How to Brew Herbal Beer...My Mountain Man Beer Recipe (Home Brew Directions for the Prepper, Survivalist, & Herbalist Using Foraged Plants)
Seriously! There is nothing better than a cool glass of your own home brew. There. Just. Isn't. There is something so satisfying about drinking a favored beverage you have made yourself, especially when you have foraged for most of the herbs used in that brew in the wilderness around your home! Add to that the fact that the herbs used in the brew have amazing health benefits---What an awesome thing!
Besides, if you are into preparedness or survivalism, this is a great hobby to start learning now. Theoretically, we could create our own home brew, medicinal or not, if SHTF. Home brew is a great way to use your natural resources to create a medicinal and delicious beverage.
Here is the recipe for our Mountain Man Herbal Beer. This recipe comes out tasting complex, with the tannins (dryness) of the Mormon Tea, the woody/spice from the Juniper & Sagebrush, and the slight bitterness of the Hops and Chaparral. It's truly refreshing! I KNOW you'll love it!
If you’re not in an area where these plants grow in the natural environment, this recipe may just give you some starting points for how to use the plants in your specific area. There is nothing wrong with experimenting using different herbs. That’s the whole point!
Also, this recipe is for a five gallon batch. We have learned at this point, that we should create smaller one- or three-gallon batches the first time we try a new recipe because five gallons is a LOT of brew. If, for some reason, your recipe doesn’t turn out, it’s a real bummer to have lost out on all that honey or molasses or whatever your sugar is.
Anyhow—-on to the recipe and directions!
NOTE: This article has been edited and re-published from its original date. We now live in the Idaho Panhandle, so the herbs we use these days are much different from the Mojave Desert plants I share here. My hope is that the way we used native herbs to create this home brew will inspire you to branch out into your own environment for wild plants to forage and create with!
FTC Disclosure: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through and make any kind of purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
On Being a Home Brew Beer Heretic
There are a few things (maybe even quite a few) that many home brewers would consider heresy. However, after using herbs for a long time, and also after reading (with much enjoyment) Stephen Harrod Buhner's book, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, we have been delighted with making our brews in our own way, with quite a bit of leeway from the fancy artisan brewing world.
For example, we don't measure everything exactly right. We throw in the herbs we want to use, make up the tea, and go for it. We are also a bit easier on the sugars than what is called for in many beer recipes. We tend to go for about 3/4 pound (usually honey, maple sugar, or molasses) per gallon of liquid. Finally, we are so busy that we often let the fermentation process go for longer than it probably should. However, we have not had any issues or problems, ever.
Keep in mind that traditional cultures have been creating brews for eons. And I don't think they worried about measurements, sanitation, time, etc. too very much. Or maybe they did...but I doubt it. Natural fermentation is truly an incredible process that is very trustworthy.
How to Make Your Own Home Brewed Beer Recipe with Foraged & Wild Harvested Herbs
When we created this beer recipe, we thought long and hard about the properties of the plants we were using. There are bitters, tannins, and astringent herbs, as well as a milder vanilla flavor to round it out. You can do the same thing, no matter where you live! You can also purchase most of the herbs we used in this recipe from herbal suppliers.
Ingredients for Mountain Man Herbal Home Brew:
Some Juniper leaves & berries (we foraged ours from our yard in the mountains---it's a wild plant up here)
Some Mormon Tea (Ephedra nevadensis) We foraged this too. Unless you live in the Southwest, you may not have this handy. That's ok. We don't use too much of it, anyway, as it is EXTREMELY tannic. You could substitute with any herb that contains a lot of tannins—-even grape leaves.
Chaparral---I think you MUST have Chaparral, not only for the taste, but for the health benefits. Some people even believe it helps cure cancers---Now I'm not saying that, but it is definitely a good strong herb. Chaparral has a pretty wide range, but if you don't have it you can get it at the link below.
Sagebrush---Not to be confused with Sage. Sagebrush is actually a species of Wormwood, with a wonderfully strong taste and smell. You don't need to much of this. Sagebrush is the Nevada state flower (a little fun fact). If you don't have this, it's ok.
Ponderosa Bark---Again, not too much. Ponderosa bark gives the brew a nice mellow hint of vanilla. Or---just use a vanilla bean or after the tea has cooled---some vanilla extract. Not too much.
Hops---I have to buy mine because we don’t grow it here. So if you need to purchase ANY of these herbs (except possibly the Sagebrush & Ponderosa Bark) you can find them at Starwest Botanicals, one of my most favorite shops! By the way, you can get your culinary herbs & spices there too, with a higher level of quality and quantity than ANY grocery store spice!
