There are four base ingredients for beer: barley, hops, yeast and water.
But of course, there are many more ingredients that you can throw into a recipe to make a great beer, and that’s the point of an event that will take place at Free Range Brewing on Jan. 30 called Urban Roots: There’s a Garden in My Beer.
Free Range partnered with the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens to host the event, which will feature Mary Izett, acclaimed homebrewer, podcast host and author of Speed Brewing: Techniques and Recipes for Fast-Fermenting Beers, Ciders, Meads, and More.
Izett’s experience as a homebrewer and co-owner of Fifth Hammer Brewing in New York City made her the perfect guest for the upcoming collaboration between the university’s gardens and the brewery in Villa Heights.
UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens regularly partners with multiple organizations and businesses across the city to host events that inspire guests to be excited about the landscape and its capabilities around them. After all, our existence as humans depends on the existence of plants and animals.
“So often as a community we’re disconnected from the plants that are a huge part of our lives so hopefully with this talk we’ll help connect plants with people,” Gillman said. “And that’s our goal at the Botanical Gardens, is to help people understand that without plants, we’re not here.”
For this event, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens extended its reach to not only plant enthusiasts but homebrewers as well.
“The goal with this event is to get people excited about plants and what you can do with plants, but also to get them interested in plants for brewing and also in plants in general,” he added.
The talk will delve into what plants can be brewed into a beer — conventionally and not so much. It’s not just about the typical berries used to brew a Berliner Weiss, or oranges for a citrus-flavored IPA to offset hops.
“As I started to learn to brew that was how I connected with it and also what motivated me to learn more,” Alexander said. “How can I use ingredients beyond your standard ingredients of barley, yeast, hops and water, and use all these things that I love to cook with and love to eat and love to grow in ways that are not always a good fit for a beer, but make the beer a more exciting experience for the folks that I’m sharing it with?”
Free Range Brewing makes it a point to source its ingredients locally, using fresh materials in the region acquired through partnerships with companies like Pure Intentions Coffee and The Chef’s Farmer.
“It has been a driving force of our business model to source as much of our raw materials as locally as possible, and something that we’re excited about that we can say is that over 90 percent of our materials used in beer come from the region,” Alexander added.
One takeaway for Charlotte homebrewers who attend Urban Roots will be to learn about what potential beer ingredients can be grown in a backyard or urban and community gardens. Alexander explained that the event could show attendees the more eccentric ingredients that could go in a beer or cider, but also that the environment has more to offer.
“[The growing site] doesn’t have to be the place where you park your car or walk your dog or you grow flowers,” he said. “The edible landscape which is at the base of this is something that you can do on any scale and something that gives a little bit deeper interaction [between] you and where you live.”