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Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation Paperback – September 18, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Filled with nourishment for the soul, body, and mind, this book is a unique view of the intersection between herbal medicine and fermentation. It will delight anyone interests in herbs, honey, brewing and folktales. Great Book! -- Susan S. Weed, Author of Healing Wise

From the Back Cover

Fermentation and plant use--as medicine, as psychotropics, as teachers, as companions on life's path--are an inescapable part of our exploration of what it means to be human. Thus, this book conflicts with a number of popular beliefs about alcohol, plants, and the nature of material reality. It is, therefore, not politically correct.

. . . The ancient beers, created . . . between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago, were quite different from what we know as beer today. Many were sacred beers, and hundreds contained medicinal herbs.--From the book

The author's beautiful and provocative exploration of the sacredness and folklore of ancient fermentation is revealed through 200 plants and hive products. Includes 120 recipes for ancient and indigenous beers and meads from 31 countries and six continents--and the most complete evaluation of honey ever published.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Brewers Publications (September 18, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937381667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937381663
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher R. Travers on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First a word on safety. A few of these recipes use toxic ingredients. In general, my studies all suggest however that these ingredients both have long records in brewing and also are reasonably safe in that area. This includes both mandrake and henbane. In fact, henbane was smoked in the Middle Ages, and evidence exists for its use in beer for thousands of years. Mandrake was well known medicinally mixed with wine (Dioscorides mentions it, and mandrake wine seems to have been utilized by Hannibal as a narcotic). However, in all things some caution is required, and there are a few other steps I'd recommend:

1) It's probably a good idea to try small doses of such recipes until you know how your body will respond.
2) It's probably a good idea to do further research before you make up your mind on these matters.

Now for a word on substance. This book is written from a very primitivist perspective. The author is upfront about his views in this area, and tries to share them. I didn't feel like the book was overly proselytizing in this area, though I recognize that some fellow reviewers differ here.

Secondly he advocates what one might call "unscientific brewing." I'm a big fan of unscientific brewing. I've brewed in similar ways for nearly two decades. In this way, sense, artistry, and experience are used to produce a beer, mead, etc rather than rigorous measurement and control. For example, I sterilize all my equipment with heat (I don't use chemicals), I don't even own a hydrometer, and and I brew beer using touch and feel rather than time and temperature. In this way, I sacrifice some repeatability for variation and an ability to improvise at each step.
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Format: Paperback
I find this book fascinating! Months after buying it, I find myself sitting down to look for a recipe to try, and spending hours reading the historical and herbal notes. Never would have expected the best herbal I own to be a beer book! There is also information on the religious practices of early Celts and Norwegians as they relate to the use of herbs, as well as lots of information on the spiritual use of herbs by modern traditional peoples.
As for the beers themselves, Buhner takes a relaxed attitude. Indigenous people make beer without fancy equipment, and we can too. What matters most is what tastes good to us--which means we have to do a lot of experimenting! There are lots of recipes to try here, from the Middle Ages up to the present. But the choice is not as wide as it first looks, because not all of the ingredients are easily available. If you get into this, the next book you'll want may be "The Brewer's Garden."
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Format: Paperback
Stephen's book on beers is great because you learn about brewing, other cultures (human), and herbs. He is also very clear about how powerful plants can be, and for each herb he gives 2-5 paragraphs of well cited information. Some of the measurements are a little vague or confusing in the recipes but like he says the point is to make a mess and have fun. This is a great read for anyone into health as well, just for the chapter on fermented honey and bee products alone. And if he includes a recipe with jimson weed or henbane, he is very clear about the inherent risks. Lighten up and drink some meade.
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By A Customer on May 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
I had heard about older brewing, beers before 1500 almost never used hops, and was lucky enough to come upon this book when trying to find out more. Wow! What a book. I read many beers books - how boring they are! Most brewing books are as dry and bitter as the beers they describe - a certain prescription for sleep (again, like the beers they describe). But not this one. There is great poetry and magic in this book - it is an enchanting and endearing read. The beauty and wonder of ancient brewers comes through in the author's language - even more wonderful, the book contains an extensive, up-to-date overview of the medicinal actions of the herbs used in beers throughout time. Please, read this book, and help begin the move away from hopped beers to more healthy, wonderful tasting beers like yarrow ale, elder ale, and ginger beer. I can't recommend this book enough!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many interesting nuggets in here. Since there are other books that give you plenty of information, including recipes, about brewing with unusual or 'primitive' ingredients, I found the passages about native rituals, ancient brewing traditions, and the like to be most interesting.
Unfortunately, Buhner has an obvious agenda to push (he makes no bones about this), and can't resist continually beating the reader over the head with it. Even when I agree with a lot of what he says, it's very annoying to be reading an interesting passage about tribal prayer ritual and have him go off on a screed about how much better this is than traditional patriarchal western spritless yada yada yada... again.
Furthermore, he seems unable to list an ingredient without mentioning how it cures every disease known to man ('studies have shown') and that 'growing number of scientists' are 'just beginning to realize' how far superior this ingredient is to anything science has ever been able to produce. It gets old very quickly.
In spite of my negativity here, he has gathered a lot of fascinating information. If you love the idea of 'Beer Soup for the Soul', this book is absolutely for you. Or if you're looking for some neat information on the history of brewing, and you can stand wading through what my friend calls, less charitably the 'hippie dippie crap', give it a look.
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