Experimenting with the flavors of herbs, seeds, roots, flowers, mushrooms, acorns, moss and ferns just comes naturally to a select few microbrewers who are fortunate enough to be nestled in any area of lush woodlands where Mother Nature’s Free Pantry is always open. Purchasing small quantities of commercially grown hops is very expensive, further encouraging small brewers to branch out and test alternatives.

These ingeneous folks are leading the way into today’s newest facet of microbrewing. And for most, taking part in the scavenger hunt, foraging for whatever lies hidden, is a bonus, providing an exciting challenge and boundless enjoyment. Stepping away from main stream recipes, they strive to offer unique seasonal flavors and beer drinking experiences to anyone seeking a bit of adventure away from the mainstream.

Their successes include delicately flavored brews made with herbs, plants and toasted seeds; others use raisins, root vegetables and home-grown oddities like anise hyssop. Currently, one brewery has taken on the daunting challenge of making beer using acorns. Gathering the acorns is the easy part. More complex is managing the moisture in their jarred acorn stash — too much moisture and the acorns mold; too little and they refuse to ferment. Another successfully (and safely) brewed using nettles, while yet another offers a wood-fire brewed blonde ale that’s filtered using cedar branches.

This is serious science with a fanciful aspect, (not yet offered by your favorite Beer of the Month Club). For many spurred on by Mother Nature, atmosphere and presentation contribute to their success. Many house intimate brewpubs boasting fireplaces, decorated with all things nature-made. Some serve home-made pizzas, pickles, cheese, and even hearth bread. Others offer hayrides and bonfires. Hiking paths may lead to streams, waterfalls or caves. And to top it all off, you may just find a marigold floating atop your beer!

PENELOPE VOGELA OF LEBANON, TN, ASKS: “We hope to invite both Mother Nature and Micro Beer to our very small wedding. Do you know if brewpubs or breweries are ever available for rent?” 

To be honest with you, I do not personally know of any in your area, but am relatively certain that your unique dream is worth pursuing. Armed with your location, number of guests, budget, and date, may I suggest an Internet search? I can’t think of a more romantic setting for an intimate wedding. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. With a mutual respect for Mother Nature and microbrew, you sound like the perfect couple! (Please send my invitation to the Clubs of America. Address.)


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Tracie Burket
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