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“Gardening for the Homebrewer” Book Review

As the temperatures warm and gardens are planned, home brewers and other DIY beverage enthusiasts might consider taking a swing at growing ingredients for their concoctions from home, rather than purchasing them.

Most people do not know anybody who has grown hops, barley, grapes, or other useful beverage ingredients in their home gardens, so it might appear to be a difficult task.

In fact, these plants are not terribly difficult to grow, harvest, and prepare on your own. The comeback of home craft beverage making has recently increased the popularity of raising these plants in backyard gardens.

You know the feeling of accomplishment, and the extra level of tastiness, involved with enjoying a beer or wine that you made from scratch. That feelin will be raised even higher when you make a beverage from scratch, using ingredients that you tended over the course of a summer and harvested from your own yard.

In the search to learn more about enhancing our home brewing through the garden we came across a very useful resource by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon, appropriately titled “Gardening for the Homebrewer.

What the Book Accomplishes

The authors of this book make sure to clearly state that they are first gardeners and then homebrewers. Their specialty is the typical brewer’s weakness – gardening – but they have enough knowledge about making beer, wine, cider, and other craft beverages to provide a useful resource for leveraging the garden to produce these drinks.

The book gives basic information about the process of brewing, fermenting, or otherwise preparing each type of beverage, but only enough to make sure that you know where each garden ingredient fits into the process.

The authors generally assume that you know what you are doing to the point that you can, for example, brew a batch of beer and feel comfortable making small adaptations to a recipe to work with the plants that you are growing.

Topics Discussed in the Book

The book covers the topics of gardening for making beer, wine, cider, perry, and liqueurs.

In general, each chapter talks about the various plants that can be grown for use in these beverages and provides the basic background about each plant, how much is needed for brewing, the regions where it grows best, and tips for growing it (such as space, soil, light, and water requirements, as well as management and harvesting tips).

In many cases, there is also a recipe included to illustrate how the plant can be incorporated into a brew.

As far as the beverages go, here is a little detail about what each section covers:

Beer Brewing

The growing, harvesting, and processing hops and barley is covered in detail, including the malting of barley. Neither of these are as difficult as they sound. Hops are especially reasonable for the novice gardener to start growing in many different climates.

Different plants and herbs that can be used to flavor beer are introduced, and considerations are discussed for planting a garden based on what you want to accomplish with your beer.

Wine Making

While much space is dedicated to the discussion of raising wine grapes, for obvious reasons, this book also discusses fruit wines and the pairing of various fruits and herbs for wine. The fruits that make great wine, and their growing properties, are explained in detail.

Cider Making

Although beer and wine making is going to be the most relevant for most readers, this book is really unique because of the information it gives about other drinks.

For the avid home brewer or vintner cider may seem like the cop-out chosen by those who can’t appreciate or handle a well-crafted beer or wine. If this is you, the chapter on cider making in this book will completely change your perspective and have you longing for the autumn apple harvest.

Did you know that hard cider was once a very prevalent beverage across North America due to the ease with which apples grow and the minimal equipment needed to produce the cider?

The diversity of cider apple trees across the United States was destroyed with the onset of Prohibition, when growers began to favor dessert varieties for eating, making it harder to find good cider apple trees these days.

In just the last few years there has been a reawakening of craft cider making and cider apple varieties are finally on the rebound.

This section of the book discusses the selection of apple varieties, finding the best site on your property for the trees, planting, grafting, and pruning trees, and harvesting, preparing, and fermenting the apples.

It is possible to grow some varieties of apples almost anywhere in the United States, so after reading about growing apples for hard cider at home you may well find yourself investing in the trees for this simple and delicious DIY beverage.

Perry Making

Perry is not as familiar as beer, wine, or cider, though it is quite similar to cider. It is in fact made in the same way as cider, only using perry pears (as opposed to “dessert” varieties of pears).

Perry is like a fancy cider, historically enjoyed by those on the higher rungs of the societal ladder.

Like cider apples, true perry pear trees fell out of favor and have become hard to find. Perry is a beverage that has never had a large profile in the United States, but with the rise of craft beverages lately it has started to grow in popularity.

Just like with cider, this book discusses the selection of perry pear varieties, the grafting, pruning, and harvesting processes for the pear trees, and the process for preparing and fermenting the pears into perry (which has some slight differences from cider and takes a little longer).

Liqueurs

The book ends on a slightly different style of beverage, one that is not fermented at home but rather uses ready-made alcohol mixed with various ingredients from the garden to produce a fantastic result.

Liqueurs, sometimes called cordials, are mixtures of fruits and/or herbs with alcohol to which a simple syrup is added for sweetening. Infused spirits are the same, but without the syrup. Examples of these that you may recognize are Benedictine and Chartreuse.

If you have never made liqueurs or infusions before you will be capable after simply reading this section of the book. This is the only section of “Gardening for the Homebrewer” where you would not need to seek more informational resources in order to be equipped to start out in the hobby with no prior experience.

With beer, wine, cider, and perry it is advisable to either have knowledge of the process already or seek more fundamental instruction on how to carry out these processes before moving forward with the information in this book.

The great thing about liqueurs is that they are quick and easy to make. One or more herbs and fruits from the garden are added to vodka or some other liquor with at least 40% alcohol content, and the mixture is left to sit in a sealed container for hours or days and then strained off to provide the flavored liqueur.

With no fermentation to wait for, and herbs being some of the simplest and fastest plants to grow in the garden (or in a pot in your house), this is a great option for trying new flavors without a big investment in time and resources.

