Well, either things are going so swimmingly that I haven’t needed to vent in a while or I’ve been waiting for you all to cough up that $2.50…
Hah! Actually, neither. My poor blog. Ignored and in the corner, waiting for me to allow the muse to leave the brewery for a few moments. The last couple of months have sped by, summertime in Bend with kids and an erratic schedule plus a brand new brewery that has been a course of unsteady discoveries day after day. It’s enough to make me question my sanity. You’ll be glad to know that I am indeed a mad scientist. I am insane. This is all to the beers’ benefit, my children’s education, and my wife’s struggle, by the way.
Recently I was introduced to a book, ‘Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers’ by Stephen Herrod Buhner. Once again, something rather coincidental happens (this is how crazy people talk). Remember the champagne knot (ACTIVIST/BUSINESS post in June)? After quite a bit of searching, come to find it in an old handbook called ‘Practical Knots for Pharmacy’. That’s some pretty metaphysical shit. Here I am developing a brewery that draws on my family heritage of pharmacy and I’m finding the champagne knot in a book that my great-grandfather probably read? Fast-forward to a crazy encounter with Kristen, the beer enthusiast from Boston, who traveled to Portland for a beer event. Her friend brings her to Bend because of our nutty beer scene and she finds out about The Ale Apothecary while in town and comes out for a visit. After telling me about this Healing Beers book we discover that she had worked with my now wife, then girlfriend, up in the Seattle area almost 20 years ago. W. T. F. I have experienced the oft-stated line, “Beer brings people together,” in a whole new way.
So, the book.
The premise of the book is to share the place that fermented beverages have played in our global societies since the discovery of fermentation. Oddly (or maybe not so), our current societal urge to control alcohol because of it’s ‘dangerous’ qualities runs contrary to just about every single other era in the history of human beings. Alcohol (produced by yeast fermentation, not distillation…that’s a whole different ball of wax) has generally been held as a sacred thing, something to be revered and respected and used most often for entering a state that is closer to the spirit/unknown world that we’re all so curious about. Oh yeah, and many of these fermentations produced beverages that communities used for health purposes…all sorts of remedies, tonics, and purifiers. Meaning that this coming together of apothecary and ale is truer than I could ever have imagined! Regardless of what the federal government says, Ale & Apothecary go hand in glove so much that to our ancestors, they were the same exact thing. Huh. Hmmmm.
This ‘Secrets to Ancient Fermentation’, which is not a how-to brewing book as such, has been a great keel to this boat metaphor that I’ve likened this project to. My goal has been to explore past history in the present with beer as my compass and some of the stuff that Mr. Buhner talks about is like shining a light down a path that I’m traveling. One of the most interesting tidbits had to do about hops; prior to Germany’s Reinheitsgebot in 1514, most brewers did not use hops. They used a variety of herbs or roots to bitter and preserve their beers, generally what was growing close to the brewery. For taxation purposes, governments had been trying to make law that brewers used specific ingredients. This was so those ingredients could be tracked, accounted for, and taxed to create revenue. If brewers were allowed to use yarrow or nettles or any number of things that grow in the wild, how were the local governments supposed to keep tabs on that? Evidently, brewers fought the requirement to brew beer with hops for over a hundred years. An epic battle that puts our current method of brewing at the furthest reaches of a pendulum swing!
So, don’t fret. The beer is healthy like my mind. Next week we’ll brew a spruce beer in a manner consistent with Finnish brewers of hundreds of years ago. The black currants are just about ripe down by the river…ready to be thrown in on top of a barrel of Sahalie. Right now, wild and fresh Skyliner air is gently wafting on the latest batch of Apothecary beer awaiting the magic of fermentation in the brewery. Who knows what’s next? Well, maybe a brewery celebration in a relatively urban setting. The first round of bottles and glassware to Ale Club members. Fall.
In the meantime, with all the other ridiculous things I’m trying to accomplish, I’m planning for a springtime dandelion beer that will define the outer boundaries of what is to become known as The Alepharm…learning about life through beer.
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