Until recently, I have only ever brewed beer at home. Sure, there was an occasional cider in a one-gallon jug but they were never the beverages I shared on brew club night. Those ciders were not to share because I simply wasn't proud of them. Which is why I was excited to pick up the book Speed Brewing by my friend Mary Izett. Mary is the past President of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and the Malted Barley Appreciation Society. She is also the co-host of Fuhmentaboudit! on the Heritage Radio Network and the co-founder and President of Cuzett Libations. If anyone was going to convince me to try alternative fermented beverages, it was going to be Mary. Moreover, I knew she would do so in a thoughtful way while remaining approachable to brewers of any or no experience.
Flipping through the book draws the reader into a world of fermentation of all sorts, from short mead and cider to sima (a Finnish fermnented lemonade), boozy kombucha, and water kefir, there's something for everyone. Filled with beautiful photographs (by Michael Harlan Turkell) that tell the story of the ingredients, the book actively challenges you to give it a try. And you would be wise to take it's advice and ferment all of the things.
Most apartments in NYC are not equipped with central air conditioning. In fact, brewing in a small one-bedroom in Brooklyn often leaves the apartment hot not just for a few hours but often for a few days. One of the great things about the timing of the release of this book is that most of the recipes don't require the constant heating of liquid over the course of several hours.
But that's just a bonus, the thrust of the book (there is a reason why Mary aptly titled it Speed Brewing) is that most of the recipes can be fermented in 4-7 days. I've made a number of beverages that I would have never thought to have ferment prior to reading the book. Quickly fermenting teas such as Earl Grey and jasmine green and making a tamarind "pulque" with agave nectar all fermented out and were carbed and ready to drink within the span of a week. Drawing inspiration from this book, I brewed a blueberry cider in less than 30 minutes. I dry hopped the cider for a few days with Citra hops. I bottled it and allowed it naturally carbonate in 24-48 hours making it 9 days from concept to glass.
And these drinks are crowd pleasers. I've been to a number of events that have featured Izett's crafted libations and they are wildly popular. What I find great about them is that they tend to be really refreshing palate cleansers in a room full of heavy beer. Taking inspiration from the book, I entered a raspberry mint version of her Sima into a local homebrew competition and came in 2nd place from the judges proving not only are they crowd pleasers, but they are also judge-friendly libations. Who knows, you might just get rewarded a ribbon for having a palate cleanser amidst a sea of double IPAs.
Mary was the most recent guest on the Brew To Share Podcast. In addition to talking about these fun beverages, she was also full of great advice for fixing your ferments when you let them go too long. Wonderful advice you can only get on the podcast. Give it a listen and be sure to subscribe in iTunes and Stitcher. And please leave a 5 star review.
I look forward to delving deeper into non-traditional fermented beverages and I highly encourage others to do the same. Pick up a copy of Speed Brewing and see if you join the speed brewing movement so you can sit at the table the rest of the cool kids.