Speed Brewing – Experimenting with New Alacrity and Ideas

Hey IGOR’s! It’s been a busy season what with NHC and writing, etc. Sorry we haven’t been here in a little bit, but I just wanted to pop in with a quick note on a book I think you’ll love,Speed Brewing by Mary Izett. It’s from the publisher of Experimental Homebrewing, but that’s not why I’m mentioning it! I’m mentioning because it’s an awesome book filled with some mind expanding material. I received a pre-press copy for blurbing purposes, so blurb’s away! <blurbage>

“I joke that if it can be fermented, I’ve fermented it. However, Mary’s book shows that my experiments have fallen far short! She’s presented so many fun, easy, interesting, and impressive ideas that I can’t wait to try. Using her recipes for alternative brews turns every trip to the grocery into a research trip. Back to the fermenters I go!” – Drew Beechum, author of Experimental Homebrewing, The Everything Hard Cider Book, and The Everything Homebrewing Book

</blurbage> Now if that sounds like a fun time, rest assured, I meant it. See, one of my heroes is good ole Chuck Yeager who, in addition to being a classic American badass, has a philosophy of not promoting a product he didn’t personally use – so if you see blurbage from me, you can trust I’m not dancing the fairy dance of promotion. I first met Mary at the 2011 AHA Conference in San Diego when she and her life partner in brewing crime, Chris Cuzme, landed with their club to explore the city. Her day job consists of biomedical type stuff I can’t hope to understand, but her passion is with the fine art of fermentation. She’s been dropping her knowledge and experiments over on her blog My Life on Craft and has been instrumental in a great number of festivals, tasting events and lessons that spread beyond beer and bring together a great number of worlds. Along with Chris, she’s launched a Heritage Network Radio Show called Fuhmentaboudit! and now they’ve launched Cuzett Libations to create and sell some of their ideas like Revenge of the Emu Australian Sparkling Ale, Cuzett Grisette, etc. Mary lives in a city not know for being terribly homebrew friendly – New York. With the average cost of living space by square foot being somewhere between intolerable and inhuman, Mary’s become an adept small batch brewer. (It’s no big surprise that the 1 gallon batch movement seemed to really gain steam when promoted by the Brooklyn Brew Shop folks.) If you’re wanting to learn how to pull of a 1-3 gallon batch and what changes in terms of yeast, fermentation, etc, you can listen to me and my few times dallying about with it (more in a later article) or you can take Mary’s advice and gain from her whole sackful of experience. Don’t forget small batches come with several advantages – easier to move no matter your strength level, chill, store, etc. Easier to make in terms of time. Easier to make a variety, etc. Yes, you don’t get as much out of each batch, but I’m rarely interested in a full 5-10 gallons of anything. If you are, then great – recipes are easy to scale! Mary’s Fermentations – and a link to an interview in Brooklyn Magazine Want practical BIAB (Brew in a Bag) knowledge – it’s there! Want another take on speed or express brewing? She’s got you covered. She credits BIAB and smaller batch brewing with allowing her to fully explore the art of fermentation since it’s possible physically for her to move the smaller volume of wort around. Could never tell the modern variant of this hobby was founded by a bunch of younger dudes – could you? And then we get to the stuff that makes me all excited – interesting fermentations. These include some of her techniques for making a Gose or Berliner. Exploring Vietnamese fresh beer (“Bia Hoi”). Or how about a “Short Mead” – Mary served a 5 day old short mead at the 2012 AHA Conference in Philly that was bright, spicy and refreshing. See look at it! Strawberry Peppercorn Short Mead – from Brew to Glass in 5 Short Days Oh, what’s that? You want a recipe? Sure – you can have a recipe – here’s the recipe straight from the book!

Strawberry-Peppercorn Short Mead

This recipe was one of the first short meads I brewed. I served it at an outdoors art and music benefit bash in Brooklyn, where it was about 100°F outdoors. The strawberry peppercorn short mead was a huge hit, and the keg kicked in an hour, beating out a slew of beer and cocktails. The spiciness of the peppercorns is a wonderful complement to the sweetness and delicate floral nature of the strawberry. Carbonated lower-alcohol beverages are delightfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but the strawberry aroma will bring you back to warmer times on even the coldest of winter days. Yield – 1 gallon

  • 1 package (1–1.2 ounce) freeze-dried strawberries
  • 1/2 tbsp. mixed peppercorns
  • 1.25 pound honey
  • 1 gal. spring water
  • 1/16 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 1/4 package dry champagne yeast


