The Wildcrafting Brewer

By Mary Reilly, Photo by Pascal Baudar

From Pascal Baudar, author of The New Wildcrafted Cuisine (highlighted in Edible Pioneer Valley Issue 10 | Fall 2016), the newly released The Wildcrafting Brewer (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) will inspire a new level of creativity in true culinary DIYers.

Baudar talks us all through Lazy Wines, Herb Beers, and naturally fermented sodas. He also includes a section covering medicinal brews. 

Those who are new to home brewing and fermenting will appreciate that Baudar covers the basics: vessel selection, wild versus natural yeast, which type of sugar to use, etc. Experts will appreciate his take on ingredients: Where can we find natural sources of sweet, bitter, and savory? Baudar shares his experience and expertise through tips and methodology for successful fermentation and brewing. 

Whether you’re a brewer, forager, fermenter, or drinker of beverages, there is a perfect recipe to play with. Go wild!


This is an old traditional European recipe for making wine with elderflower. In Southern California we have Mexican elders (Sambucus mexicana) at low altitudes and the regular elder (S. nigra) in the mountains. One of the peculiarities of the Mexican elder is the fact that the flowers can be smaller, usually half to a quarter the size of the regular elder, which changes the recipe a bit. 

I don’t know why the wine is called a champagne—perhaps it’s due to the color and the fact that it’s bubbly. The old recipes make no mention of adding yeast, because it’s present on the flowers. I’ve had moderate success (probably around 70 percent) with spontaneous fermentation from the flowers, so these days I usually add some champagne or wine yeast if I don’t see any signs of fermentation after a couple of days. 

30 large Mexican elderflower heads or 20 regular elderflower heads 

1 gallon (3.78 L)

3 cups (500–600 g) white sugar

3–4 lemons, zested and sliced

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)

Champagne or wine yeast (optional—flowers should have wild yeast) 

Pick the elderflowers when they’re fresh and full of pollen. Fresh Mexican elderflowers look a bit greenish, while the older flowers are whiter. You’ll discover very quickly that elderflowers are loaded with little bugs. My solution to get rid of (most of) them is to place the flowers in a bowl outdoors for about an hour; the little bugs will vacate. You can’t really remove them all at this point, but as you strain your solution later on, it will take care of the remaining ones. 

Place the water in a container, add the sugar, and stir with a clean spoon to make sure it’s dissolved. 

Add the lemon zest and lemon slices, the elderflowers (remove as much of the stems as you can without going crazy about it), and the vinegar to the container and stir briefly with a clean spoon. Some people add commercial yeast at this stage. 

Close the container, but not so tight that fermentation gases can’t escape. You can also place a clean towel on top. Let the mixture stand for anywhere from 24 to 48 hours. If you didn’t use yeast, you should see some bubbles after 48 hours, indicating that the fermentation from wild yeast is active. If this doesn’t occur, then add some yeast at this stage. Using a clean spoon, make sure that you stir the liquid for a few seconds three or four times a day during this process. 

Strain the liquid (after 48 hours if additional yeast was necessary) into your fermenting vessel (bottle or bucket). Let the fermentation go for another 4 days. Using a layered cheesecloth when straining the liquid removes any remaining little bugs.

Your final step is to bottle your champagne in recycled soda bottles or swing-top glass bottles. Let it ferment for a week before enjoying. I like to check the pressure from time to time by unscrewing the bottle slightly to make sure it’s not excessive. 

Recipe and photo by Pascal Bauder, courtesy of Storey Press.

Edible Radio: Lost Recipes of Prohibition

On this episode of The Kitchen Workshop, Mary Reilly (the publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley) speaks with Matthew Rowley. Matthew is the author of Moonshine! and the new book Lost Recipes of Prohibition.  He write about folk distillation and illicit spirits. 

Mary and Matthew spoke about the amazing Prohibition-era notebook that Matthew used as the foundation for his book, drinking during our country's "dry" period, rum shrub (see below for a recipe) and ice liquor. 


