Experimenting with wild grains

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Eric88kp

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Hello all.

I'm new to the forum, brewed a couple batches in the past. I have always been interested in foraging, I collect mushrooms, berries, edible plants and such.

What I was considering was using Phragmites, a common reed (and pesky invasive), to malt and, hopefully produce a batch of beer with. Edible plants books say you can make flour with it in the same way you could with wheat or barley, so naturally, I immediatly thought it might be fun to try with beer. Malting grains is a process I have never done, though I have done a bit of reading about it and think that it should be possible.

Has anyone here experimented with that sort of thing or just have any comments or tips? Think it is even worthwhile to try? I would love to hear anything you guys think about this.

Thanks,
Eric
 

Professor Frink

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Welcome. Agreed, malting will be the hardest part of the process. But if you can find a way to malt it, I say go for it.
 

Hagen

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I've read the phragmites communis shoots can be heated and a swwet taffy like substance can be gotten. My guess is that would be a simple sugar. Would it leave any flavor, or ferment out completely is the question.
 
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Eric88kp

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Good point. I wonder if the species matters at all (probably not) the common species around here is australis. Perhaps using other grains in conjunction with it might be beneficial, if not necessary.
 

JKatzer

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I finally registered on this site so I could respond to this thread. I too was curious about using phrag as a grain source. I'm fairly new to brewing but I'm anxious to go all grain-the whole purist thing. Here's what I read on the topic of Phrag: australis and communis are likely the same species (some sort of taxonomy debate). Most or all of its parts are edible. It's pith is sugary so one may be able to augment the wort with this without going to extract or going outside the plant. Efficiency problem potentially solved. I'm not so much concerned about the plant as I am the plants environment. Aside from its invasive qualities its also known for its bioretention qualities. It efficiently takes up pollutants. For this reason I will not be harvesting adjacent: large parking lots, businesses known for using or producing chemicals (dry cleaners), heavily fertilized/chemically treated lawns, or gray/brown water treatment ponds. I will be making this wort within the year. I will update this thread if someone doesn't beat me to it.

Jarrod
 

prohl84

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If you can't beat it: eat it! As somewhat of an amateur ecology geek Phragmites is the bane of my existence (in NW Ohio we don't have Kudzu... yet)

I doubt you would have any trouble finding enough Phrag grains for a batch of beer but winnowing, malting, drying, kilning, milling them looks like it would be a serious PITA because the seeds are so small. If you want to do more than 1 or 2 gallons this will mean a LOT of work (not that it isn't worth it in the end I know, I know- we do not brew for convenience) also gathering a significant quantity will likely mean putting on a pair of waders since it is a wetland grass.

My humble advice is to clean the seed and roast it to your liking and then mill it and use as an unmalted adjunct. I too love to utilize weeds as well (I have a 5 gal bucket of curly dock seeds from last summer I need to do something with) and I roasted a fair harvest of dandelion root a few days ago to use in a couple brews.

As for malting, I advocate that as well but it is very time consuming... I tried malting/ kilning gluten free grains one time (2# buckwheat; 1# quinoa; 1# amaranth) and it turned out quite successful but it was a ton of work for a 2.5 gal batch where at least half the fermentables came from honey.

If you haven't stumbled across it yet, the folks in the gluten free forum have an awesome thread on malting your own.

I also read an article (I can't find it) about malting amaranth and grinding it to meal and baking it into cakes at various temperatures and subsequently using them for brewing. That is also a fairly viable option for any wild grains and I may try this with quinoa which tasted the most converted (from floury to sweet) of the three types of grain I experimented with.

Regardless of how you choose to use phragmites be sure to go out there with a bag of wild rice seed and a shovel; dig up the rhizomes and sow the rice! :D

phragmites seed.jpg
 
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