Hi! I'm Heidi.

Hi! I'm Heidi, and here is my Homestead Journey.....

Hi! I'm Heidi, and here is my Homestead Journey.....

 

Hi! I'm Heidi--I'm a modern-day homesteader starting out in middle age! I'm all about plant medicine, raising animals for love & food, preparedness, traditional food practices, and being a natural health rebel for life! Join me on this journey!

I'm Heidi, and this is Ranger.  He has been with me for over ten years, and I love him dearly.  

I'm Heidi, and this is Ranger.  He has been with me for over ten years, and I love him dearly.  

How to Make Herbal Beer: A Spring Bitters Tonic Ale Recipe--Well Balanced, Healthy, Delicious

How to Make Herbal Beer: A Spring Bitters Tonic Ale Recipe--Well Balanced, Healthy, Delicious

My husband loves beer in moderation! Personally, I've never been a beer drinker, but I'm just beginning to learn an appreciation for beer and ale. What I love is the fact that we can make our own, and it's MUCH better than commercially made beer! Plus, when we use herbs to make it, the beer contains the health benefits from all the plant goodness!  This recipe below is for what I am calling "Spring Bitters."  Believe it or not, the herbs in this home brew help with digestive upset as well as help purify the body. This herbal ale turned out very well-balanced, and my husband has pronounced that it is the best one yet!  

I learned how to make herbal ales and beers from two main places:  Stephen Buhner's book, Sacred & Herbal Healing Beers---and also by attending the Herbal Academy of New England's Course on the Craft of Herbal Fermentation.  I highly recommend both sources, not only for great recipes and ideas to inspire you, but to also give you a great foundation in using herbs in your ferments! For other great tutorials on making your own ales, see these articles too: How to Make Chamomile Ale, Mountain Man Herbal Beer, and my two part series on How to Make Herbal Ale (Part One here)

Here's how to make Spring Bitters herbal ale, and this recipe in particular---super easily! 

Herbal beer (ale) is a wonderfully creative process.  If you love tasting brews, you should give making your own herbal ales a try!  It's easy, very inexpensive, and you'll always have healthy herbal brew on hand! 

Herbal beer (ale) is a wonderfully creative process.  If you love tasting brews, you should give making your own herbal ales a try!  It's easy, very inexpensive, and you'll always have healthy herbal brew on hand! 

Note: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article. If you click through one and make any kind of purchase, I will receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you! :-) Thank you so very much for helping support Healing Harvest Homestead!  Heidi

Ingredients for Spring Bitters Herbal Beer

**For the "parts," I used a 1/2 cup measurement---this was to make one gallon of beer. 

1 part Mormon Tea (also known as Brigham Tea)---chosen for its exceptionally strong tannins.  Another herb that is especially tannic will work too.  If you want high levels of tannins to make a dryer ale, you can substitute with meadowsweet or even bilberry.  Both of these taste great, too!)  

1 part Licorice Root (has a sweet taste)

1 part Nettle (chosen for its tonic supportive effect on the liver and kidneys)

1 part Ginger Root (Love that spice!)

1 part Dandelion Root (Bitter, and it adds to the liver and kidney support of the Nettle)

1 part Mugwort (Mugwort is a traditional herb used to flavor beers, and it is somewhat bitter)

2 part Hops (Relaxing and adds more of the Bitter taste we are used to these days)

Yeast:  For this batch, I used Red Star Premier Cuvee', which is a dry wine yeast---this yeast was recommended by the owner of a home brew store I've gotten to know down in town who explained that making herbal beer is similar to making a wine as far as the yeast goes.  We'll see how it goes! 

Sugar:  1 pound of organic cane sugar and a tablespoon of molasses

Where do I get my herbs?

Some herbs I wild harvest (Mormon Tea). Some I grow (Dandelion Root). And some I must purchase. I buy organic herbs from Starwest Botanicals, as I have found the overall, they have the best price/quality, plus their shipping is FAST.  

The herbs for the decoction (slow simmer).  Mormon Tea, Dandelion root, Ginger root, and Licorice root.

The herbs for the decoction (slow simmer).  Mormon Tea, Dandelion root, Ginger root, and Licorice root.

