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Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  647 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Boost your fermentation
Paperback, 534 pages
Published September 18th 1998 by Brewers Publications
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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Nick Klagge
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
An interesting and very quirky book.

Strangely enough, it reminded me a lot of David Graeber's "Debt." Although the subject matters are obviously completely different, they share a feeling of great scope and broadening horizons. Both Graeber and Buhner work to show that "the way things are now" in Western society is an extremely narrow slice of a huge diversity of ways that things have been in other times and places. For Buhner, this means demolishing the equation of "beer" with "malt, water, ho
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Free your brewing from the tyranny of hops and barley!

This is a specialized book. I gave it five stars, but I would only recommend it to someone who has interests in brewing and herbalism.

I certainly don't agree with everything Buhner says, but there is much food for thought mixed in among the recipes. And there are plenty of recipes.

This is a book to read slowly, browse through again every few years, brew from, and keep around for reference. As I learn more about the wild plants in my part of
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Wow, this book is wild. The essential premise is: at this time Western culture consumes only two alcoholic beverages; all beer is a watery solution of fermented barley and hops, and all wine is fermented grape juice. But many societies, including Europe before the Reformation, consumed lots of different fermented beverages made from different sugars, juices, grains, and herbs, all with varying degrees of alcoholic and nutritional content.

Those beverages are what this is about. Sage beer. Gruit
Karen Brooks
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book that explores and explains the traditional processes and meanings behind making mead, ale and beer. Included in the text are not only recipes from the MIddle Ages and Renaissance and explanations of how and why indigenous peoples made their brews, but detailed explanations of various additives (herbs) and their effects: in terns of inebriation, psychotropic and medicinal.

Thorough and clearly written with passion, this is an invaluable resource for home-brewers, anyone int
Jan 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brewing
Even if you're put off by the words "sacred" and "healing", I'd still recommend this book to round out a brewing education. For starters, there is a good bit of brewing history in here, detailing how beer used to be made (hops are relatively recent, for example). This book is great for identifying alternative bittering and aroma agents... useful knowledge for these current times of hop shortages. ...more
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A wealth of knowledge and insight... This book brings clarity to why and how our culture is now seeing the dark side of addiction. Buhner encourages us to brew...and to connect to low-alcohol content substances that used to be a part of our everyday life.
Martin Doudoroff
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
The new agey-sounding title is a turnoff for people like me, but this volume presents some clear, serious value for specific people with highly specialized interests. Here’s what you need to know: this is primarily a recipe book and the recipes are for fermented beverages with medicinal (folk healing), shamanistic and/or religious ethnocultural roots. The net is cast pretty wide. The author clearly has experience (re)producing many of the recipes, and shares his experiences along with some discu ...more
Dec 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brewing
If you brew or have a keen interest in the history of beer and fermentation, this is a must have for your collection. Lots of interesting history about the fermentation of beers and other beverages from all over the world, supplemented with a healthy portion of recipes in the appendix.
May 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: informative
In the interest of full disclosure, I have not read this book cover-to-cover. That said, it's not the kind of book you do that with.
I was expecting more recipes, more "how-to", and less exposition on the history and folklore of this or that herb. I was reading it from the perspective of a brewer, not an historian, and it falls short.
This book does have recipes in it, but they are simplistic, and it takes some mental effort to adjust them should you want a different quantity or be working in diff
Janisse Ray
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love everything that Stephen Buhner writes. He goes down into very deep rabbit holes & everything he thinks about is incredibly interesting. I loved reading about the craziness of wild yeasts, toxic plants becoming sacred ales, beers from trees, and so much more. There are tons of recipes in this book. Now I have to get over my hesitations & do something new -- make a herbal beer. I'm giving this 4 stars because I can't figure out how much yeast to use. Most of the recipes just say "yeast." I' ...more
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Well, it was from this little tome that I was indoctrinated with the information that I like spread while others are drinking beer, that is, that it was during the Protestant Reformation when the Protestant's intolerance of Catholic indulgences led to the ban on all herbal and psychotropic beers in favor of the more sobering and sex-drive-inhibiting hop beer. Thus, a long tradition of herbal beer making was lost but this book approximates some of the old recipes for those of us who want to try.
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Love this book, beer used to be made from many different plants and used medicinally. Here is the history of beer way back to traditional cultures and recipes. I read it and then gave it away to a friend because I have no intention of making beers, but I miss the book because it is so wise.
Jonny Henningson
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Inspiring! Amazing! Totally cool stories and information, the recipes aren't very good (at least to my modern white-boy pallet, and I have admittedly only made a few of them.) still a very fun and informative read. ...more
Susan Albert
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: herbs-plants
So much herb lore packed into this reference book! Not a how-to manual (although there's some of that), but a collection of poetry, shamanic wisdom, and cultural understandings of plants that humans have used to alter consciousness. Belongs in the library of every serious herbalist. ...more
Lumen Natura
Dec 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fermentation
This book has extensive and hard to find information on a lot of herbs. It also gives a lot of alternative fermentation methods. Really informative and well researched book.
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is a masterpiece! What a fascinating read! Even if you're never going to brew yourself, this book is a page turner. Goes nicely with a frosty micro or home brew as well. ...more
Neil O'Rourke
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author appears to enjoy mead in its most historical context. In reading this tome I find myself curious to try fermenting some of my own.

