Book Review: The Wildcrafting Brewer
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Subtitle: How to Craft your Own “Hyperlocal” Beer, Wine, and Soda
Many homesteaders are interested in brewing their own wine, beer, or soda (in fact, just last week we published a great guide to making homemade country wines!). It’s another product you can make at home to save precious resources. But did you know that you can make your own drinks from ingredients harvested right from your own homestead? Sure, you might think immediately of grapes or berries, but how about tree bark, wild herbs, or weeds?
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This fall, I was honored to receive a copy of Pascal Baudar’s 2018 book The Wildrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients from Chelsea Green Publishers. In his book, Baudar introduces the reader to traditional and modern takes on the brewing and fermentation processes that a homesteader or nature lover can use to create millions of different beverages.
When I first decided to take a look at this book, I was unsure how many recipes or methods would interest me. I’m not a huge beer drinker and our one attempt to make hard cider was somewhat disappointing. But as I sat down to flip through the book, I found myself bookmarking page after page of ideas. From ginger and root beer to elderberry wine and cold fermentation, I was intrigued. One of the best parts was that I had all sorts of ideas of things that were growing on our property that I could use for these recipes.
Our first project was making homemade soda from our own honey and mint. I tried two different variations from the book, in addition to our usual method with the soda stream. The results were mostly positive; I loved the soda made with citric acid and baking soda, and so did our kids. While the full-on fermentation method was harder to get right, it tasted uniquely pure and rich once we got the right balance of sugar and yeast on the second try.
You can read about our experiments making honey-based soda on our blog, The Happy Hive. The results were pleasing, offering us a homemade alternative to store-bought sodas filled with corn syrup and sugar.
Who might like this book?
This book may be especially intriguing to homesteaders because it makes use of ingredients are wild and flexible. You can make a “hike soda” that blends the flavors and scents of your favorite trail or a wild berry “kompot” at the height of blueberry season and another one when fall raspberries come in (a “kompot” is a sugary beverage made by boiling fruits or berries with spices and herbs – almost anything can go in!).
Baudar uses the apt term “hyperlocal brewing” to describe this idea of using the natural ingredients around you, and its an awesome concept to explore. If you love making things from your backyard or homestead and aren’t afraid to forage for interesting ingredients, you’ll love the ideas in this book.
Baudar also offers extensive explanations and instructions when it comes to brewing terms and concepts – from how to obtain wild yeast to the difference between hot and cold brewing or the best equipment for fermenting country wine. The book is like a college course in brewing and wine making (in fact, he has taught courses at a college just up the road from me!).
In short, if you want to take a crack at making beverages on your homestead and you want to know how to do it with ingredients from your own woods and fields or those nearby, this book is a great alternative to the more mainstream resources on these practices. You’re bound to find a few recipes that you’ll use over and over again, and a few that you’ll challenge yourself to try at least once!
The Wildcraft Brewer book is available through Chelsea Green Publishers. The publishers provided a free copy of this book in order to write this review.