By Matt Bolling, American Homebrewers Association
The four main ingredients in beer are malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. But, as any homebrewer will tell you, that’s just the beginning!
The possibilities for including all sorts of ingredients in your homebrew are endless. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite seminars from Homebrew Con that are all about brewing beer beyond the four main ingredients. So enjoy these seminars from some of the most brilliant minds in the brewing world, such as Mitch Steele, Stan Hieronymus, Dick Cantwell, Geoff Larson, and more.
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Mitch Steele | Homebrew Con 2014 (Grand Rapids, MI)
Mitch Steele—brewmaster of New Realm Brewing Company and former brewmaster of Stone Brewing Co.—covers a range of traditional and unconventional techniques in this seminar focused on the use of herbs and spices in beer. Starting with a brief review of historical uses, Mitch then dives into the use of traditional spices in today’s craft beers. After discussing flavor components of select botanicals and certain hop varieties, the seminar then covers some unique botanicals that defy intuition and work quite well in beer.
2. Beers That Flunked The Reinheitsgebot— Or How to Brew with Ingredients from Your Yard Without Killing Your Neighbors
Stan Hieronymus | Homebrew Con 2016 (Baltimore, MD)
Brewing with ingredients from the garden, yard, and nearby woods is older than the famous German beer purity law. Learn about using cultivated ingredients or foraged ingredients—even yeast collected in the wild—to make beers that are as pleasant to drink as they are to talk about. You’ll learn tips on understanding what to avoid, because when your friends compliment you and say they’d like your beer to be the last they drink on earth, they don’t mean today.
3. In Gourd We Trust: An In-Depth Look at the Style, History, and Brewing Techniques for Pumpkin Beer
Adam Boyd | Homebrew Con 2019 (Providence, RI)
It’s time to shut down the pumpkin beer haters! This presentation takes a detailed look at the history of pumpkin beer, covering the rise of “pumpkin spice” culture and its effect on the style. Get into the nitty-gritty of fruit flavor and selection, and look at recipes and techniques used by homebrewers and commercial brewers to make killer pumpkin beers. From jack-o-lantern fermenters to pumpkin seed stouts, presenter Adam Boyd has made dozens of wacky and delicious pumpkin beers. He is eager to share his knowledge with you and lead a pumpkin beer revolution!
Keith Seiz | Homebrew Con 2016 (Baltimore, MD)
Honey is the perfect ingredient for homebrewers, providing flavor and functional benefits in a unique ingredient that’s accessible to all. This technical presentation details how honey’s composition impacts brewing and the flavor and functional properties the ingredient brings to beer when added during different stages of the brewing process.
Tedd Huffman | Homebrew Con 2018 (Portland, OR)
Spruce tips come in many varieties, and spruce forests are found across the United States. Tedd Huffman draws on his experience brewing with classic Sitka spruce tips from Oregon and the less-than-classic red spruce tips from the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Spruce tips work in many beer styles, so let’s get harvesting and get brewing!
Aaron Kleidon & Marika Josephson | Homebrew Con 2017 (Minneapolis, MN)
Using maple, hickory, juniper, and oak trees as guides, Kleidon and Josephson describe how to create unique flavors from leaves, bark, sap, nuts, buds, berries, and branches. The duo discuss historical uses of each tree and the different ways they add complexity to beer. They also describe how to harvest different tree parts, prepare them for brew day, and add them to beer, with advice on preserving ingredients for brewing at different times of the year.
Dick Cantwell | Homebrew Con 2012 (Bellevue, WA)
The inspiration for unconventional brewing ingredients is everywhere–in ethnic markets, the newspaper, and your own backyard. Cantwell shares some of the stories of the beers he conceived at Elysian Brewing Co. and brainstorms a bit about what he’s got up his sleeve.
Geoff Larson | Homebrew Con 2016 (Baltimore, MD)
Alaskan Brewing co-founder Geoff Larson shares tips and tales from using local and unique ingredients in the brewing process. This seminar covers ingredient selection and the base beer, how flavors can manifest, and methods for adding non-traditional ingredients. Examples include spruce tips in Winter Ale, alder-smoked malt, berries, herbs, syrups, and honey.
George “Butch” Heilshorn | Homebrew Con 2019 (Providence, RI)
Folks from around the world have brewed beer for thousands of years, and for most of that time they didn’t use hops! Join brewer, brewpub owner, and author of Against All Hops Butch Heilshorn for a jaunt down the wonderful wormhole of botanical brewing. Learn its rich history, discover what other plants are beer-friendly, and learn how to use them in wonderful brews called gruits. Almost any style of beer can be re-invented as a gruit by using plants like alecost, mugwort, dandelion, and sweet fern to name a few. Come step up your brew game by going back to the future!