Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vinegar, The final frontier… at least for alcohol.

Just when you think you’ve done it all, something new pops up.

I’ve made beer… Lots and lots of beer. Some great, some terrible, but most somewhere in the middle.

I’ve made wine. Country wine from fresh fruits and vegetables, kit wine of grapes and bags of who knows what and I’ve made mead. Honey and water in every conceivable combination, with fruits and spices and flowers and even a batch with what amounted to lawn clippings.

With limited success, I’ve made clean beer, I’ve made funky beer, I’ve made sour beer and I’ve made Belgian beer. I consider myself an expert at nothing. But an adventurer none the less, and willing to try nearly anything that’s not illegal… and a few things that are. (Homemade whiskey is another post altogether).

So what to do once you’ve converted every known sugar source into alcohol? How about turning that alcohol into vinegar?

Apple cider seems like the obvious choice. It’s widely available, and really nice on salads and vegetables. Malt vinegar is a tried and true favorite, fish and chips and all. But how to make one MINE. Something you can’t get anywhere else.

Well, I began with some research on the interwebz… and promptly ignored about 90% of what I learned. Forget building up a starter mother, pitch it and see what happens.

So far, I’ve only used “Bragg” organic apple cider vinegar as a starter culture. It’s available at big grocery stores and on Amazon and at vitamin retailers. It’s good vinegar weather you’re making a salad or a batch of your own, so no big risk in shelling out $5 for a bottle.

The first batch I started was in a glass jug. I used about 1/3 gallon of Ed Worts Apfelwein (If you are unfamiliar, visit and search for it) and a shot glass of Bragg’s vinegar.

By the time I’d started that little experiment, I’d ordered a 1 gallon oak barrel for the next batch. I can’t think of anything more unique than oaked apple cider vinegar!

But that wasn’t enough. I love salad dressing with a vinegar and fruit character, so why not peach wine vinegar?

I quickly modified the Apfelwein recipe to use White Grape Peach juice, and once fermented out, I’m pitching another shot glass of Bragg’s into it.

None of the batches are done, and I have no idea what I’ve created. All I know is that I’m very excited about trying all of my new concoctions, and I’ve found a new way to take my brewing another step further down the road.

Perhaps these batches will all fail, and I’ll have to go buy a “Mother” from “The Brew Hut” in town, or maybe they will be OK. The fact is, I won’t know for several weeks. But isn’t that the fun of brewing in the first place?

Expand your knowledge, explore new things. Build your skill set and make yourself happy!