Rum Shrub

750 ml 151 proof rum

3.25 ounces fresh orange juice

3.25 ounces fresh lemon juice

Peel of 1/2 lemon, pith removed

Peel of 1/2 orange, pith removed

13 ounces sugar

16 ounces water

Combine the rum, juices and citrus peels in a large swing-top jar. Seal and let macerate 24 hours in a cool place. Meanwhile, make a syrup by heating the sugar and water in a nonreactive pot. When cool, combine with the strained rum mixture, stir to blend and bottle.

The West Indian Shrub  is identical, except that it uses fresh lime juice in place of the lemon and orange juices. 

Honeydew and cucumber gazpacho from Chef Dino


Here's the last demo recipe from last weekend's Wachusett Farm Fresh Fest.

This recipe comes from Chef Dino Giordano of 30 Boltwood at the The Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst, MA. It’s exactly what we want during the dog days of summer: cooling, refreshing and it comes together in about 5 minutes! Delicious on its own, this soup also makes a great accompaniment to seafood, try it alongside grilled shrimp, salmon or lobster.

The gazpacho is at its best when very cold, so chill your melon before making it, or leave yourself enough time to let it get cold in the fridge. Add a splash of vodka to any leftovers and enjoy a cooling cocktail.

Honeydew and Cucumber Gazpacho

  • 1 dead-ripe medium-sized honeydew melon, seeded, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup of water, a little more if needed
  • A few basil leaves
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Put everything but the lemon juice in the blender (you may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender). Blend well, until everything is silky smooth. Use more water, if needed, if the soup is too thick. Combine the batches, if needed, and taste, add a squeeze of lemon juice and salt to taste. The soup should be sweet, a little tangy and well-seasoned. Add more Aleppo pepper if you desire more of a kick.

Blake Orchard Juicery

A Juicy New Business

Story by Samantha Marsh | Photo by Dominic Perri

Alli Messenger, owner of Blake Orchard Juicery in Wilbraham, did not start her college career with the thought that she might one day own a juicery. She was always interested in nutrition, but it was after watching the documentary Forks Over Knives that Alli truly changed her views on food and began to learn more about the benefits of raw foods and juicing.

“I wanted to offer something to people that was healthy and nutritious,” Alli says. Blake Orchard Juicery began as a way to offer a healthy product to people that would make them feel their best. A Longmeadow native, Alli decided to launch the juicery close to her home and to the Valley’s plethora of local farms and produce. After extensive research on nutrition, the purchase of a Press Right hydraulic juice press, and a secured rental kitchen on the property of Rice Fruit Farm in Wilbraham, Blake Orchard Juicery was born.

A one-woman show for now, Blake Orchard Juicery offers seven types of organic juices and two homemade types of organic almond “mylks.” The juices are available for home delivery and are also sold at area farmers’ markets.

“I hope to expand my home delivery service,” Alli says. Home delivery is a great option for those who want to try drinking fresh raw juices, but are intimidated by the process. Due to Blake Orchard’s juicing process, the juices last for up to three days in the refrigerator, so people are able to order juices just a couple times a week and have enough for the whole week.

“My juices are cold pressed,” she says, “which is a two-step process that requires no heat or oxygen.” According to Alli, cold pressed juices typically have five to seven times more nutrients than juices pressed using other processes, and result in a smoother, denser product. Cold pressed juices use more of the fruit, and therefore have a higher yield and less waste.

Alli makes juices that are based on the effect they will have on energy and health, but also have flavors that go well together and taste great. Her three green juices, “The Insomniac,” “Iron Man,” and “Skin Cleanser,” are some of her most popular. Through she hesitates to pick a favorite juice herself, Alli says she is partial to “Glow,” which combines carrot and ginger juice.

Alli sources most of her produce from Red Fire Farm in Granby or the Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington. Her kitchen is equipped with two commercial juicers, a Vitamix, and bottling supplies and is located inside Rice Fruit Farm, a local farm store dating back to 1893 that opened its doors again in April. A small-but-mighty operation, Blake Orchard Juicery is filling glasses throughout the Pioneer Valley.

Find a summery cocktail recipe using Blake Orchard Juicery’s Clean Buzz here!

Blake Orchard Juicery juices are sold at Rice Fruit Farm and will be at several farmers markets this summer. Check for details.