The book walks you through the selection and growing of the relevant herbs and provides some simple recipes that you can use to be enjoying your own liqueur within the next few days.

Overall Thoughts on the Book

Without a doubt, this book gets two thumbs up. It is written to be engaging and approachable for the average home brewer who may not have deep knowledge of gardening. The authors know what you need to know, and they give that to you without bogging the book down with extra information that is not necessary.

As was said earlier, this book is not the best resource to teach you how to make beer, wine, cider, or perry (though it will get you started on liqueurs pretty well). You will want to learn those hobbies through other means.

If you would like to take these hobbies to the next level by growing your own ingredients, however, “Gardening for the Homebrewer” is a must-have resource.

If you like to make you own beer, wine, cider, perry, or liqueur and would like to start growing some of your own ingredients at home to supplement the hobby, you need to take a look at this book.

Click Here to Learn More about “Gardening for the Homebrewer” by Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon

 

11 Great Gifts for Wine Lovers

Finding the right gifts for a family member or friend can be tough, but it does not have to be if they are a wine lover.

Some of our most popular posts in the past have been gift ideas for home brewers (See Part 1 and Part 2) and gifts for beer lovers (Part 1 and Part 2).

Now we bring you the list of 11 great gifts for the wine aficionado in your life:

For Serving and Preserving Wine

1. Metrokane Houdini Wine Tool Kit

There is a basic set of tools that any serious wine lover is going to need in order to properly serve their wine, whether it be at a party or just for themselves.

This Metrokane Wine Tool Kit provides all of these necessary wine serving and preserving tools.

The kit includes a chilling carafe with a freezing stainless steel chilling core that is ideal for keeping white wine and rose wines cool.

The set also comes with an aerator which allows you to skip the use of a decanter for aeration, a corkscrew, and a preserver that allows you to save any leftover wine in the bottle for later.

Click Here to Read More About the Wine Tool Kit


2. Vacu Vin Wine Saver Vacuum Wine Pump

Leftover wine is the worst.

You don’t want the wine to go to waste, but you can’t get the cork back in the bottle and you know the wine will go bad if it sits out overnight.

Fortunately, a simple vacuum wine pump will solve the problem.

Simply insert the reusable stopper into the bottle and pump out all of the air to preserve the flavor of the wine for up to ten days.

Click Here to Read More About the Vacu Vin Wine Pump


3. Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Glass Rouge 1-Liter Decanter

There are some unique decanters that make great discussion starters at any dinner party.  They work well as gifts for the wine lover who already owns all of the basic wine serving equipment.

This one liter decanter has a unique shape that is designed to let the wine aerate while the decanter is tilted on its side.

The decanter is made from a toughened crystal that is resistant to breaks, chips, cracks, and temperature shock. It is also dishwasher-safe.

Click Here to Read More About the Crystal Decanter


4. Sagaform Wine Carafe with Oak Stopper

Another fantastic option for serving wine with style is this two liter wine carafe with a more traditional design but an eye-catching oak stopper that gives it a unique look.

Click Here to Read More About the Carafe


For Cleaning and Displaying

5. Riedel Bottle Cleaner Beads

Wine decanters and carafes are difficult to clean out due to their interesting shapes.

Fortunately, the process can be simplified using cleaner beads. Simply swirl the beads in water inside of the vessel to get at those difficult-to-reach places.

These beads make a unique and very useful gift for any wine lover.

Click Here to Read More About Cleaner Beads


6. Wine Enthusiast Decanter Drying Stand

Once a decanter is cleaned it has to be dried, which is a process that presents problems of its own. Since most decanters are bottom-heavy they are difficult to stand upside-down for drying without tipping and breaking.

A decanter stand can be used to easily dry and store your decanters without the worry that an accident will occur. These make great gifts paired with cleaner beads.

Click Here to Read More About the Decanter Stand


7. Architec Air Dry Wine Glass Drying System

Just like decanters, wine glasses can be difficult to dry because they are so fragile and easy to break.

A good wine glass drying system like this one will solve that problem.

Click Here to Read More About the Wine Glass Drying System


8. Oenophilia Fusion Stemware Rack

Simplify your recipient’s life even more by combining the previous two gifts into one. Give them a stemware rack that holds 16 wine glasses plus a decanter for drying and storage.

Click Here to Read More About the Stemware Rack


9. Quirky Tether Stemware Saver Dishwasher Attachment

Washing wine glasses in the dishwasher is risky. The glasses are fragile and easy to break, and high-pressure water is shooting in every direction.

Avoid the worry by using these simple flexible dishwasher attachments that slide onto the dishwasher posts on either the top or bottom rack and hold the glasses securely.

Click Here to Read More About Stemware Savers


Fun Wine Gifts

10. Wine-Opoly Monopoly Board Game

A fun, unique gift that even the serious wine lover in your life may not yet have is Wine-Opoly.

Just like the classic Monopoly board game, this version brings all the fun while imparting interesting facts about wine. It can be played in the traditional style or in a one hour version.

Click Here to Read More About Wine-Opoly


11. Wine Barrel Cork Cage

On our honeymoon my wife and I bought this metal Wine Barrel Cork Cage at a local winery and have been saving all of our wine corks since. We write down the date on each cork so that we can go back and reminisce about all of our wine experiences since being married.

This cork cage is a fun memento and provides a great show piece to start up conversations about your wine hobby.

Click Here to Read More About The Cork Cage


Do You have a favorite gift for wine lovers? Share it in the comments below.