This project began as a way to grow some of the pre-hops flavorings that are archaeologically attested in the paleobotanical record of prehistoric Europe (with the potential to eventually include other areas of the world) on campus as part of the Fermentation Studies program. The Honors College provided the space—and a shout-out is due to Professor of English Peter Sands, the Director of the Honors College and a home brewer himself, for supporting this project from its inception.
UWM Sustainability Director Kate Nelson and Cynthia Anderson, PhD candidate and Adjunct Instructor in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, are the reason the Brew Garden went from an idea to a reality, at least on paper. The students in ARCH 190 in Spring 2016, taught by Anderson, did a terrific job generating designs for the Brew Garden and the students and support provided by Nelson allowed us to get at least some plants into the ground in June 2016 to use as a launching pad for the full-scale garden that we hope will be funded soon. Anthropology PhD candidate Josh Driscoll’s dad back in New England was able to find a nursery with Myrica gale (bog myrtle) plants, one of the few varieties we were unable to source locally; a big thank you to him for talking the nursery owners at Summerhill Nursery in Madison, CT into donating six large, healthy plants and transporting them all the way from Connecticut.
So far the three we have planted are thriving—we’ll see how they do over the winter. (Thanks to the folks at Summerhill—your plants are contributing to research and education in Wisconsin!) Josh has already used the new tips to flavor a Bronze Age Scandinavian “Nordic Grog” beverage that we will be able to feature in the upcoming Wisconsin Science Festival event on October 22 (see more information below). The remaining plants were all purchased at Monches Farm, which has an awesome selection of native plants, some of which are archaeologically and historically attested as being used in brewing: Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), Stachys officinalis (betony), Filipendula ulmaria (meadow sweet), Galium odoratum (woodruff) and Mentha pulegium (pennyroyal).
In addition to these less well-known plants we are growing five varieties of thyme and four varieties of mint, two of which we used in our Keltenbräu #2 braggot. We are currently looking for donors to provide funding that will allow us to expand the garden along the lines of the plans developed by the winning student design, which would allow us to grow many other plants as well as trees such as medlar, service tree and heritage pear and apple varieties for use in producing ciders and perries. A list of plant varieties suitable for brewing ale and other fermented and distilled beverages will be posted here together with the winning Brew Garden design this fall. Watch this space!