EDIBLE RADIO: The Nourished Kitchen with Jennifer McGruther

McGr_Nourished KitchenMary Reilly of Edible Pioneer Valley spoke with Jennifer McGruther, blogger, writer and author of The Nourished Kitchen. They talked about home-made soda and fermenting leafy greens. 

Jennifer shared her recipes for beet kvass and creamed collards with us - find them below. 



Photo courtesy of Kevin McGruther


Beet kvass with ginger and mandarin

Beet kvass tastes of the earth, faintly reminiscent of mineral-rich soil with a mild sweetness that fades to sour as the tonic ferments and ages. Like many traditional foods, beet kvass, which is nothing more than the juice of fermented beets, can overwhelm the palate of those unaccustomed to the strong flavors of the Old World. Yet, with time, many people find that they develop a yen for the robust earthiness and sour-sweet flavor of the tonic.

My interest in other homemade sodas and herbal tonics waxes and wanes, but my love of beet kvass remains constant. I like to serve it over ice, diluted with sparkling or still mineral water. While I often prepare plain beet kvass, I also find that ginger and mandarin oranges temper its earthiness, providing a nice variation. The beet’s betacyanin content not only gives beets and this kvass their characteristic color, but it also provides potent antioxidants.

beet kvass with ginger and mandarin Makes about 6 cups

1/4 cup strained Ginger and Wild Yeast Starter for Homemade Sodas (page 289)

2 teaspoons finely ground unrefined sea salt

6 cups water, plus more as needed

3 pounds beets, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 mandarin oranges (with the skin on), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

2 tablespoons peeled and freshly grated ginger

Pour the strained starter into a large pitcher, then whisk in the salt and water.

Put the beets, mandarins, and ginger in a 1-gallon fermentation crock. Pour in the liquid until the crock is full within 1 inch of its lip and the beets are completely submerged, adding additional water as necessary. Weigh the beets down with a sterilized stone, a glass or stoneware weight, or other utensil small enough to fit within your crock but heavy enough to act as a weight. Seal the crock and allow the kvass to ferment at room temperature for at least 7 days. Taste the kvass, and if you prefer a stronger or sourer flavor, continue fermenting for another week.

Strain the kvass and funnel it into pint‑size flip-top bottles. Discard the mandarins, but reserve the beets, if you like, and serve them as you would a pickle or other fermented vegetable. Store the kvass in the refrigerator for up to 1 year, noting that it may thicken slightly as it ages.

Creamed collard greenscollared greens

There’s an old-fashioned charm to the sturdy collard green, whose tough stems and broad leathery leaves spring from garden beds throughout the year. Despite near year-round availability, collards are at their best in the cold months after the first frost, which sweetens the otherwise notoriously bitter green. Here, heavy cream and caramelized onions add luxurious sweetness to counterbalance the collards’ briny undertones.

Serves 4 t o 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 bunches collard greens, about 24 ounces, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it froths, decrease the heat to medium, stir in the onion, and fry until fragrant and a bit caramelized at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes.

Toss the chopped collards into the skillet and cook, stirring until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low, stir in the heavy cream, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the cream is reduced by half and thickened. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and serve.


Edible Radio: Modern Juicing With Mimi Kirk

Ultimate Book of Modern JuicingOur Kitchen Workshop host, Mary Reilly of Edible Pioneer Valley, talks with Mimi Kirk, the author of The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing. In this fast-paced discussion they discuss making nut milks at home (you don't need anything more than a good blender), and ways to create juices on the fly––no recipes needed!

Read on for Mimi's recipes for Almond Milk and A Cold Killer juice, guaranteed to quash any spring sniffles.  


32945576Almond Milk

Only 60 calories for an 8-ounce glass, and there’s no cholesterol or saturated fat so it’s heart healthy.

  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight
  • 3½ cups filtered water (more if you prefer a thinner milk)
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Strain soaked almonds and rinse well. Soaking releases the enzyme inhibitors and makes for easier digestion. Place nuts in high-speed blender and add water, dates, and vanilla, and process until smooth. Place a nut milk filter bag or paint strainer bag over a bowl, and then pour the almond milk into the bag. With one hand hold the top of the bag, and with the other hand proceed to squeeze all the milk from the bag into the bowl. If you don’t have a bag, a wire strainer or cheesecloth will work, but a bag makes the job easier. (A nut milk filter bag can be purchased online and paint strainer bags can be found at your local hardware store.)