Here they are, simmering away.  They made the house smell delicious!  It's the Ginger--it always smells and tastes so great! 

Here they are, simmering away.  They made the house smell delicious!  It's the Ginger--it always smells and tastes so great! 

Here are the herbs for the infusion:  Hops, Nettle, and Mugwort.

Here are the herbs for the infusion:  Hops, Nettle, and Mugwort.

Here are the herbs infusing for about 30 minutes.  These softer (leafier) herbs need to be infused instead of decocted so they are not "cooked."  You want to keep the taste of these herbs intact gently. 

Here are the herbs infusing for about 30 minutes.  These softer (leafier) herbs need to be infused instead of decocted so they are not "cooked."  You want to keep the taste of these herbs intact gently. 

Tools for Making Herbal Beer

A one gallon carboy (fancy name for jug)

A bung and an airlock

A siphon

A funnel

A strainer

Grolsch bottles for bottling the beer

Mason jar mug with label  (Optional, of course!  These are just for drinking the brew when it's done, but they are so stinking cute, I thought I'd include them!)

And that's all you need!  What's so great about making your own home brew is that once you have your tools, you are really all set!  In fact, if I didn't have the fancy yeast, I could just use bread yeast in a pinch.  The herbs are easy to forage or purchase organically in bulk, and sugar is readily available these days.  

This picture is of the decocted and strained tea from the licorice root, dandelion root, ginger root, and Mormon Tea strained into the carboy.  Look how dark it is! I just set a strainer into the funnel and pour off the tea.  This works great...sorry for the mess on the counter! Some of the herb overflowed! ;-)  

This picture is of the decocted and strained tea from the licorice root, dandelion root, ginger root, and Mormon Tea strained into the carboy.  Look how dark it is! I just set a strainer into the funnel and pour off the tea.  This works great...sorry for the mess on the counter! Some of the herb overflowed! ;-)  

Just pitched the yeast! A note about the airlock:  I much prefer this straight type instead of the kind that curves around.  These are MUCH easier to clean up after fermenting is done.  

Just pitched the yeast! A note about the airlock:  I much prefer this straight type instead of the kind that curves around.  These are MUCH easier to clean up after fermenting is done.  

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy

How to Make Spring Bitters Herbal Ale

Make your Herbal Tea

The Decoction:  

Since this brew is made with both leaves and roots/stems, you'll need to treat them differently.  You'll need to decoct (slow simmer) your roots/stems for about 30 minutes.  These include the Mormon Tea, Licorice Root, Dandelion Root, and Ginger Root).  

Once these have decocted long enough, just strain the liquid into the carboy. 

The Infusion:

The remainder of the herbs (Nettle, Mugwort, and Hops) are infused.  You just boil about a quart or a bit more of water and pour over the herbs in a large Mason jar.  I used a half gallon jar for this.  I let the herbs steep for about 20 minutes, then strained them out and poured the liquid into the carboy.

Add Your Sugars:

This is called the wort at this point.  Just add the sugar using the funnel into the carboy.  Add the molasses (optional) now too. The liquid from the tea will be very hot, so you can put a lid on your carboy and shake it bit, or just let the sugars dissolve on their own.  Eventually, they will. 

Add Additional Water (Cold)

Most brewers will tell you to use filtered water.  Frankly, we just use our well water, and nothing bad has ever happened.  

It's important to add cold water because your tea will still be hot at this point.  The cold water added to just where the carboy begins to curve will cool it down---probably enough to go ahead and pitch your yeast.  Be sure to check it though!  If it's too hot, it will kill the yeast.  I try to shoot for about 70 degrees.

Pitch Your Yeast

This is where you just pour in your yeast.  A little packet of yeast is really meant for up to 5 gallons of brew, so adding a whole packet to a gallon carboy is definitely overkill.  I try to estimate about half a packet.  This is plenty!

Start Your Ferment

Attach your bung and airlock, and find a nice place for your brew to ferment.  I like to leave mine on the counter top in the windowsill.  It's fun to watch it bubbling and frothing away!  Let it ferment like this for about two weeks.  It should be completely still, with no bubbles for at least a day.  I'll even sometimes give it a few days longer. 

