Ancient Fermentations

One nice thing about being sick was people sent me nice presents. Luke sent me the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I'm interested in gruit ale and using herbs and unusual ingredients in beers so was keen to see what was in this book.
This book starts off with a rant that goes along the lines of what has science ever done for us and how wise and wonderful ancient people were and how they understood the natural world much more than any of us do now. I skipped over a lot of that, I'm a scientist who does appreciate the natural world, the two are not mutually exclusive. The author of this book is very into the power of plants to heal and American Indian wisdom which you can take with a pinch of salt. As you get into the book proper it gets more interesting with descriptions of ancient brewing methods, recipes, poems and beliefs. It seems that making alcohol has been a long time obsession of the human race.

There is a chapter all about mead and honey and the health benefits it may have. This is pretty interesting though I'm not sure mead has all the benefits claimed for it here. It is a pity that mead isn't more widely available. There are many recipes involving various cacti found in America which aren't very relevant in Europe. However the final half of the book is devoted to herbs and herbal beer. He talks about nettle beer, birch beer and dozens of other herbs which can be used in beer. He talks about bog myrtle, yarrow and meadowsweet all of which can be used instead of hops to bitter beer. There are many old recipes to try, some at your peril... Wormwood ale anyone?

All in all an interesting book if you ignore the hippy stuff and concentrate on the herbs and recipes.

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