Once all the liquid is squeezed into the bowl, pour it into a large glass container with a screw-top lid, such as a Mason jar, and store in the refrigerator. Milk will last about 3 to 4 days.


Chocolate Almond Milk

Cacao powder and cacao nibs are a great source of magnesium, which plays a role in muscle function, circulation, and bone strength.

  • 1½ cups almond milk
  • 3–4 tablespoons cacao powder (more if you like it richer)
  • 2–3 tablespoons maple syrup or 4–5 dates

Blend all ingredients adding maple syrup or dates to taste. Refrigerate to chill.


mimi-kirkA Cold Killer

  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • ½ beet
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • Liquid of choice as needed

Blend all ingredients, adding liquid as necessary.


Kitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley is joined by Catherine Walthers. Cathy is a personal chef and food writer. She is the author of four cookbooks, the latest of which is Kale, Glorious Kale.

Join us in the Workshop as Mary and Cathy discuss varieties of kale, the perfect kale chip and kale cocktails! Cathy also shares her secret for making the perfect kale salad (hint: it involves massage therapy!).

Look below for recipes for Kale Granola and an Emerald Gimlet. Delicious ways to detox!



Kale Granola

Makes about 2 quarts

The combination of kale, oats, and nuts is crunchy and satisfying. Everyone likes to munch on this as a snack – it doesn’t even seem to last until breakfast to top yogurt, mix with fruit, or serve with milk.  It’s easy to vary the nuts and the dried fruit with your favorites.

5 cups curly kale (stripped from stalk, chopped or torn into large bite-size pieces, rinsed and dried well)

6 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, divided

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar

6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup broken pecans, broken walnuts or sliced almonds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/4 cup raisins, roughly chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 °F.

2. Make sure the kale is well dried. Place the kale in a bowl with 1 tablespoon coconut oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Knead or massage with your hands until the coconut oil is rubbed on all the leaves. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons coconut oil, and the brown sugar, maple syrup, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  In another larger bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and seeds.

4.  Take 2 tablespoons of the wet ingredients and combine with the kale. Rub it over the leaves. Pour the rest over the oats, seeds and nuts and mix very well until incorporated and oats are completely covered.

5. Line two 12- by 17-inch baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place the oats on one sheet, spreading them out evenly, and the kale on the other sheet. (The kale seems to crisp up better separately, but you can mix the kale and oats together and it will work.) Bake all for 25-30 minutes, mixing 2 or 3 times to prevent the outer edges from burning, and also rotating the trays. I sometimes switch the oven setting to convection bake if the mixture doesn’t seem to be crisping up. Remove the kale when it is crispy, but not browned. Remove the oats when they are crispy or nearly crispy and before the nuts are burned. Both with get crispier once they sit on the counter cooling.

6.  When cooled, combine the kale with the oats. Add the dried fruit. Pack into mason jars for storage.

Cook’s Note: I’ve switched to coconut oil instead of canola oil for making granola (though substitute canola or another vegetable oil if that is what you have.) I love the subtle flavor coconut adds, and nutritionists are recommending its healthier properties. In warmer weather, coconut oil looks like an oil; in cooler weather it tends to solidify. For this recipe, if solidified, I usually put the jar in a saucepan of hot water until it becomes liquid again. Also, if you mix it with cold maple syrup it tends to solidify again which makes it hard to coat the oats and kale, so I usually just have maple room temp or heat it up very slightly before mixing the liquid ingredients.


Emerald Gimlet

Serves 1

Juice a few kale leaves in a juicer and store  in the fridge until ready for your cocktails. If you don’t have a juicer, you can make kale juice in a blender by puréeing several kale leaves with just enough water to get the blender moving. Purée until as smooth as possible then strain for juice. You need a fine strainer to remove the fresh grated ginger for a smooth, chilled emerald green gimlet.

