bunch of people out at Spyke’s and two batches of all grain done up in turkey fryers. I’d never brewed on one before, so that was cool.20130509-175506.jpg

Since I compost, I was sent home with twenty some odd pounds (dry) of soaked grains (very heavy), and the next morning decided to do another running for a few-gallon batch of something.

Heated up some water, poured it in, and let it mash/sparge/whatever for a little while. Took a sample and, temperature adjusted, it clocked around 1.030. I started pulling a gallon or so out, bringing it to a boil, then pouring it back in. Added some molasses. Things lying around. It was a gray Sunday and small beer, so whatever.

I went out to the garden and pulled some yarrow leaves. Yarrow is one of the many bittering herbs in use before hops took over, and I’ve been growing several varieties of it in my front garden for three or four years, some from seed and some from store-bought bunches. I’ve always intended to use it in brewing, but it also has cool medicinal properties for wound healing, earning its botanical name of Achillea millefolium, the many-leaved herb of Achilles, hero of the Trojan Wars in Greek mythology.

Anyway, I grabbed some yarrow, and a touch of parsley, then from the spice cabinet pulled out black pepper, a few coriander seeds, bay leaves, and some other stuff. Just a pinch of this and that, mostly whole leaves or whole seeds. I was out of ale yeast when I put it in the carboy, so I threw in some Lalvin D47, which I like for meads, and let it go for a week or so.

Herbs and spices instead of hops, and a yeast strain better suited for another primitive drink. Yup, that’s what’s called a Gruit – an old school approach to brewing that predates the universal use of hops.

And it’s an interesting approach, because like yarrow, many of the plants that would have appeared in gruit ales have medicinal or psychoactive properties.

In my own garden, I grow a variety of mints (a remedy for gastric complaints), comfrey (excellent for healing soft tissue injuries and even bone breaks), calendula (great antiseptic externally, good for inflammation internally), and a few dozen other things that I cultivate or that volunteer seasonally. I’m amazed by the pharmacopeia that surrounds me just in the form of weeds – add in the stuff I do or am trying to grow, and suddenly anything seems possible.

20130509-175606.jpgHere are herbal tinctures – plants steeping in vodka for several weeks as a way of extracting some useful component. The bright orange one is calendula, tinctured because my asshole cat has a way of inflicting extreme injury on me, but I was thrilled to have it on hand recently when a piece of popcorn kernel jammed itself into my gum, apparently causing a little infection. I woke up the next day with a toothache and started a 3x a day rinse with the ointment. All gone.

Beside it is various things – anise hyssop, mint, maybe some brewing spices, mostly mixed up for flavor. These freeform “bitters” (originally utilized as a medicinal digestive aid) will be splashed into or onto things over time.

Barely in the frame, but probably my favorite, is a tincture of ashwagandha, an Indian herb classified as an adaptogen. Basically, if you’re tired, ashwagandha gives you a boost. If you’re stressed, it helps calm you down. It’s a great herb, and has been part of my mental health medicine cabinet for a few years now. I’ve always brewed it into a tea, which is time consuming (it’s the dried, woody root of the plant, so a certain quantity has to be boiled for a certain length of time….). As a tincture, I can take a half-teaspoon before bed and curl up in full relaxation mode a short time later.

Procedure for making a tincture:

People actually have written tomes on herbs, proportions, dried v. fresh and all that. I – of course – eyeball it. Guess. Use my intuition. Whatever. You should absolutely Google your favorite plant and “tincture” to see how people who know more than I do generally do it.

But basically, put plant matter of your choosing into a small jar. Be generous. Top with vodka or pure grain alcohol. Close it and leave it closed for at least two weeks. Shake it daily, or twice a day. Or all day long. But agitate it a bit so everything can blend.

After a few weeks, strain it out, squeeze as much liquid out of the plant matter as you can, and viola – you have a tincture. A clothesline of herbs in your living room is entirely your choice. 20130509-175530.jpg

Oh, and here are some hops.

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Dairy-Free, Totally Vegan, Pretty Darn Close to Whipped Cream

Posted by on Apr 19, 2013 in Food | 0 comments

Here’s a recipe everyone can love – whether you delight in dairy or not.

Recently I was looking into ways to curdle non-dairy milk substitutes, and got to experimenting with coconut milk, which I often have on hand (my girlfriend can’t eat almonds, neither of us love the hormone analogues in soy). Completely by accident, I stumbled on an amazingly awesome characteristic of coconut milk: It fakes whipped cream better than anything I’ve come across.

How to do it…

  1. Pour one cup of coconut milk into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. (This is the milk substitute kind you’d find in the dairy case. I don’t know if the canned variety will work – it’s much thicker. Then again, it might be amazing! Leave a comment if you try it!).
  2. Once it’s boiling, the surface will begin to bubble up. Skim that off with a spoon – that’s your whipped cream substitute. Spoon it into a bowl until the foam dies back.
  3. Once you’ve skimmed the solids off, leave the saucepan boiling. Another skin will form and bubble up in a moment. Skim that off too.
  4. Drizzle the skimmings onto something that needs whipped cream! Here, we’ve used strawberries and then shaved a little chocolate. It lacks the puff of Cool Whip and other artificial stuff, but it’s rich, light, and creamy and the flavor and texture hit all those whipped cream buttons.

Simple and so tasty!

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Alabama Moving to Legalize Homebrewing, Mississippi Just Did

Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in Whatnot | 0 comments

Hey, I wrote this piece on some of the reform movements happening around the south. If they succeed, all 50 states will officially allow legal homebrewing as of 2013.

Congrats to Mississippi and Alabama – welcome to the homebrew club!

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Update on HB 314 / SB 174

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in Whatnot | 0 comments

Not great news on HB 314 / SB 174. Last night, March 7, was so-called “crossover day” in the Georgia legislature.

30 days into the session, any bills that haven’t passed one chamber and “crossed over” into the second are technically dead for the year.

I spoke to Rep. Karla Drenner, who says that a lot can change from here. Over the next ten days, bills will be constructed from the charred remnants of the year’s legislative agenda, and the language of HB 314 / SB 174 can still be added to another bill and become law.

Now we cross our fingers and hope. Thanks to Rep. Drenner for supporting of the initiative – she was a co-sponsor of the original bill.

Please reach out to your Georgia House and Senate members and ask them to support keeping this initiative alive. Imagine owning a business where the state mandates that you can’t sell your product to your customers, instead you have to go through state-approved middlemen regardless of your marketing plan or scale.

Get rid of mandated middlemen in Georgia. Support small business and craft brewing.
Find your representative and senator here: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/state/main/

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