  1. Place your yeast packet, stopper or lid, airlock, and scissors (to open the yeast packet) into a sanitizing solution. Clean and sanitize a glass jug or jar. Pulverize the freeze-dried strawberries. A small food processor works best, but I’ve used a mortar and pestle, too. You can also transfer the berries to a zippered plastic bag, squeeze the air out, seal, and hand-crush or use a rolling pin on the berries. Crack the pepper slightly—a mortar and pestle works best for this. Place the crushed berries and peppercorns into a heatproof glass measuring pitcher. Heat 2 cups of water to a boil. A teapot is perfect for this purpose. Pour the off-boil water over your berries and peppercorns, add yeast nutrient, stir, and steep for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, place your tea in an ice bath to cool to below 75°F. Place the sanitized jug or jar on the scale. Zero the scale and add 1.25 pounds of honey. Remove the jug from the scale, add filtered water leaving enough room for the tea, cap or cover the opening securely, and shake until the honey is combined. Take a look at the bottom of your jug; if honey is still clinging on, keep shaking. Uncap the jug and add the cooled strawberry-peppercorn tea. Do not strain the tea. Top off with water to bring up to 1 gallon, recap or cover, and shake gently to combine. You may take a gravity reading using your hydrometer or refractometer at this point if you like. Your OG will be in the 1.042 to 1.046 range. Uncap, pitch the yeast, and place a stopper or grommeted lid and airlock on the jug. Ferment between 66°F and 76°F for 5 to 14 days. Taste after a week. If it’s at your desired sweetness, package using the directions on pages 26 to 31. If it’s too sweet, continue to taste every day or every other day until the mead is where you want. Higher fermentation temperatures will increase speed of fermentation. If you are taking gravity readings, I usually find 1.004 to 1.008 to be the ideal range. If you’re using fruit or other flavorings that float, I recommend cold-crashing your short mead overnight before bottling. The flavorings will fall to the bottom, and the short mead will be easier to bottle. If you don’t cold-crash, I recommend using a filter or strainer to bottle.

Variations Blueberry-Nutmeg Short Mead – Use a 1- to 1.2-ounce package of freeze-dried blueberries and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg in place of the strawberries and peppercorns. Pulverize your blueberries and follow the directions above. Spiced Cranberry Short Mead – Use a 1- to 1.2-ounce bag of freeze-dried cranberries and 1/2 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 2 star anise, and a strip of orange zest in place of the strawberries and peppercorns. You do not need to crush the spices; just use them whole. This is a wonderful beverage to serve in late fall and during the winter holidays. It is especially nice with Thanksgiving dinner and may be served warm as well, like a mulled wine. Mango Chili Short Mead – Use a 1-ounce package of freeze-dried mango and 3 dried pequin chili peppers in place of the strawberries and peppercorns for a spicy, fruity mead. Crush the mango and chilies and use more or less chilies depending on your heat preference. Peach Thyme Short Mead – Use a 1-ounce package of freeze-dried peaches and 1/8 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme or a heaping 1⁄8 teaspoon dried thyme in place of the strawberries and peppercorns.

Ok, back to me – Want to think about Cider and a few different approaches to that practice? That’s in the book too! And if you want to go truly alternative SCOBY fermentations like Kombucha (with a boozy kick) or Kefir. I’ve never seen a chart of tea effects in Kombucha before, so that’s really useful. (I’m an engineer – I love charts. Shush). It’s actually really great to see a talk about the SCOBY’s that isn’t sorta terrifying or filled with mystical woo. You may have seen all the news about Small Town Brewery’s “Not Your Father’s Root Beer”, a big boozy ale tasting of root beer spices. If you’d rather figure out how to make a boozy soda – there’s a whole lineup in the book made from fruit juices, spices and other flavorful ingredients (a Guava soda, Rose Cardamom soda – even an Absinthe inspired soda.) To close out the book, a look at other unusual ferments from around the world, including the usual suspects like Sake, Kvass and Chica, but also including African Banana beer amongst others. One of the things I like about the book is each chapter walks you through an overview of the beverage type. Mary gives her journey of discovery and her take on the style with a few variations. To close everything out, there’s a guideline for creating your own variants. All accompanied by enticing imagery of strange new drinks. In other words, Mary’s book is full of crazy inspirational things with a reach well beyond the usual. Double Plus Imperial Pints of Goodness!

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