2 ounces gin (or vodka)

1/2 ounce fresh kale juice

1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated*

3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

Lime wheel or small kale leaf for garnish

1.     In a mixing glass or shaker, add the gin, kale, ginger, lime and syrup. Fill halfway with ice and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds until very well chilled. Double strain through a small fine mesh strainer to catch the fresh ginger into a martini or coupe glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel/and or a small piece of kale.

*  Add 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger if you love ginger.

Cook’s Note: To make simple syrup, add 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of boiling water and stir until dissolved. Store in a mason jar; it keeps for weeks.

Cheers! Festive Toasts Show Off Local Ingredients

By Mary Reilly | Photographs by Dominic Perri

What’s a celebration without a toast … or two? We contacted four of our favorite bartenders and asked them to come up with a festive cocktail featuring local ingredients and something fizzy (bubbles make every drink more fun, yes?).

Kristen at the Platinum Pony channels the spirit of a slightly-boozy Thanksgiving with sweet potatoes and bourbon. Jim from Hope & Olive pours us a drink for one or many. Lincoln at The Alvah Stone pours a cocktail that combines the creamy mouthfeel of eggnog with the high-stakes-cocktail-cred of  amari. And with its ginger and turmeric-laced infusion, Bart’s Medicinal Mule may be just what the doctor ordered!

The Alvah Stone Flip
The Alvah Stone Flip
Spiced Pear Punch made with Spiced Pear Purée
Spiced Pear Punch made with Spiced Pear Purée


Sweet Satisfaction made with Sweet Potato Simple Syrup
Sweet Satisfaction made with Sweet Potato Simple Syrup
Dr. Mario's Medicinal Mule made with Ginger Turmeric Vodka
Dr. Mario's Medicinal Mule made with Ginger Turmeric Vodka


Glam up your holiday table with vintage glassware and bar tools. But there’s no reason to break the bank: Thrift shops have an abundance of fun glassware and punchbowls that can be yours for pennies.

Provisions in Northampton carries the mole bitters called for in The Alvah Stone’s recipe.

The Boston Shaker ( carries specialty bitters, as well as all the tools you need to shake up your drink.

Many area liquor stores carry the unusual liqueurs called for in a few of these recipes. 


Tricks of the Trade ...

What’s the secret to a silky smooth cocktail? Great technique, of course. For an ultra smooth drink, bartenders will “double strain.” Simply put, strain the drink twice: once through the strainer on your shaker and second time through a fine-mesh strainer.

It’s a good technique to use when making a drink that contains a lot of pulp, and always when making a drink that contains eggs.



Changing Times, Changing Toasts: A Valley Beer, Mead, and Cider Tasting

By Christopher Peter Ehnstrom | Photographs by Dominic Perri and Carole Topalian


The Pioneer Valley is home to a wealth of locally produced, lovingly fermented beverages. It wasn’t always so. When I first came to the Valley, the microbrew movement was just getting under way. Very few craft brews existed and those of us with an adventurous palate turned to homebrew. A toast with local beer, cider, or mead featured beverages we brewed ourselves, with results that ranged from comic to tragic.

Times change. Now when I raise a glass with friends it’s more likely to be filled with an offering from one of the Valley’s professional fermenteers.

My cohort back then consisted of a ragtag band of twenty-somethings—our relationships ranging from housemates to coworkers to partners-in-crime. We liked to grow, gather, hunt, cook, can, and ferment many of the things we consumed. These days, my rounds of good cheer happen with a collection of fairly new fathers. One evening—after tucking in the toddlers—we gathered to sample some of the Valley’s fermented offerings.

We tasted a few hard ciders to start. I remember the days when hard cider was, to me, something spontaneously created in the walk-in refrigerator at one restaurant or another. Whenever autumn was winding down, there were inevitably a few plastic jugs of apple cider forgotten in some corner. On a slow evening, someone would discover them, inflated and ready to explode. By the end of the shift most of the staff would be in a festive mood—fueled by clandestine trips to the cooler to sneak a belt or two of the sharp, boozy beverage.

These days, the Valley’s cider makers offer more intentional fermentations.


West County Cider (Colrain)

McIntosh Pura Vida

This single-varietal cider is a wonderfully drinkable bottle. The color is a pale straw and the aroma straight McIntosh. A light body, good carbonation, and a clean finish make it quite refreshing. Its flavor is crisp and bright, capturing the quality of the apple perfectly.

