Have you ever looked around your garden and wondered why certain plants are so common? Partly it is because they are just pretty, but unless you have quite an exotic garden there are good reasons why some native species are so popular. Many plants we know today were once common ingredients in cooking and brewing, when you consider this it seems so obvious as it’s what we have available but many have now fallen out of use when they can still be very useful.
Though before reading further I have a warning, research ANYTHING thoroughly before you add it to anything you will consume. Do not use it until you have made sure it is safe. Also make sure whatever you use has been properly cleaned, most bacteria or wild yeast clinging on should be killed in the boil but it is never a bad idea to eliminate the possibility.
With that said let’s look at some you can use.
Pine or spruce is not something many would think to add but can be a good alternative to hops. It adds a bittering taste but with more herbal tones and a certain clear clarity. It is the spruce tips and branch that add most of the flavour, so don’t bother chucking a few pine cones in there. If you want to try a Pine ale try our Logger’s Pine Lager.
Elderflower is a more obvious edition, you’ve probably had many drinks with it in but it can also be a great addition to brews. What you have to be careful with however is elderflower is slightly toxic, not enough to cause real damage but can make you feel unwell so do not overuse certain strains. The flowers are what add a good taste being fruity and floral. Best added towards the end of a boil like an aroma hop. This can be used to make a lighter flavoured beer or complement an already heavier one. Our Mum’s Mumme contains elderflower along with some other interesting ingredients.
Heather can be used with and without hops being an incredibly old ingredient in beers with archaeologists finding it used since 2000BC. Like elderflower it if the flower which adds most of the flavour as does using it at the end of the boil. As you delve deeper into this type of brewing you will notice trends like this and come to think of these plants in a different way. Unlike Elderflower it adds a more bitter taste but distinctly different than a hop. If used like a dry hop (added to the beer while it ferments) it will give sour taste. We are currently developing a Heather Ale recipe.
These are just a few examples but you will be surprised at the range of plants in your garden that can be used for brewing. With only a little investigation you can create a great variety of beers that are harder to find in stores.