Virtually every culture around the world has developed its own herbal alcoholic beverages based on local plants. Wines and meads made with local plants can provide medicinal benefits as well as essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Although many people are daunted by the prospect of home brewing or wine-making, all that’s required is a good recipe, the right equipment and some patience.
The basic process of making beer has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, with unique flavoring and health benefits derived from the local, medicinal plants available to each region.
The Babylonians made sixteen kinds of beer, using everything from white and black barley to wheat and honey. A four-thousand-year old Mesopotamian clay tablet revealed a beer recipe, handed down from the god, Enki.
Although the flowers of the hops plant are commonly used to flavor modern beers, excavations of an ancient Celtic site indicate that the Celtics drank beer which contained spices such as Mugwort, Carrot seeds or Henbane, a plant that also makes beer more intoxicating.
Beer was even revered in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where the types listed include “beer of truth” and “beer of eternity.”
In China, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania Museum discovered bottles containing beer and wine, indicating the Chinese were partaking 9,000 years ago. The beverages contained fermented herbs, flowers, and possibly tree resins.
Although penicillin was officially discovered in 1928, a chemical analysis of ancient Nubian bones by Emory University researchers indicated that humans were regularly taking antibiotics in their beer, 2,000 years ago.
Local plants native to the Sierra Nevada are useful for making beer and wine that is fun to drink and might even be good for you. Local beer connoisseur Daniel Nicholson and author Alicia Funk will teach two classes in June on making medicinal alcoholic drinks. In addition to learning the basics of brewing Yarrow beer and local wine from seasonal fruits, participants will enjoy seasonal Greens with a Manzanita Berry Vinaigrette and make crackers from Manzanita berries.
Who knows? Manzanita Hard Cider, Yarrow and Mugwort Ale and Elderberry Wine might be just what the doctor ordered.