Headwater Cider (Hawley)

New England Dry Cider

This somewhat heartier offering has a floral, fruity nose that hints at its nicely complex taste. A light body spreads slowly across the palate and a long finish delivers ever changing tones of sweet, sour, and tangy apple.

Bear Swamp Orchard (Ashfield)

Sparkling Hard Cider

This certified organic cider sparkled nicely out of the bottle, though it had gone a bit flat by the end of the glass. Its wild yeast fermentation gives it a musky nose and an earthy flavor overall. Dry and lightly acidic, with a sour note, this cider delivers an untamed, meaty essence.

Back in the day, a few of the guys kept bees. Trying our hand at making mead seemed like a good idea. It was a fun project for a midsummer day. Honey, water, yeast—what could be simpler? It turned out that mead was, in fact, a bit more complicated. One evening as we were sitting around the living room, we became aware of an intermittent rumble. There were bursts of quiet drumming coming from somewhere in the house. About every half hour, at first, but then their frequency increased until a muted drumroll was heard every few minutes. We finally tracked down the source—it was coming from behind the door where the mead was aging. Unchecked bacteria had run amok, and one by one the bottles were ejecting their corks to ricochet about the closet. Filtering your backyard honey is important, we learned.

Our recent tasting included a pair of local meads. By virtue of still being contained in the bottle, they started out with a distinct advantage over any I’d tried before.


Green River Ambrosia (Greenfield)

Liquid Sunshine Mead

True to its name, Liquid Sunshine pours with a deep, clear, golden color. Similarly, its flavor is pure and simple. It is not overly sweet, yet has a full body that accentuates the taste of honey. This straightforward honey essence makes it a great candidate for midwinter mulling with one’s favorite spices.

Green River Ambrosia (Greenfield)

Bourbon Barrel Cyzer

In contrast to the simplicity of Liquid Sunshine, Bourbon Barrel Cyzer is remarkably complex for a mead. Combined with local cider and aged in bourbon barrels, this pale amber mead’s depth is evident immediately in the nose. The fruit flavor is quite forward, with floral, honeyed notes and a heady edge of bourbon.

Beer is the one beverage with which I can claim a modicum of success—though the homebrewing victories are still outweighed by the defeats. One early effort to make a porter ran into a snag when (due to ongoing prank warfare) it was discovered that someone’s hat had been boiled, unseen, in the tar-black wort. After some grumbling and temple rubbing, it was decided to go ahead and finish the batch. Months later, with great trepidation, we ventured to taste the finished product. Surprisingly, beer made with hat tasted remarkably like feet.

Nowadays, I’m happy to leave the brewing to others, and there are plenty of Valley professionals brewing on our behalf.

Element Brewing Company (Millers Falls)

Interval Ale: Altoberfest

This seasonal selection opens up with a thick, persistent head above a clear amber-brown ale. Toasted malt is prominent in the nose. The grain flavors are balanced by a hint of bitterness without being too hoppy. Element delivers as billed: the mellow profile of an Altbier with the fuller body of an Oktoberfest.

Lefty’s Brewing Company (Greenfield)


Lefty’s Oktoberfest can only be described as a true representative of the style. The ale’s ruby brown hue tints its thick head, and its many malts are evident in its aroma. The flavors of smoky malt and caramel are very forward without being too sweet. A bit lighter on the palate than many Oktoberfests, this a very drinkable ale if the plan is to share a few rounds. 


Paper City Brewing Company (Holyoke)

Fogbuster Coffee House Ale

A robust beer for a cold winter’s evening (or morning), Paper City’s Fogbuster Ale is a standout for those who love the darker side of the brewing world. Inky black to the point of opacity, it pours with a full, heavy head that clings doggedly to the sides of the glass. Rich coffee smells precede each opulent swig. Dark roasts of malt and coffee hang around on the tongue with notes of chocolate for a good, long while at the finish of this one.

