Scratch Brewing

Scratch brewing season! We started the season off last weekend planting our Cascade hops, Black Lace Elderberry, Juniper, Raspberries, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Moonshine Yarrow. All ingredients for our scratch brewing experimental beers for brewing this spring and summer. We got lucky this year and saved some money by finding the plant sale at the senior center, talk about a good deal! Who could turn down those old folks in their Lions Club vests!
Here are how some of these plants are used in brewing:
Juniper: Can be propagated from seeds, but germination may take up to two years. Cuttings are a more reliable method. To harvest pick the berries starting in the second year (Bummer none this year) after they turn color; the needles can be picked throughout the season. Brewing: Foliage and berries have be en used to flavor traditional ales and gin in the Netherlands for centuries. Use fresh berries 1-2 tablespoons late in the boil for a ginlike flavor, use the leaves 1-4 ounces to the secondary fermenter to give a bittersweet aroma.
Elder: We bought the blacklace elderberry plant. Harvest: Harvest flowers when they are open, berries when fully riped. Brewing: Use 2 ounces of the flowers for dry hopping. Use 1-6 pounds of berries to add a sweet, honeylike flavor to fruit beer. WARNING: Flowers and berries are edible the bark and leaves are poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten!!
Lemon Balm: Harvest: Cut the leaves just before plants flower. Use fresh or dry immediately after harvest. Brewing: Use 1/2 an ounce of the fresh leaves late in the boil to add a strong lemon scent and flavor.
Yarrow: Harvest: Pick the leaves and flowers soon after the plants come into bloom. Brewing: Used to bitter 1/2 ounce of fresh leaves or blossoms early in the boil for a mild bittering.
Source: The Homebrewer’s Garden & The Drunken Botanist 
We also planted the hops. Which took a full day of clearing blackberry bushes and digging holes. We used a large bamboo pole and hemp twine for our trellis. This year we planted eight Cascade rhizomes from Hops Direct.
Building the hop trellis
Tommy also started the season off with a scratch brew of Dandelion Bitter Ale. This ale is a bright brown-orange and cloudy, with a sour piquancy unlike that of hops. Yield 5 gallons.
Stewing the Dandelions
Dandelion Bitter Ale-
Grain Bill:
5.00 lbs. Maris Otter
0.75 lbs. Bairds Crystal 60*L
0.50 lbs. Dingemans Aromatic Malt 17-21*L
1.00 lbs. Briess Victory Malt 28*L
2.00 lbs. Dandelions (flowers, stalks, leaves, and roots); soaked multiple times & cleaned well
1.00 oz. Kent hops (15 minutes prior to flameout)
2.00 oz. homegrown hops (2 minutes prior to flameout)
Mash the grains from above at 153 degrees for one hour.  Boil the dandelions for 45 minutes then remove the large matter.  Fifteen minutes before flameout, add the Kent hops (I used store-bought pellets).  Two minutes before flameout, add the homegrown hops (I used this past season’s hops, so they were a little tamed from before).
This year it was a Dandelion Bitter instead of Dandelion Cream Ale.  It was also all-grain brewed (using Brew-In-A-Bag, aka BIAB), so the efficiency took a slight hit, but the OG was at 1.045 or so.
Finding a clean place to pick the Dandelions is the hard part

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