Tag Archives: freestyle

What am I even doing: Fermented Tears of Failed Human Beings (recipe)

I haven’t started up a new bucket for a while, and a few days ago I was talking to a friend about cocktails. “The ones you like are too sweet,” I groused, because I have a bitter black soul. “Let’s just chug the fermented tears of failed human beings.”

I was joking at the time, but it didn’t take long to remember that I had three pounds of honey sitting around and a spare gallon jug and no reason not to take the joke way too far. It’s in the jug starting up right now. No pictures, because it came together ridiculously fast and now it just looks like a jug. Want a recipe?

Let’s pretend that you do. HERE IT IS!

The Fermented Tears of Failed Human Beings (1 gal)

3 lbs honey

3 oz fresh mint leaves

1 2-inch piece dried kelp for soup (kombu)

1 tsp sea salt

0.5 gallon water, plus more to top off

Boil the water. Add mint, kelp, and salt. Let boil for a minute or two, then turn off heat. Add honey. Strain into jug, top up to 1 gallon. Let cool. Add yeast. Wait a few weeks.

So that’s what’s going on right now. Pre-fermentation tasting tells me that I have the salt just about right–I was aiming for a very soft water with just enough saltiness to be perceptible and emphasize the honey sweetness. Like salted caramels or kettle corn. Like what actual brewers’ salts do for malt, even. The kelp is in there to give it more of that ocean-y trace element goodness, just like human tears. We’re basically bags of ocean walking around, after all. And the mint? I don’t know, it just seemed like a good idea. As though drinking tears straight would somehow be gauche.

If this turns out to somehow not be completely terrible, there are a few other adjuncts that traditionally work well with salt that might be worth a try…I’m thinking lemons or plums. But first this batch has to not suck, so I’ll keep you posted.

Quick science note: ocean water averages around 35 ppt (parts per thousand) of salt. Ape HQ is in Seattle, next to the Puget Sound, which is technically a brackish estuary at 28-30 ppt depending on how much runoff and rainfall we’re having. Human tears are about 9 ppt.

There are 768 teaspoons in a gallon, and roughly 1.5 teaspoons of salt in this recipe, giving it an approximate salinity of 2 parts per thousand. It’s much less salty than actual tears but I’m pretty sure I can fool my friends anyway.

Supplementary research note: A little looking around revealed to me the existence of Gose, an old and nearly-extinct German beer variety that incorporates salt and coriander. Of course it’s not Reinheitsgebot-compliant, which didn’t help it during those more strictly regulated times. But it’s still being brewed, albeit in small quantities. I wasn’t able to find a salt-mead equivalent, so if you know of any I hope you’ll say so. 🙂

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Bottling day! Herbal Brown

This was a deliberate freestyle mess from the very beginning, and after three weeks in the fermenter I finally bottled it up and had a chance to taste it. It’s good! Dryer than I expected (this keeps happening…I need to quit babystepping with my malt and just get a drum of it) and pleasantly herb-y. Unfortunately I can’t really post a full recipe, since I made so many side-trips, but here’s an approximation:

All-In Herbal Brown Ale

First: boil two gallons of water. Turn off the burner and dump in anywhere from a few pinches to a few ounces of these things, dry or fresh, mixed to your taste:

Sage, mint (any kind), lavender, citrus peel (any), chopped ginger root, apple peel/apple slices

Put a lid on it and let it cool off while you do everything else. Put it in the fridge if you have room. Just leave the herbs in to steep, they don’t mind. I used one to two ounces of everything and my brew was about as strong as a normal cup of herbal tea. An herbier brew will make an herbier beer: freestyle.

Take an unremarkable 5-gallon recipe for brown ale. Any will do, subtle differences will not be important by the time you’re done. Use a quarter of the hops called for. Proceed as normal, and chill wort.

Plop the chilled wort into your fermenter. Strain the herbal mix in. Top up to 5 gal if necessary, and pitch your yeast. Bottle in 2-3 weeks and rejoice!

So that’s what just came out of the carboy this morning. Tried it with lunch and it’s really good with spicy food. Also with sharp cheese–it cuts the spice and the milkfat really well and the herbs perk up your mouth. I’m going to give it a couple of weeks to bottle-condition and then rig up a peppery beef stew to go with it.

Here’s some action shots, including a moody noir close-up of the priming sugar waking the yeast back up:

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