The People People’s Pint (Greenfield)

Shortnose Stout

Brownish-black and turbid beneath a short, brown cap, a glass of Shortnose Stout looks dressed for the winter. There is sweet licorice in the nose, which closed off a bit as the head receded to the rim of the glass. Hints of raisin, fig, and prune blend with the sweet malt. The body is on the thin side for a stout, but it finishes with a pleasant nuttiness.

Brewmaster Jack (Northampton)

Hop Essence Series: Hallertau Blanc

A single-hop brew is always fun for the hop lovers, and the latest in Brewmaster Jack’s series doesn’t disappoint. The name “blanc” belies the deep amber hue of the beer, which pours with a fine, lively head. One can spend a while with their nose stuck in the glass. There’s a lot going on in that one hop. Fresh, grassy resin, citrus tones, a tiny floral note, a bit of pepper—the longer one smells the more one finds. A subtle malt complements the single hop nicely, and the long finish leaves a pleasant bitterness.

Howler Brewery (Hatfield)

Billy’s Pale Ale

From one hop to two, Billy’s promises Cascade and Nugget hops in this pale ale. It pours a slightly cloudy, copper color with a good head. The Nuggets dominate the nose, giving a perfumy, lavender bouquet. Light on the tongue, the sweet, bready flavor of the malts and a slight yeastiness outweigh the hops more than one would expect in a pale ale.

Scantic River Brewery (Hampden)

Totally Massachusetts Ale

Scantic takes “local” up a level by sourcing this ale’s ingredients exclusively from Massachusetts. Misty and golden in the glass, with an aroma that suggests a Wiesen’s yeast along with lemon notes. The biscuity Vienna malt is evident, along with very earthy overtones.

Berkshire Brewing Company (S. Deerfield)

Czech Style Pilsner

For those who prefer lighter beers, BBC has perfected a Pilsner. It is crystal clear amber in the glass, with a dense, fluffy head and refreshing carbonation. The clean, zesty bitterness of Saaz hops is unmistakable in the nose. With a crisp, simple balance of light malt and grassy hops and a dry, refreshing finish, many consider this more a beer for summer. But if your holiday revelers include “macrobrew” drinkers, this is a great one to ease them over toward beer with flavor.

Times change. Back then, after a tasting like this, the gang would fall asleep on chairs, sofas, perhaps the floor. Some would rise bleary eyed, a few hours later, and drag themselves off to kitchens and bakeries to suffer through a shift. Others would wake and forego coffee for another pint—fortification against the coming winter’s chill.

Back to the present. By the time we reach the final bottle, the group has slowly dwindled away—“early lecture”, “baby has a cold”, “promised the wife 11 o’clock” ... There’s no razzing, no teasing; we share similar situations. Times have changed. Still, those changes have brought many new reasons to raise a glass, and many local offerings to fill it with.

We did, however, throw a homebrew into the evening’s mix… hope springs eternal.

Christopher Peter Ehnstrom is a Cape Cod native who was transplanted to the Valley in 1992. He is a former chef and bread baker, a current daddy and tech geek, and an eternal lover of all things fermented.

EDIBLE RADIO: Michael Dietsch and Shrubs

Shrubsi1.cvr.DesCompKitchen Workshop host Mary Reilly, editor and publisher of Edible Pioneer Valley, speaks to Michael Dietsch about his book Shrubs, An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times.

Basically, shrubs are an acidulated fruit syrup. Originally enjoyed as a thirst-quenching non-alcoholic drink, they are now enjoyed in cocktails as well. Michael fills us in on the history of shrubs, from antiquity to today, and shares ideas for several ways to prepare your own versions.

Here’s a recipe for an Apple-Cinnamon Shrub to enjoy this fall. Pick up a copy of Shrubs for more inspiration.

Cinnamon-Apple Shrub

3 medium apples, quartered (no need to core or seed them)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup turbinado sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

apple shrubUsing a box grater or a food processor, shred apples. Add shredded apples, cider vinegar, sugar and cinnamon to a nonreactive container. Cover and leave in a cool place on the countertop for up to 2 days. After 2 days, place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain apple mixture. Squeeze or press apple mixture to remove any remaining liquid. Pour liquid into clean mason jar or glass bottle. Add lid or cap and then shake well to combine. Place in refrigerator. Discard solids. Shrub will keep for up to 1 year.