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Home Garden-Themed Brew?

I am an avid summer vegetable gardener here in NC and also a fairly experienced all grain brewer. Although I have made many beers in my decade as a homebrewer, I have not been very adventurous to date in terms of creating my own brews. I did make a blueberry wheat with fresh blueberries I grew one year, but that’s been my sole effort to create something unique on my own.

I’ve had this idea percolating in my head for a couple years - to come up with a recipe that would celebrate my summer home vegetable garden. I had a jalapeno beer at a brewpub in Charlotte last summer (it was good, and hot, but not sure it would be something I’d want to drink more than one glass of) - and that reignited the idea in my mind. I’ve also watched a show (sorry, name eludes me presently) on TV where the cast visits a city, then comes up with a beer recipe that reflects that location.

So, my idea is to take some of the central flavors/smells of my garden and create a summer garden homebrew. I need ideas - but what I’m thinking right now would be to make the base a pretty standard english session ale. I’m considering picking some of the most flavorful home grown tomatoes over the next couple weeks, drying them to concentrate the flavors and aroma, and adding them in secondary. I also grow a lot of basil, and am thinking I would freeze some bunches and add that to secondary as well. I grow a ton of hot peppers. I find there’s a certain harsh aspect to jalapenos that made the jalapeno beer I tried a little rough around the edges. But I think some homegrown habanero (in doses that aren’t too hot, but add that nice habanero citrusy heat to the beer) might do the trick? I also grown my own hops so would use those as well.

I have never had or even heard of anyone trying to do a beer based on a summer home garden - it might turn out ghastly, or it might turn out amazing. I just have no idea? What I am shooting for is probably less a tomato beer and more a standard ale but one that has the acid bite of a really good homegrown tomato, and all of the great smells and fragances of tomato, basil, and hot peppers.

Am I crazy to attempt this? Any ideas, suggestions, or out of the box ideas are welcomed!

Brew Dogs on Esquire is the show you are thinking of. I think your idea sounds adventurous, but definitely something that could be done. Most of the items you mentioned might best be used in a secondary vessel after most of the fermentation has occurred. I’ve used rosemary, basil, and cucumbers in different beers over the last few years. Give it a shot! BTW, basil doesn’t freeze very well ---- best to use fresh if possible.

Brew Dogs - yes, that’s it! Love that show but somehow haven’t seen it on the guide in quite a while. Thanks for the tip on the basil - I am new at herb gardening. As far as freezing it, I figured the ‘quality’ wouldn’t matter since I’m only looking for fragrance and a little flavor. Only reason I have to store some of the ingredients is that my peppers are still at least a month from being ready. I agree that secondary is probably the way to go as I don’t want any of the flavors to taste cooked. I really don’t know what to expect but I guess that’s the beauty of experimenting (risk and the unknown). I have also considered adding garlic but that ingredient (although I love garlic) scares me as I think it could overpower the other ingredients and I want the end result to be subtle, not ‘hit you over the head’. Oh - and cucumbers? That sounds intriguing…Thanks for the encouragement!

A brewery I consult for recently did a basil pale ale. it turned out better than I expected. The bail is present but not too overwhelmong. Still, it’s the kind of beer you say “that’s interesting” and then get a second pint of something else.

Thanks Denny - that describes the Jalapeno ale I had perfectly :slight_smile: I would think I’d go fairly light on the basil and hot pepper and heavier on the tomato. I know from perusing these forums a lot that using ‘tomato’ and ‘beer’ in the same sentence is sacrilege. I just can’t resist the idea of incorporating that great smell and bite of a homegrown tomato into a homebrew.

Brew Dogs just started their second season a week or 2 ago. They’re back on Wednesday at 9PM I think.

Thanks Denny - that describes the Jalapeno ale I had perfectly :slight_smile: I would think I’d go fairly light on the basil and hot pepper and heavier on the tomato. I know from perusing these forums a lot that using ‘tomato’ and ‘beer’ in the same sentence is sacrilege. I just can’t resist the idea of incorporating that great smell and bite of a homegrown tomato into a homebrew.[/quote]

My biggest advice would be to taste the beer in your mind as you design it. Don’t put together a bunch of stuff just because you think it would taste good. Actually try to envision each ingredient, combined into a beer, and get a vision of what it would be like.