What I truly came for is found in Chapter Seven. The details of yarrow, myrica Gale, wild rosemary, wormwood, sage, broom, henbane, and later of mugwort are informative. Cautionary tales of some other herbs in the same chapter will steer me clear.

Chapter Eight, on trees, held a few surprises. Juniper, birch, maple, and spruce were expected. Oak, pine, and
This book is amazing for anyone interested in herbal medicine or traditional fermentation practices. It provides a wonderful balance of folklore, history, anthropology, and practical techniques. In particular Buhner makes the seemingly frighteningly exact process of home brewing far more accessible for those of us mortals who can be frightened off by the incredibly technical nature of many fermentation guides. I would give this book six stars if I could.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Contains interesting historical information about fermentation and beer. There was lots of research done and many individual cultures were talked about in depth. Around 25% of the book is about recipes for making these types of beers but nearly all of them are useless. You need very specific and hard to find ingredients or you need particular instruments. It's interesting nonetheless if you like history, natural living, or just beer, it's worth a browse. ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: herbal
Definitely a labor of love here. There is a lot more history/background than I cared for but someone who is more interested in beer would love this. I was personally hoping for a more high level coverage that I could use to make these beers in a low to no alcohol fashion. I might try to make some vinegars at some point using a recipe here, but it'll probably be a while. ...more
This book is full of historical information about the topic, but it lacks equal knowledge of modern brewing techniques. The vast majority of the recipes must be modified by the modern brewer both for optimum fermentation and for modern taste buds.
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I give this book 5 stars because I appreciate it and the information it gave me so much. But really it's a 3 or 4-star book due to the organizational structure. Perhaps around ingredients would have been better? Or maybe world location. He made some comment about fat in the book that makes me think he has not looked into Weston A Prices research on indigenous diets. And he doesn't make clear that though beers were made everywhere and they were all a little alcoholic, many were very low--like kom ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing resource of information - I want to tackle all of the recipes!
Collin Whalen
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Awesome, I haven't made any of the beers. However I have learned so much and incorporated this wonderful new food matrix into my diet. Great work. ...more
Tarmo Tali
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully told stories about our history, beer, and plants.
Jonathon Suttle
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If you've brewed a bunch of beer and are thinking of getting outside the box, this book is the best. ...more
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Okay, I admit it, I didn't read this one cover to cover. I checked it out from the library to assess whether I would want to buy it as part of my brewing and DIY library. There were some cool things in the book to be sure, but the bulk of the book was made up of stuff that wouldn't realistically ever end up as part of my repertoire. This is true for two main reasons: first, the vast majority of the recipes contain ingredients that are so esoteric, I don't think I could find them if I wanted. You ...more
Aug 14, 2011 added it
Shelves: hippie, booze, summer11
Checked this out at Moe's on Telegraph a year ago and decided not to buy it then...too hippie and terrible sounding recipes. But changed my mind recently, in light of my interest in traditional herbal "folk wines".

As a homebrewer, I would suggest running away from any recipe that uses sugar in a "beer", but perhaps this is a useful text for:

(a) recipe "dosage" requirements—amount of the herb to include so as to not taste too bitter (but for the love of Shaka Khan, just use your favorite homebr
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
My partner is not a fan of hops. I don't quite understand her aversion. But I'm trying to respect it in what I brew.

Enter Buhner's Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. SHHB, among many other things, is a robust list of non-humulus lupulus ways to flavor and preserve good beer.

But much more than just an esoteric brew book, SHHB reads like part herbalist's apothecary and part primitivist screed. There's more than a touch of magic in these pages.

The chapter on honey and mead-making is in itself a headt
If I could give a split rating, I'd say this is a 1 3/4-star book as a how-to manual and a four-star book as a read on historical fermentation practices and herb folklore. I wouldn't trust most of the recipes in here (and the author admits he hasn't made most of them), but they are fascinating examples of historical methods of fermenting and highlight that fermented products were traditionally considered food and medicine rather than a means for recreational binging during Monday Night Football. ...more
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Stephen Harrod Buhner is an Earth poet and the award-winning author of ten books on nature, indigenous cultures, the environment, and herbal medicine. He comes from a long line of healers including Leroy Burney, Surgeon General of the United States under Eisenhower and Kennedy, and Elizabeth Lusterheide, a midwife and herbalist who worked in rural Indiana in the early nineteenth century. The great ...more

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