At the end of July, four Standing Stone Brewing employees set out on a hike to the Hyatt Reservoir to scout out some edible and medicinal plants to use in a brew for the Beers Made By Walking program. The team included server Meg Dias, brewing assistant Sarah Forga (and her dog Mickey), brewing intern Alex Holman, and brewer Larry Chase. This Southern Oregon hike included portions of the Pacific Crest Trail around the lake. This time of the year, it's really not fair to hike without a good swim before turning around. The Standing Stone crew had packed a lunch, took a swim, and did some canoeing while they were there.
Finding potential brewing ingredients was first on the Standing Stone agenda. The hike was led by Michael Altman, a certified nutritionist and a registered, peer-reviewed professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. He pointed out a number of potential plants including mint from the genus Agastache, yarrow, elderflower, poor man's pepper, and St. John's Wort.
Out of these plants, the yarrow, mint, and elderflower perhaps are most familiar in beer history. Yarrow has been used as a bittering agent in beer, providing some medicinal value, and was used in gruits before the widespread use of hops. Elderfower has been used recently in a few different commercial beers, and a recent cider. It is appealing to many because of it's soft citrusy character. Mint has also been used in beer and is certainly more common in tea. It is likely that many of the mint beers have used commercially available mints, so the use of a variety growing wild in the landscape is certainly appealing.
St. John's Wort was used in Dogfish Head's Chicory Stout with a number of other ingredients. The plant's name references John the Baptist and the blood red spots, symbolizing his blood, were thought to be a sign of the plants healing ability. Finally there is Poor Man's Pepper. We are unaware of any brewery using this specific plant in a brew, Poor Man's Pepper is a mustard plant with a spicy character that is nice in salads. Trinity Brewing once made a beer with Tansy Mustard for the Beers Made By Walking program, the flavor was very subtle, and while the plants may be related, they aren't the same.
When asked what the brewery is planning for their Beers Made By Walking beer, Larry said he's going to have to give it a bit more thought. Last year, Larry created what was one of the most experimental beers of the entire program. He used sweet root and wild ginger in the beer, which packed a powerful earthy licorice flavor. The ingredients were certainly non-traditional and provided a fun, drinkable portrait of the Southern Oregon landscape. We're excited to see what he comes up with this year, and we will release further details in September.
|Clockwise from top: Poor man's pepper, mint, elderflower, St. John's wort, and yarrow.|