Fermentation Friday: Indigenous ingredients

It’s Fermentation Friday today—a homebrewing-themed group blogging effort that takes place on the last Friday of the month. Somehow I missed the announcement and lost track of the days and nearly missed participating.

This month’s topic is brought to us by the FinalGravity blog: What indigenous brewing ingredient have you used or would you like to brew with and what style would that beer be?

The special ingredient may be something that grows wild, is a (unique) agricultural product in your area or maybe you grow it yourself. …

Please provide some history and description of ingredient.

For me, the answer depends on the scope of the term "indigenous." If I define indigenous to mean, for instance, North America, then I would classify pumpkin as such an ingredient, and one that I’ve brewed with quite a bit (as regular readers no doubt know).

Narrowing the field down a bit, I can safely say I’ve brewed with hops that were grown either by me or my mother (for instance).

But, to pick something more interesting, there are a number of ingredients that are (relatively) indigenous to Central Oregon that I would like to someday try. Number one on that list is sagebrush.

Not the woody parts, or the toxic parts, but I’ve read that the flowers themselves can be used in the beer as a replacement for hops. The only commercial inkling of such an experiment that I’ve seen was on this Beervana post (read the comments for the meat of it). Sagebrush by itself is bitter and (as I mentioned above) toxic though there is a history of medicinal uses by Native Americans, hence avoiding all but the flowers.

If I were to pick a style for my hypothetical Sage Beer, I would probably work within an American Pale Ale boundary; though I could see experimenting with more Belgian-esque styles as well. My thinking is you’d want a solid malt backbone to support the sage, but not go too dark or heavy (thus overpowering) with it. Nor would you want wheat or something excessively light—I suspect the sage would impart its own strong presence and you’d definitely want the balance.

So that’s what I’d like to work with sometime. Any other homebrewers (or commercial) out there ever experimented with sage?