Stephen Buhner’s book “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” is such a fascinating read. I wish I could have read this book years ago upon my discovery of conventional, distilled or pasteurized alcohol. This book would have been an excellent tool to navigate inebriating substances.
He covers many traditional ways of fermenting various plant substances to make alcohol, or what he refers to as “live alcohol”. (What he calls “dead alcohol” is mainly alcohols made from a distillation or pasteurization process). It blew my mind to read that live alcohols actually enhance the liver function and ones mental abilities, among many other supportive functions to the physical system. This is so shocking to me because these are the two faculties that are hurt by distilled, or dead alcohol.
Even though I was only mid-way through the book, I couldn’t wait any longer to email him. I found his email through a google search and started dialogue. I asked him to clarify what he considered dead alcohols (those parted from their plant matrix and cultural context) and what he considered live. I specifically asked him what is available in the mainstream market in the US. He said that most wines that are made in the traditional way are live alcohols. However, he warned that many wines have become too industrialized and would not be considered live. He also said that bottle conditioned beers with live yeasts still left in the bottle are also live. Lastly, he said that some single malt scotches from places in Scotland that do small-batch work are also live (undistilled???). Basically, for you foodies out there — we need to keep the alcohol live so that enzymes and beneficial bacteria are left intact (our guts need them!).
Ok community — who knows of some good traditionally made red wines or good bottle conditioned beers? Pass the info right along to me by commenting on this blog.
Further, how can communities start to gather around fermentation once again? Where do we begin to bring back this sometimes bubbly goodness into our lives as a culture? Can we bring back the sacred to our relationship with alcohol? Can we start to weave the strands of this knowledge through our hearts and minds once again?
Where to start??? I really feel that we are not just talking about alcohol when we talk about live alcohol…we are talking about culture, connection, health, vitality, and relationship. We are talking about life. What if all of us…elders to children…were able to drink a tonic for our bodies at any time of the day??? What would our lives be like? What would our health be like if these tonics were infused with beneficial bacteria and live cultures…herbs…?
This topic takes me back to my time in Ukraine. Around the Fall, there were barrels of Kvas in the parks of Simferopel (Crimea). Anyone could walk up to a barrel of Kvas…open the spicket…and fill their cup with this lovely, fermented drink — anyone. It was free and the babushkas took care of the barrels. Even though this country was going through all kinds of turmoil politically and economically, this beverage served as a way for people to come together. People would gather around the barrels and converse…families would gather around this drink…
You hear of Russian vodka all the time…rarely Kvas. However, Kvas is a drink that is offered freely and that is beneficial for the human physiology. It has a low alcohol content and people of all ages can drink it. The harsh, distilled vodka has pretty much taken the spotlight from this type of fermented beverage. And, vodka has created an epidemic of alcoholism in that area.
And, lookey-here — someone has started to make Kvass here in the US!
Here is a really thorough blog on distilled vs. undistilled alcohol.
All there is to know about mead…well practically.