Hard times lead to innovation, improvisation and a few surprises.

This blog could have been titled as Weird Brews. Today, I’m going to tell you about how a lack of traditional ingredients led to the brewing of strange beers on the western frontier.

As you may know, beer is made from four basic ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. But what if you don’t have access to these ingredients? Well, that’s what happened to many settlers and pioneers who ventured into the wild west in the 19th century. They had to improvise with whatever they could find or grow in their new environment.

One of the most common substitutes for barley was corn. Corn was easy to cultivate and abundant in the west, and it also provided a source of sugar for fermentation.

However, corn alone could not produce a flavorful beer, so brewers often added other grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, or buckwheat. Some even used roasted acorns or pine nuts to add some nuttiness and body to their brews.

Hops were another scarce ingredient in the west. Hops are the flowers of a vine that give beer its bitterness and aroma. They also act as a natural preservative, preventing spoilage and infection. Without hops, beer would be sweet, flat, and prone to contamination.

To solve this problem, brewers turned to various herbs and plants that had similar properties to hops. These included sagebrush, spruce tips, juniper berries, wormwood, yarrow, and wild rosemary. Some of these plants also added unique flavors and aromas to the beer, creating distinctive regional styles.

Yeast was perhaps the most elusive ingredient of all. Yeast is a microscopic fungus that converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Without yeast, there would be no beer at all. But how did brewers get yeast in the west?

Well, they had two options: either bring it with them from their previous homes or find alternatives. The first option was risky and unreliable, as yeast could easily die or lose its potency during long journeys. The second option was more adventurous and unpredictable, as brewers had no control over what kind of yeast they would get.

Sometimes they would get lucky and find a wild yeast strain that produced a delicious beer. Other times they would end up with a sour or funky beer that only the most adventurous drinkers would enjoy.

As you can see, brewing beer on the western frontier was not an easy task. It required creativity, resourcefulness, and experimentation. It also resulted in some of the most strange and diverse beers ever made. Some of these beers have survived to this day, while others have been lost to history. But they all tell a story of how people adapted to their new surroundings and made the best of what they had.

Fortunately for the modern connoisseur of good beer on the western frontier there is Mudshark Brewery and Public House in Lake Havasu City, Arizona on the Colorado River. Our solar powered brewery may experiment with the use of different ingredients but you are always assured of quality beer. Attesting to our commitment to brew only the best is Buzz Honey Lager, the recipient of the Silver Medal at the prestigious National Honey Board’s “Honey Beer Competition.” 

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America