Yeast. You can use the fancy brewer's yeast from a home brew store. But we always just use the bread baking yeast. It has always worked just fine! We use 2 packets for a large batch like this. Remember: These directions are for survival brew. ;-)
A Sugar: Honey, Molasses, Maple, Cane. You'll need between 3 to 5 pounds of whatever sugar mixture you like. We tend to go light on the sugar. The yeast needs the sugar to feed on, and that is what causes the fermentation. So, just be aware that if you want a nice fast fermentation, go with more sugar. For this five gallon batch, we used 3 pounds of Raw Honey and about 1 pound of Molasses.
Tools You'll Need for Making Homemade Beer:
1. 7 gallon or so beer brewing bucket. Get one with a spigot. This will work for a 5 gallon or a bit greater batch. We didn't measure our liquid this past batch, and just went by the large pot---we ended up with almost 6-ish gallons.
2. A large pot to make your tea.
4. Airlock, if you don't buy the set up together.
6. Bottle Caps
8. Funnel and Strainer
Steps to Make Your Mountain Man Home Brew:
1. Chop up your herbs loosely.
2. Get a large 5 gallon (minimum for this recipe) pot ready with boiling water on the stove. Pour your herbs in, turn the stove down to a simmer, and let go for about 45 minutes or so. It makes a really nice, strong tea.
3. After you feel this is done, take it off the stove. We have some pretty cool temps outside, so I just set the pot outdoors with the cover on until it's cooled down (I use the cover so bugs don't get in there).
4. When the tea is cooled a bit, start your sugar mixture. You'll need about 3 to 4 pounds (the expert beer folks say 1 pound sugar to 1 gallon of tea---Buhner) of your sugar source. We used a combination of honey and molasses for this batch.
5. Strain the herbs out of the tea. Then mix the sugar into the tea. This is now your "wort."
6. If your mixture is no hotter than room temperature, go ahead and add your yeast. We use about 2 packets of regular old bread yeast. Stir it all up good.
7. Place the lid onto the 5 gallon pail with your airlock.
8. Let sit for a week or two (or three if you are super busy like we are). Your brew will bubble, froth, and foam at the top. It's a lovely sight!
9. You can do some taste testing in between if you like. Just use CLEAN objects in the brew.
10. What we do at the point we are ready to go ahead and bottle is just transfer the brew to a large 5 gallon jug. We do this by using a strainer and a funnel to be sure the yeast strands and other sediment don't get transferred with the clear liquid.
We rinse out the pail, then pour the brew back into the pail. We have a pail with a spigot on the bottom of it, so that is why we bottle from the pail.
11. You'll need to make a little additional sugar mixture now. We use about 3/4 cup cane sugar or powdered sugar diluted in about 2 cups or so water. We boil it, so it's completely dissolved.
12. Mix in this little extra bit of sugar water into the ferment. When you go to bottle it, it will be this little extra sugar that will really give your brew a nice carbonation, as it will keep fermenting some in the bottle while it sits, giving the remaining yeast food.
13. Bottle it up! Use a capper to tighten caps onto your bottle tops.
14. Now, wait a week, two, or three. Be sure to open your bottles over a sink until you get a feel for the carbonation. Ours have been known to spill over somewhat, especially if we let it go too long.
You can see that most of your efforts will be in waiting patiently. I know that's hard. Believe me. I do. But it's necessary. You'll be so glad you did!
A note about sanitation: Many home brewers are crazy about using bleach or other sanitizing agents to kill every single germ out there to prevent possible molding or wild yeast that may or may not affect the taste.
Personally, we wash our bottles and containers extremely well with scalding/boiling water and soap. Rinse well. (Another Brewing Heresy)
We are not in a humid environment, so maybe that is why we have never had any mold experience like we hear others speak of. Just keep your work areas very clean (we use homemade vinegar cleaner), and wash your tools well with very hot, soapy water.
Final Thoughts & Reflections on Making Your Own Herbal Beer from Foraged Plants
Home brewing is a fabulous hobby. We do it for fun, and just enjoy the heck out of it. The results are not standard, and sometimes quite surprising….but that’s the beauty of using herbs in your brew.
The thing is, if you can recognize when a wild herb is astringent, tannic, or bitter, then it’s really pretty easy to come up with the right balance of perfect tea for your brew.
I say: Go experiment! Try out some of the edible and medicinal herbs in your area! If you live in a place where mugwort grows, for example, my goodness—you’ve got a traditional home brew plant right there! :-)
Do you create your own home brews? I’d love to hear what you think, so leave a comment in the comments section!
If you are interested in making your own beer---check out some of the resources below!
Also, if you’d like to learn more about using herbs in your ferments, I recommend the Herbal Academy of New England’s Herbal Fermentation course. It’s wonderfully informative.
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Hugs, Health, & Self-Reliance!
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Disclaimer: The information in this article, elsewhere on my blog, in my shop sites, in conversations, and on labels is for informational purposes only and not meant to cure, treat, diagnose, or prevent any medical condition. Please see a medical professional for concerns. I simply provide my own personal advice based on experience and study for ways to live a healthy and natural way of life. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.