Prime Your Bottles

I use 16 ounce Grolsch bottles, ideally.  I just add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle, sometimes just a tad less.  This allows for a second fermentation by the yeast and provides the carbonation to the beer. 

I have learned the hard way to label my bottles.  Although I always think I will remember what's going on in there---I will forget.  I also add the date that the ferment started so I can keep track of approximately when the beer will be ready to bottle.  

I have learned the hard way to label my bottles.  Although I always think I will remember what's going on in there---I will forget.  I also add the date that the ferment started so I can keep track of approximately when the beer will be ready to bottle.  

Here is a siphon for home brewing.  Although you can just pour your fermented ale through a funnel, using a siphon really cuts down on the mess, and more importantly, it keeps the sludgy sediment down in your bottles! 

Here is a siphon for home brewing.  Although you can just pour your fermented ale through a funnel, using a siphon really cuts down on the mess, and more importantly, it keeps the sludgy sediment down in your bottles! 

Here are some swing top (Grolsch) bottles filled with the little bit of extra sugar and the fermented ale.  These need to sit for about a week, then they'll be all ready to try! See the thicker layer around the neck of the bottle? It's for this reason I prefer the Grolsch bottles over other types.  Keep in mind, the longer your bottles sit during this phase, the greater your carbonation should be.  Watch the levels of the liquid, and if you see more head space forming, this is a sign you need to safely open the bottle to release pressure!  

Here are some swing top (Grolsch) bottles filled with the little bit of extra sugar and the fermented ale.  These need to sit for about a week, then they'll be all ready to try!

See the thicker layer around the neck of the bottle? It's for this reason I prefer the Grolsch bottles over other types.  Keep in mind, the longer your bottles sit during this phase, the greater your carbonation should be.  Watch the levels of the liquid, and if you see more head space forming, this is a sign you need to safely open the bottle to release pressure!  

Bottle Up Your Brew!

This is the other fun part! Using your siphon, pump the beer into your bottles.  I try to leave about 2 inches of head space.  I know this sounds like a lot, but I want to do everything possibly to prevent a possible explosion from the gases building up.  

NOTE:  This is a serious potential safety factor to keep in mind.  Bottles under pressure can explode if they are not the right type or if there is just too much pressure built up.  That's why I use the Grolsch bottles.  There is an extra thick area of glass around the bottle neck, and the swing top holds down firmly.  They are just more on the safer side.  I have personally never once had bottles explode, but being aware of that potential danger has made me watchful.  

Storage:  Keeping safety in mind, find a cool place out of the way of children and pets to store your bottles for another week, minimum.  

After that week is up....You have finished home brew!  Delicious! Healthy! Inspiring! 

Here it is! All finished and delicious!  I may have opened the bottles a little prematurely, as I didn't get the foam I usually get.  This may also be due to the yeast I used.  More experimentation is necessary! :-)  Like my little Mason jar mug?  We love drinking out of these, and you can label the mugs too! 

Here it is! All finished and delicious!  I may have opened the bottles a little prematurely, as I didn't get the foam I usually get.  This may also be due to the yeast I used.  More experimentation is necessary! :-)  Like my little Mason jar mug?  We love drinking out of these, and you can label the mugs too! 

I hope you enjoyed this article!  If you did, please sign up for our newsletter!  I usually send it out about every other week, although if something exciting is happening, it may be weekly.  Never more than that, though---you won't be spammed, that's for sure! Your privacy is safe too.  When you sign up, I have a free gift I'd love to give you!  It's a download of my eBook, "How to Relax Using Herbs."  Enjoy! :-) 

Do you do any home brewing?  I'd love to know your experiences!  

Hugs & Self-Reliance---

Heidi

This article has been shared on these blog hops:  The Homestead Hop, The Homesteader Hop, Grandma's DIY, Our Simple Blog Hop, and The Homestead Bloggers Network.  Hop on over for lots of great simple life living articles!

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional and in no manner, stated or implied, is any statement in this article or elsewhere on my website or products meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health issue.  Please seek attention from a medical professional for health problems.  These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. 

 

 

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