Thanks Denny - that describes the Jalapeno ale I had perfectly :slight_smile: I would think I’d go fairly light on the basil and hot pepper and heavier on the tomato. I know from perusing these forums a lot that using ‘tomato’ and ‘beer’ in the same sentence is sacrilege. I just can’t resist the idea of incorporating that great smell and bite of a homegrown tomato into a homebrew.[/quote]

My biggest advice would be to taste the beer in your mind as you design it. Don’t put together a bunch of stuff just because you think it would taste good. Actually try to envision each ingredient, combined into a beer, and get a vision of what it would be like.[/quote]

You probably just described the skillset required for a Master Brewer (on top of the technical knowledge obviously) and why homebrewing is an art more than a science. It’s actually the way I have been thinking about this particular beer. Of course, there’s always the chance that my ‘vision’ isn’t 20/20, but that’s the fun of it as well as the risk.

Sounds kind of silly, but one thing I may do is to crush some of the ingredients and smell/taste - and imagine in the context of a beer. Might even mix them into a base beer - just to get some kind of an idea if the combination of flavors works. That would be a pretty crude approach but would involve the actual senses instead of just trying to ‘imagine’ the end result.

Good ideas!

Here are the base materials picked this afternoon…lots of cherry tomatoes under that pile as well…in the dehydrator as we speak.

Thanks Denny - that describes the Jalapeno ale I had perfectly :slight_smile: I would think I’d go fairly light on the basil and hot pepper and heavier on the tomato. I know from perusing these forums a lot that using ‘tomato’ and ‘beer’ in the same sentence is sacrilege. I just can’t resist the idea of incorporating that great smell and bite of a homegrown tomato into a homebrew.[/quote]

I might try a glass of tomato-basil-jalapeno beer, but I wouldn’t spend my time or grain brewing it. However, it is not sacrilege for you to brew anything that sounds good to you. Sacrilege is coming up with an interesting beer and being afraid to brew it because it’s not been done before.

I’m impressed that no one has said, “Forget it!” Congratulations to an open-minded forum.

Do it! Then let us know how it comes out and what you’ll change next time.

Reading this is almost sounds like you are going for the “pizza beer” thing that somebody has on the market. Always good to experiment. Only thing I would recommend is “1 gallon batch”.

Would not recommend that pizza beer by the way.

The current issue of Zymurgy has a great article about adding different things to beers. I think the article focuses on saisons.

[quote=“Lytnin”]Reading this is almost sounds like you are going for the “pizza beer” thing that somebody has on the market. Always good to experiment. Only thing I would recommend is “1 gallon batch”.

Would not recommend that pizza beer by the way.[/quote]

I’m hoping that’s not what it tastes like - I’m looking for the taste/smell of a homegrown tomatoes, not pizza sauce…but who knows…that’s the challenge in going ‘out of the box’, difficult to know what the end result will be.

I am not using tomato juice, boiled tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes from which a lot of juice would leach off. I’m using garden tomatoes I’ve sliced, dried, and added to secondary. I’m not looking to make ‘tomato beer’ - but rather an ale that has background tones of homegrown tomatoes, basil, and a little heat behind it.

I had a pizza beer once. It was the most discusting thing ive ever tasted.

my suggestion would be make your 5 gals of wort and split it to five different one gallon fermenters. Make one of the gallons a regular beer just in case.

I don’t have a good set up to make that happen, but it’s a good idea. I am becoming more reluctant to try this based on all of the skepticism. Last thing I want to do is waste a bunch of great ingredients and end up with 5 gallons of something undrinkable.

Don’t give up! I’m excited to hear about your brew. I harvested over a pound of basil today along with a few pounds of tomatoes. Made a caprese salad and pesto pasta dinner though.

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